50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 65

Sometimes there’s noise outside the tent. In 2000 the race had the added attraction of a bevy of remarkably good-looking bikini-clad Hansa girls who were handing out beers at the finish. Being away from home with mostly just boys in the middle of the African wilderness, there is always the potential for behaviour standards to drop somewhat, according to Colin Copper Simpkins. He and a group of “fellow ornithologists” lay in the water at the finish, “being plied with sponsor’s product by girls who were ‘zero beer’ handicaps to begin with. By the time we crept sheepishly up to the campsite, things had started to get a bit hazy, and there was a fair degree of foot-faulting. This did not deter us, and we made a big camp fire and proceeded to drink every bottle of hooch that anyone had brought into the valley. Some of the party even resorted to pilfering in order to sustain the flow. By midnight the behaviour had deteriorated to an abysmal level, and the noise level had increased proportionately. Some of the serious racing snakes were shouting and cursing from the marquee for us to shut up and go to sleep.” An unreasonable request. Land Claims and Squatters During the long epic Umko’s from Hella Hella to Goodenough’s Rob Davey’s group of paddlers had an agreement that whoever got to the overnight stop first would collect all the bags and book a spot in the marquee, normally a corner furthest from the pub (the land claim). On one particular race the first paddler collected the bags, set up camp in the corner and then went down to the river to wait for the rest of the team. While happily waiting and imbibing this desirable and clearly marked territory was stealthily taken over - usurped - by a tough young lady from behind the boerewors curtain who went by the name of Liefie. She simply moved their kit out! (the squatter). “Now anyone who has had the privilege of sleeping out in the old Umko valley campsites knows that creepy crawlies were in abundance. A plan was hatched to collect as many of these bugs as possible and to slip them into Liefie’s sleeping bag. We all then waited in mean anticipation for her return and reaction when she settled down for the night. Much to our dismay she simply slid into her sleeping bag and went off to sleep. They certainly breed them tough up there.” Early Finishers - or: Love . . OK Lust, on the Riverbank Bryan Scatter Slater and Henry Hennie Spradbury line up for the old Day 1 to Riverside, “full of trepidation”. “In the Approaches we realised that we may have been a little generous with our assessment of our skills. At No.3 the boat split neatly in two. We are blaming the boatbuilder ‘as we speak’ and not bad driving, nor the hard impacts with bits of Africa suffered up to that point. “We trudged back to the start, having sensibly suggested to our second, ou Hennie’s faithful girlfriend, that she waited a while before leaving. Mentally shattered, our river prowess and manliness had been severely tested. “That year there was a big tent at Richmond Country Club and we settled in there at the beautifully curved bar counter and started imbibing furiously. In short order we were joined by Brian Big B Longley, Neels Captain Verkerk, Graeme Farmer Pope-Ellis and other rats and mice flotsam that came slinking back defeated, including one rather short vexatious fellow who shall remain semi-anonymous as Waldy, who had entered the doubles in a singles Dusi year with Mark Hophead Perrow. Having come first of those K2’s, he ‘hence’ considered himself the equal of the great Pope and made us cringe as he regaled the Pope with his bullshit stories. “Seeing some of the cream of SA paddling around the whitewater (beer 65 foam) of what we now were calling ‘Bailer’s Bend’ seemed to enhance partner Hennie’s manly fire. Seeing his girlfriend (our dutiful second) had tired of the drunken banter and slunk off to spruce up he made a not-sograceful lunge at another young lass who was seconding her uncle, a certain high-ranking SA Canoeing official. His advances were instantly welcomed and this created a massive problem when the girlfriend came searching for him many hours later.” (In leaving him unattended, girlfriend probably hadn’t realised that men are like bluetooth - they quickly connect to all nearby available devices). Best-Built Boat Scotty tells us: “In earlier years many paddlers preferred to borrow moulds, often owned by Clubs, and construct their own boats. At the overnight stop at Josephine’s, Kingfisher traditionally held a “Best Built Boat” competition. The competition was consistently won by German innovation and precision engineering – carried out by Poppa Chalupsky (Paul’s father). Paul’s boat had many optional extras, high cockpits, moulded double lip cockpits into which the spray cover recessed, vinyl glued to the entire hull (which made the boat waterproof even with cracks in the fibreglass), stainless steel nose cone and a sprung rudder blade (a spring contraption which returned the rudder to the downward position). Scotty continues, “The rest of us mortals had to fend for ourselves”. They didn’t give up though, and both Scotty and Charlie had hopes of winning the coveted title. Charles invested considerable time and effort in building a K1 for the ‘72 Umko. He put in “numerous state-of-the-art features such as a double-lip cockpit, internally pre-patched hull, front bulkhead, pump, adjustable rudder system, front and rear drainage system and - most important of all - twin beer can holders!” Scotty managed to find a K1 glass hull and framed deck which he covered with clear plastic. “The clear plastic exposed, in lieu of a standard T-bar, a timber footrest with pedals – until then reserved for paddle skis only”. Charlie was seriously pissed off when told by chief judge Gordie Rowe that he had lost the prize because he had not painted his green vi-nylon deck! The prize went to Scotty, who announces, “This spelt the end of the Best Built Cup for the Bismarck. Needless to say Paul and Poppa were rather peeved at losing to a relatively simple innovation. The final slap in the face came halfway through the third day when Paul’s entire patented rudder system fell off!” Charles vindicated his build by finishing that flood-level race in the boat plus nine more Umkos, a couple of Dusis and a Lowveld Croc. The boat hangs in his garage to this day! Paddler Pranks Clive Coo Evans “I was lured to the ‘Umko’ by the idea of 130km of white water with only one recognized portage – a waterfall. Back then I was a ‘Winston Man’ (aka a smoker) and really did not like the idea of running but fancied that I could paddle. I was in a whitewater boat and a few of us stopped for a smoke break somewhere near the end of day two only to find my smokes were wet. As luck would have it, a local man appeared and rolled us some of his ‘tobacco’. When we lit up I immediately recognised that pungent smell! I believe that I may be the only guy to have shot Goodenough’s stoned. I then ramped a rock below the weir, spun out and crossed the finish line going backwards. Yeehaa! Been there, done that and got the T-Shirt. “ UMKO 50 Years