50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 16

portage was sheer pleasure as we strolled along like gentlemen behind, admiring the countryside. After repaying their kindness we got back into the river and were soon propelled out of sight by the fast flowing current.” They spent the next night at a church mission: “lt was fantastic to be able to have a wash and a drink of good clean rainwater. The missionary Mr Swanson came along and offered us a bunch of ripe bananas which we gratefully accepted and proceeded to devour with the speed of a troop of monkeys. Shortly thereafter he came back and asked if we would like to attend the evening church service. This caught us totally off guard and we tried to concoct a few lame excuses as to why we were tied up. Mr Swanson proceeded to castigate us saying we accepted his food but not his religion. We felt guilty and reluctantly agreed to attend the evening service. The loud ringing of a bell told us it was time to attend service so off we went like lambs to the slaughter. As guests of honour we were ushered to chairs in the front row. The church hall on our left and behind us was packed with children. Their faces shining from their recent ablutions with Lifebuoy soap. They sang a number of hymns in Zulu and finished their recital with a hymn sung in English, something about paraffin in lamps, lights, etc. “Then horror of horrors, the missionary asked whether we would like to sing one of our hymns. There was a hush of silence as the congregation eagerly awaited our rendition. We looked from one to the other. Sad to say not one of us knew the first words of any hymn and felt that ‘Barnacle Bill’ or ‘Mother McGinty’ might not be suitable. We sat ashamed and red faced with embarrassment. The children began to titter as they realized how stupid we were. Once again we slept outside with our canoes.” At the end of the trip Gouldie revealed a trump card: “I had kept this a close secret and told no-one. Now was the time to surprise them with the good news. Unbeknown to them, I had been in contact with the manager of The Lido Hotel in Umkomaas.” Gouldie had arranged to end the trip at the hotel and arrange coverage with the media. When they arrived the manager asked them to carry their canoes up the stairs to the pool terrace. Gouldie went first, head inside the canoe and started blindly carrying it up the steep, narrow staircase that led to the pool deck. “Half way up, I felt the prow of my canoe catch on something. I shoved and the next minute the light fitting I had hooked came crashing down off the wall, followed by an agitated shout from the manager, “No more canoes!”. So as a lone ranger I soldiered on. As I emerged there was a roll of drums and a voice that blared out over the microphone announcing, “the arrival of the canoeists”. I peered out from under my canoe and there I stood like a prize prick, the centre of attraction to a large gathering of Lido patrons having an al fresco smorgasbord luncheon around the swimming pool and being entertained by a live band. The voice boomed out again, “Would you please put your canoe into the pool and give us a demo”. As I obliged, my fellow canoeists dived into the pool out of sheer embarrassment, a slick of river mud oozing from their boots, cigarettes and bits of sweet wrappings floated like flotsam on the surface of the sparkling blue water. I lowered myself into my canoe which took up nearly half the length of the pool and after two strokes hit the other side. “ The manager then asked them to say a few words to the crowd and Gouldie was handed the microphone. “My knees were trembling and I felt as though I had swallowed my Adams Apple. As I got going my nervousness left me and was replaced by verbal diarrhoea. I embellished my tale with what I hoped was poetic license (another name for bullshit). We had to dodge the odd crocodile on the sandbanks, we were chased by Impis of spear-wielding savages and had to swipe at the odd Mamba dangling from UMKO 50 Years trees as we swept under. When I eventually ran out of bullshit and stopped talking the crowd broke into rapturous applause. “ Big things awaited Rob: “It was time to make our exit while we were still on top. Time to prepare myself for the event that would change my life forever and that was the marriage of my beautiful bride-to-be Verity, to a dirty, smelly, unshaven me. We were to be married at 5:30pm on the morrow. When I made it back to Durban and fell into the waiting arms of Verity she took one look at my condition and burst into tears. She thought not even a car wash could get me presentable for the wedding. “ From Rob Gouldie’s book ‘Duzi Fever’ 4. Other trips The Umkomaas was tripped again by the KCC men after the 1962 Duzi. These were shorter trips, mainly from Hella Hella to Josephine’s Bridge, but one was from Deepdale to Hella Hella. KCC arranged the trip and they were joined by Papa Chalupsky. Paul Chalupsky and Robbie Knudsen were KCC members at the time (this was before the “expulsion” which resulted in the formation of Dragons Canoe Club). Paul recalls the night before the trip: “We pitched our tent, which we called Pop’s Villa. Room for five people, with bedroom and verandah. Folding beds, tables and chairs, gas cookers, etc. all imported from Germany where they are very jacked up on camping. The tough KCC paddlers declined Pops’ kind invitation to sleep in the tent, but the next morning we found that they had all piled into the verandah during the night! It was zero degrees outside!” After a few hours on the river Paul decided the others were dawdling and he and Knudsen set off ahead, but before they reached Hella Hella (where “Papa Schultz” was waiting for them) nightfall overtook them. “Ditching the canoes we asked at an African hut for directions and were invited in for a chat and hot tea. We then asked for directions to Hella Hella. One of the chaps told us it was only about three kilometres away and offered to guide us to an Indian trading store about one kilometre away, so we followed him in the dark for an hour in a semi-run to keep up with him (he mentioned he was not feeling too well, so lucky for us). “The Indian storekeeper’s son said we could sleep in his parents’ bedroom as they had gone into town. It was freezing during the night! The store was situated on top of a hill overlooking the horse bend in the river. “In the morning a local Dipping Inspector who spoke good English pointed out to us where our fellow paddlers’ camping site was upstream in the valley below us and then took us to the place where we had hidden our boats and paddles in the bush! The chances of finding them ourselves would have been very slim! We made it back in about two hours the next morning from the stop-over at the Indian’s house” “We were supposed to finish in one day, Papa had pitched the tent at Hella Hella and stayed the night there on his own, he was very worried about us , but very relieved and happy when he saw us the next morning!” The decisive UMKO trips - From 1965 leading up to the first race “Some umfaans on the bank told us the name of the next big rapid, saying it was named for the sound of the boulders rolling underwater when the river was full: “Mpompomani”. In 1965 Charles Mason, Barry Willan, Tom Howcroft, Peter Hammond, Colin Wilson, Ken ‘Tank’ Rogers and Hamish Gerrard were authorised by Kingfisher Canoe Club to seriously consider the Umkomaas as a new race venue. 16