50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 24

the tent crew’s supper and watched them snug, warm and well fed in their tent while we shivered and starved under the awning. We started moving into the shed and verandah. A Kingfisher lad who shall remain nameless as Ken Willan finally couldn’t take it any more and (according to Charlie Mason “in the established tradition of Dragon-baiting”) started letting the guy ropes of the tent down. We all spotted this and gave the game away by laughing. “Old man Chalupsky stuck his head out to see what was happening to his tent and with a bellow of rage took off after Ken with an axe (Charlie, Robbie Stewart and Kevin Culverwell: “4lb hammer”). Now Papa Chalupsky was not known for his sense of humour so it soon became apparent that if Ken wasn’t careful the Old Man was going to do him some serious injury. The rest of us screaming with laughter wasn’t helping and as Ken ran round and round the tent he was laughing more and more. In fact if the Old Man hadn’t tripped over a tent peg I think he would have caught and killed Ken on the next circuit! “Bob and I had already claimed a spot on the verandah at the entrance to the store, so from here on the story becomes hearsay, but it is too good to resist: There was a particular character, Tank Rodgers, well known for his . . different . . sense of humour, who found himself a place in the shed under a sloping ladder. For some reason no one else had claimed the spot so he was quite chuffed, until he felt a drip. “Aw, damn guys, there’s a leak right over my head. Never mind, I’ll just pull my sleeping bag up and I’ll be fine.” Tank spent the rest of the night fighting this drip that fell all over his sleeping bag and on his head and face. You can imagine the hilarity when daylight revealed that Tank had been sleeping under the chicken’s roosting spot. It hadn’t been rain dripping on him all night, but chicken shit!” A third paddler ate well that night, but he was lucky to do so. Having borrowed a boat from Charlie Mason, this Dragons paddler arrived at the start in a black T-shirt. Papa Chalupsky spied him and declared he would not be able to partake in the race as he was not in his own club’s colours. So Robbie Stewart changed into a Dragon shirt and was thus able to race - and to sleep in comfort that first night! Next morning the day dawned bright and sunny, spirits soared and the oxen were inspanned, the Jeep hitched behind the sled and Papa’s now-2wheel-drive Landrover behind that. Those poor oxen slowly laboured up the hill pulling this train with the Willys and the Landie helping wherever they could get traction. The second overnight stop at Mpompomani was dryer and more comfortable and there was a double ration of food and drink for all. The food had been provided by Trevenna’s Supermarket in Smith Street, Durban (afterwards they used the advertising slogan: “Canoeists Survived and Thrived on Food from Trevenna”!). The winner’s verdict: “The packaged¬ food looked dented and damaged and there were no ‘sell-by dates’ those days - but it tasted good nonetheless, and no-one got ill!” Canews reported: ”The new race proved an outstanding success overnight it was heralded as one of the most exciting and gruelling canoe races in Natal. Up to this date the Umgeni had been considered the only river in the province that offered regular canoe race venues.” In 1977 Canews went even further: “ The Umkomaas has succeeded in establishing itself as the the most enjoyable and famous canoe marathon in the country”. (Canews was not yet the ‘SA Canews’ - it was still a Natal publication then). Alan Harper’s buddy did not pitch but he was allowed to paddle alone UMKO 50 Years 24