50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 58

In 1977 it was only R6 but it was BYOT - bring your own tent: Competitors are required to supply own tents, sleeping and repair equipment. TOTAL MASS 10kg PER PERSON. Here’s a more detailed budget after inflation: The 1984 Umko entry fee was R30 a paddle The race budget Accommodation/watchmen/insurance Food (lunch, dinner, breakfast) Petrol (officials, kit, etc.) Refreshments (on leaving the water both days) Natal Canoe Union / KZN levy Prizes (+/- 10% of paddlers) Prize-giving function (paddler plus family/friends) Water tanks to local chief / schools Postage/stationery/publicity/CANEWS distribution Sundry including patching, hire of equipment, labour, toilets, pre-race recces, bribes, donations Sub-Total “profit” The sponsors contribution went to printing, race numbers, T-shirts, kit bag hand-outs, additional special prizes, etc. Getting The Stuff Down There R 3,50 R 10,00 R 1,50 R 1,50 R 2,50 R 2,00 R 3,00 R 1,00 R 1.00 R 1,50 R 27,50 R 2,50 Dave Williams, Colin Mercer and Dudley Brickell, all municipal employees at the time, were recruited by Ernie Alder as Umko-overnight-stop workers for many years. Dave tells great tales of the work that goes on in the background. First the provisioning: Paddlers grab two slices of bread and move on. Here’s how it gets down into the valley: Geoff Dyer and Dave in the Hypermarket doing the shopping prior to the race at a time before you could buy sliced bread off the shelf. Dave has to take a full trolley-load of loaves of bread, open the packets, put them through the slicing machine and put the sliced bread back into the plastic packet. The bread does not always slide back into the packet in a nice smooth action. While production is in full swing the lady in the queue asks whether he will be much longer! “This bread was then loaded into Geoffs’ Cortina bakkie to be transported to the overnight stop. While travelling down a steep downhill along the dusty roads, and because he did not have a window dividing the canopy from the cab we had loaves of bread surging forward from behind us and landing on the front seat and behind our heads. With the occasional packet not re-closed properly we ended up with sliced bread scattered in the front of the vehicle.” It was then hygienically served to paddlers. “The transportation of equipment and provisions included generators, lighting equipment, refreshments - including the much-loved ‘sponsors’ product’ - drinking water and dry ice. Those years when the helicopter was available, drums of jet fuel would be loaded onto an open truck on which we at times also had to find place on the back for ourselves. “For ablution purposes, planks and thrones, toilet paper, digging equipment for the pit latrines, hessian to screen them off would all have to be transported into the valley. Paddlers’ kit would be loaded onto Dave Biggs’ truck on day one. The truck would be parked at the end of the tarred UMKO 50 Years road leading into the valley at Hella Hella. Marquees were hired and I always said that if the hire company people knew what roads their truck had to drive on he would have increased the price substantially. “At the overnight stops we workers would string up the lights in the marquees, sort out the toilet long drops and then man the separate pub tent. “And then the fun would start! Allister Peter, the ever-colourful Arthur Toekoe Egerton, Colin Ballie Roets and Chris Greeff used to provide the entertainment late into the night. The jokes and special mixers for the novices were fully controlled by those naughty buggers (which makes one think back to those drums of jet fuel and wonder . . .). They wore designer aprons on these special occasions which made a strong elephantine statement. The farmer whose land was being occupied would sometimes join in, consume plenty and listen to many war stories. (Allie Peter remembers these nights vaguely: “If my memory is not too dof these special aprons, when lifted, had elephant ears on either side of a rather large male appendage - hence “The Dance of the Rare and Threatened Umko sub-species of the African Elephant” which happened late at night on very rare occasions and only during the marathon. On the last occasion I think there were only two old bulls of this festive but vanishing species left - one MUCH older than the other!”). Dave continues: “In the campsite layout we would try to pitch the bar tent well away from the main marquee where the serious or nervous competitors needed to have an early night. But sound travels in the still night air! (And those watching the Dance of the Umko Elephant seldom spoke in Attenborough-like whispers!). Dave shakes his head: “Can you imagine long after the lights in the main marquee were turned off, the majority of the paddlers fast asleep on the ground in sleeping bags, next thing the dronk fellows now come wandering back from the bar trying to find where their little sleeping spot was!?” Mayhem! Sensitive readers are asked to block their ears at this point... The next morning the paddlers would disappear downriver and the organisers would pack up, tidy up and move the big convoy out of the valley. They now also had to make space for the rubbish on the trucks. On the way in to Riverside in a Ford F100 bakkie one Friday night, Dave and the driver got stuck in the mud and the rain. The only way they could hope to get the vehicle out was to offload all the refreshments and equipment and reverse out. Then they re-loaded and proceeded but it was close to midnight. When they reached the T-junction they decided it was too dangerous to travel down the wet slippery section to Riverside, so they pulled to the side of the road, and slept under the vehicle. “No cellphones in those days, The advance party at the campsite was very relieved to see us early the next morning.” Food “Food Official” Don Johnston: “If it is correct to say that the standard of canoeing has improved tremendously over the past decade, then this must be doubly true of the standard of catering. Having been coerced into acting as ‘cook’ on the Umkomaas Marathon in 1969, at the first overnight stop we served competitors stew that had been cooked in a 25 litre drum (found on site) and stirred with a pick handle (also found on site). The gravy consisted of river water, coloured and thickened by the mud that washed off the pick handle, and tasted accordingly.” “At the second overnight stop the boys were not so lucky. The roads were practically impassable, and a choice had to be made between bringing through the grub or the grog. A happy medium was struck, and a limited amount of both, together with cereal, duly arrived. Such was the spirit among competitors that, to the best of my knowledge, not a single complaint 58