50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 103

Read what Rory John Lynsky (12-time Umko veteran and journalist) wrote back in 1981: “And what of the environment in the Umkomaas valley? The Umkomaas and the valley it runs through have been taken for granted for more than two decades by canoeists - if we enjoy it now will we be prepared to fight for it in the future? Unlike many other Natal rivers the Umkomaas does not have any dams harnessing and holding back its water. But it is no secret that there are long-term plans to build a dam on the Umkomaas. According to a recent survey of the river, ‘being rated as foremost in the terms of economic viability, it is almost certain that it will be built’. At last year’s South African Canoe Federation meeting in Durban, the NCU made a proposal to have the Umkomaas declared a natural resource area, along similar lines to the Blyde River Canyon in the Mpumalanga lowveld. This is currently being investigated by the federation.” We need to reactivate this mission. Again in 1985 a paddler called for us to wake up and DO something: The Crusade of the Kevlar Knights - by Geoff Caruth It has a mystery that no other canoe marathon in this land can match. It is wild with the beauty of old Africa. It can be hot and dry and bony, and test a man to the limits of his endurance. It can be big and brown and terrifying, and gnaw at his courage and tax his skill. It is the best. It is the Umkomaas. Why the best? Sure, the rapids are the biggest and most numerous of any of our marathons: so it follows that as a test of skill this one is the one on which you earn your paddling wings. But this is not the complete answer. Its ‘bestness’ goes beyond the rapids, beyond its scenic beauty. Its ‘bestness’ lies in its atmosphere which is unique and alive with pent-up danger. It is difficult to describe this on paper. You’ll know what I mean though, when you power your way through the big weir at the finish. The Umkomaas is a continuing legend. The Umkomaas is a crusade where we ordinary mortals in our safari suits become Knights of St George, Zulus at Isandlwana, Texans at the Alamo pick your own image. The Duzi, Berg and Vaal, great events that they are, simply do not compare. This is a last frontier, a real challenge. And not one without purpose, for it is an area that needs all the fierce partisan protection it can get. conservancy in the valley. The river is undammed from its source in the majestic Berg to its muddy end on the Natal South Coast, and as such is virtually the only major river in the country free of these horrendous silt traps. So here is the ideal candidate for the country’s first “wild” river. You may ask why we need to have it proclaimed? The answer is simple. We need the voice of South Africans of every creed and colour, from all walks of life. We need not only the Dr. Ian Players, but the John Smiths, the Piet Prinsloos, the Simon Nxumalos and the Bobby Naidoos. We need them to band together in care and concern for this hauntingly beautiful valley and say enough is enough! We must save the little that is left! We need to look at overcrowded Europe and see how they officially conser ve more than 10% of their beautiful continent, whilst we only manage 2%. We need to see how particular they are in their ‘national parks’ (which are in reality almost all conservancies, not as totally exclusive of human action as our ‘national parks’) in blending the architecture of their natural heritage and history into these areas. The Swiss chalet, the Tudor mansion, the stone cottage and winding lane all weave an intricate tapestry that tells of and reflects a nation’s pride in its environment. We need to develop a sense of the aesthetic, dammit! The Umkomaas conservancy will have sections of truly wild river where our sons and our sons’ daughters will be able to know what it is like to ‘shit themselves’ as they approach a big rapid in an untamed river. It will have areas settled by Zulus in thatched and beehive huts and where Zulu South Africans will be able to display the beauty and majesty of their African Culture while their children guide raft trips down ‘their’ river. It will have farms, controlled hunting areas, river raft trips, catchment protection zones, and above all, the feel of old Africa. A Dream? Maybe. It depends on what we want. What we value in life. The answer to these questions is - in essence - what the Crusade of the Kevlar Knights is all about, and we need to revive it and fight a good fight to save what we have and what we have enjoyed. All the rapids we love could be drowned before our kids and grandkids even learn to swim on their backs facing downstream with their feet up. Our rivers are in worse shape than tropical rain forests! Yet it took ten years from Rory’s call, five years from Geoff’s call, and that call by Ian Player in 1988 before The UMKO TRUST was established in February 1990. This from the April 1990 SA Canews: Specifically we must fight to get this whole magnificent river and its valley preserved for The Umkomaas River Conservation Trust Umkomaas River Conservation Trust came into being after a meeting all time. An unrealistic goal? Not at all. It can be The of the general public was called to gauge the interest of organisations done. Read on . . . and members of the public. An encouraging turnout at which the diverse The key to the survival of the Umkomaas lies in the Conservancy system. A conservancy is an area where an existing ecosystem is managed and maintained on sound conservation principles. It is an area where agriculture, habitation and wildlife co-exist and co-operate. It is a compromise between the fuller protection afforded by a proclaimed wilderness area and the realities of man’s needs on this planet. Accepting that we’re unlikely to have the whole valley declared a national park, the next best thing is to strive for - to fight for - The Umkomaas River National Conservancy. Let’s look at the valley. Already large areas in the Umkomaas are run as game farms or mixed game and agriculture estates. Many sections are very rugged, inaccessible and unsuited to farming or subsistence habitation. Ezimvelo KZN Wildlife runs several areas and participates in an existing 103 viewpoints of the persons and organisations were presented ensured that the Trust would become a reality. At its Inaugural Meeting last year the persons then present decided to forge ahead with the calling of a First General Meeting in order to formally adopt its Constitution. The Trust is the culmination of a dream of the famous Conservationist and Pioneer Canoeist, Dr Ian Player. However, the moving force behind its creation has been Durban Attorney and Canoeist, Mr. Jacques de Rauville, who was introduced to Dr Player by Springbok Robbie Stewart, PastPresident of the South African Canoe Federation. At its first meeting held at the Town Hall of the Umkomaas Town Board on 8th February 1990, the Trust formally adopted its Constitution in which its main aims and objectives were stated: UMKO 50 Years