50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 43

The stretch to Josephine’s saw several less dramatic changes. Below Josephine’s we enter one of Africa’s most scenic and dramatic valleys with towering cliffs and virgin forests where only the paddler has access to this secret wilderness. The rapids are virtually non-stop but milder than the poo-inducing Hella Hella stretch. The names - Arthur’s, Old Buck, Captain Honk’s . . . reflect the experiences of the pioneers. After Riverside the valley becomes more populated and the flat stretches longer but with some serious drops in between. Mpompomani being a notorious one with its difficult approach and the river funnelling into a narrow spout spilling out in a series of big stoppers. Then there was the Waterfall - an enormous drop shot by mistake only once and deliberately and successfully only once. The portage on the left was the recommended line! Further on came Whirlpool which has punished some of the best in the land. Our late beloved Pope had a bad swim there and luminaries such as Springbok former winners and aces Chris Greef and Shaun Rice both had dramatic goofs caught on film by SABC TV crew with the latter performing an amazing eskimo roll in his K2. Men were men! Gulley was a long tricky rapid in a vast field of bedrock, with several sneaks including one near the top of the main drop - but if you missed it…!! Sadly Peter Marlin drowned here in the race of 1988. Just below Gulley came the ironically named No Name Rapid - a notorious boat breaker. If you survived this then a couple of kilometres downstream came the Finish-To-Top-All-Finishes: Goodenough’s Weir. The crowd of supporters and seconds stood like spectators at the Forum in ancient Rome with craned necks waiting for the next gladiators to be slaughtered. There was only one spot to shoot it and the survival rate was about 50:50! Many great pictures were taken as photographers had easy access. Thereafter (if the race went on beyond Goodenough’s) the river mellowed and the challenge was aching bones and dry mouths and the endless sandbanks. Unless of course you could read the river and find the channels to avoid the dreaded sound of sandpaper on the hull. And the sea and relief in sight. To paraphrase Churchill: Some River, Some Trek! Map by Andre Hawarden 1.© 1981 William Nealy - Whitewater Home Companion. Menasha Ridge Press 43 UMKO 50 Years