50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 15

- plus they fed some meths from their camping stoves to Graham Hall, causing him to “spew the most spectacular cat” Gouldie had ever seen all over a little stray brak, and thus give a new name to a rapid! The poor brak had been begging scraps from them and ended up wearing “a saddle of congealed puke” still clinging Captain Honk to it the next morning! Rather than leave Dereck to walk out of the valley alone, they abandoned the trip the next day, left their boats and kit with the store owner and walked up the road with their hangovers and a fistful of half ten Rand notes (the store owner clutching the other halves “to ensure his undying loyalty and co-operation. His eyes nearly popped out of Fishy Fish Trading Store his head as we did this, and told him we would be back for our canoes in two weekends time and would then give him the other halves of the notes”). This they duly did. They returned the next Easter - 1961 - for a longer trip: “Having had a taste of the Umkomaas and realizing its potential as a future canoe race venue, we decided to undertake another exploratory trip on the river over the 1961 Easter weekend. To enable us to carry more provisions (which included the luxury of some beers) and to cope with the much bigger rapids on the Umkomaas, we built “Bird-Dog” double canoe hulls but fitted them with single cockpits. These canoes proved to be ideal for the conditions we would encounter as they had loads of freeboard and were extremely buoyant.” Once again: “The river and rapids were fantastic. The scenery was too beautiful. We shot the rapids single file and then waited at the bottom for Round the Campfire 15 the last canoeist to come through and then floated abreast to the start of the next rapid and so on. We must have covered a good forty miles and we began keeping a lookout for a suitable campsite for the night. We chose an ideal spot opposite a gently flowing rapid and a flat sandy bank to pull our canoes on to. Behind this was a nice grassed area to camp on. The river must have overflowed its bank in the past as in receding it had left behind a plentiful supply of driftwood, bleached pearly white by the sun. Perfect for our camp fire.” “Day two was a repetition of the previous day’s canoeing. Rapid after rapid with unbelievable scenery as we paddled past krantz after krantz. We were totally stoked. Again we chose a suitable spot on the riverbank with plenty of driftwood for our campfire. We soon had a roaring blaze going. For supper we ate like kings, feasting on vacuum packed braai chops, baked beans and potatoes wrapped in tin foil and cooked over hot coals. We washed the meal down with Castles cooled down in a cairn of river-stones we had built in the riverbed.” Breakfast - Hot coffee and rusks “On day three we had been fore-warned that somewhere along today’s route we would come across a huge waterfall where the river narrowed down and funnelled through a five metre gap, dropping some fifty meters into a deep pool that had been hollowed out beneath. We kept a wary eye out for signs of the waterfall fearing that we may suddenly come upon it without warning and be unable to pull out in time. Our fears were unfounded because as we rounded a bend, there in the distance about three kilometres ahead we could see a column of white spray rising up into the sky. Playing on the sandy left bank of the river, were a group of Umfaans. We asked them if they would help carry our canoes around the waterfall and we were met with stony stares and a shake of heads. lt’s truly amazing what the jingle jangle of coins in the pocket can do. In a flash we were inundated with more willing bearers than Dr. Livingstone and Stanley must Waterfall on 3rd Day have had. Watching them UMKO 50 Years