Blue, Kimberley or Glory Holes; not for the faint-hearted!

One morning a gang of crazed Rwandans came chanting and brandishing a variety of death implements, torched our homes and sent us into exile in Uganda.

One morning a gang of crazed Rwandans came chanting and brandishing a variety of death implements, torched our homes and sent us into exile in Uganda.

Me, I’ve always been fascinated by holes in the ground.

I’ll never forget how we used to enjoy ourselves, playing in a cave. In the early 1950s when we’d have competed with Tarzan in conquering jungles, we used to practically live in the Muhabura cave, in northern Rwanda. Of course, you wouldn’t have caught us going all the way, as the Muhabura cave is an underground journey of more than 15 km, stretching from Mt. Muhabura to Lake Burera. We never used to go far, lest we got lost. We made sure to play near the mouth but knew that, once inside, no one would interrupt our play, as adults never ventured there.

That was a heavenly life we led, that was! In the evening we’d face due punitive music that was not necessarily pleasant to the ear but what’s a bit of spanking after a day’s joy of play! All right, we’d be having minced meat in place of our ‘seats’ for a week after that but it was a price worth paying. Even then, we did not have the chance to enjoy that life for long.

One morning a gang of crazed Rwandans came chanting and brandishing a variety of death implements, torched our homes and sent us into exile in Uganda. Once there, when one boy in our group led us to what he told us was a cave he’d discovered, he disappeared down it and we were left with his deathly scream ringing in our ears. We immediately took off, also screaming, to call for help. It was only with a bit of luck that there was a young man who was familiar with the place. He explained that it was not a cave but a hole and, after, got other men to help him get the boy back up. Indeed, a close shave for our comrade!

It was much later, in Geography lessons, that I came to know that this was a sinkhole. If your knowledge of Geography is scanty, which most likely it is, you may not know what a sinkhole is. A sinkhole o(r snake hole, swallow hole, swallet, doline or cenote) is formed through erosion or by collapsing rock, but don’t take mine for a scientific explanation. Go find out for yourself because, believe it or don’t, some of these holes can be truly amazing.

Take the Great Blue Hole. This is a hole you can see clearly, as its deep blue distinguishes it from the light blue of the Atlantic Ocean water, off the coast of Belize. Belize, again in case you don’t know, is the country found on a strip of land that’s hemmed in by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, Mexico to the north and Guatemala to the west and south. The Great Blue Hole is circular in shape, measures 300 m across and 124 m deep.Even at my Tarzan age, I wouldn’t’ve been caught playing tricks near it! It is said that the hole was formed some 153,000 years ago and, later when the ocean rose, it got flooded, thus the blue water.

But probably the most amazing hole is the Great Hole in Guatemala – again in Central America. This enormous 2000-ft-deep hole suddenly appeared in Guatemala City in mid-2010, swallowing up a three-storey building and other buildings adjoining it. By some luck, though, it claimed only three victims in an otherwise over-populated part of the city. The giant hole appeared while the city was being pounded with high winds, torrential rain and deadly mudslides during Tropical Storm Agatha. Let’s hope that no such thing happens in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that’s been ravaging the eastern coast of USA.

There are man-made holes, too, an example being Kimberley Big hole, in South Africa. Digging for diamond started in the mid-1800s and by the time it ended, 3 tons of diamond had been dug up, leaving a gaping hole that’s 1,097 m deep, 463 m wide and covers 17 hectares.  By all accounts, it’s the deepest man-made hole in the world and many lives have fed its belly, no doubt mostly those of Black miners who worked for a White-owned company known as De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited. The name of the company should ring a bell in the mind of anyone with a passing knowledge of Apartheid.

Then there is Glory Hole of Monticello Dam in California, USA. The Monticello way is said to be the largest morning glory spillway in the world. What “morning glory spillway” means is simply that it is a structure that’s used to provide the controlled release of flows from a dam into a downstream area. Glory Hole is a giant cement funnel that’s located 200 feet from the dam. Water spills over its lip when the lake reaches 1,602,000 acre-feet and the funnel swallows up 362,000 gallons of water per second when the lake level rises to 15.5 feet above the level of the funnel. Now, you wouldn’t like to be caught trying to swim near that sucking hole!

Thank God, my adventurous days with holes in the ground are over!


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