50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 66

a police lieutenant-colonel, station commander at a nearby police station! Oops! At the Overnight Stops: Chris Greeff “Hubby Sandberg jumped on my partner Tim Biggs at the overnight stop and broke his collar bone. We were lying third at the time, and I wanted to finish the next day to get my 10th Umko finish. Doc Curson strapped Tim’s arm up. My plan was to simply let him sit in the back as a passenger and I would paddle to the finish. Doc did not think this was a good idea, so we put a proposal to the organising committee for me to finish the race with Danny Biggs, who was in a single. We would not be eligible for any prizes, but we would be credited with a finish. This was bitterly appealed by some who shall remain nameless, but I was eventually awarded my perpetuity number”. Manners and the local people As paddlers we have the right to paddle on South Africa’s rivers and we can get access wherever a public road crosses them. What we don’t have rights to is farmlands or tribal trust land. We gain access to other parts of our rivers and permission to camp and park and hold events thanks only to the goodwill of farmers, landowners and custodians. It is absolutely vital we treat this wonderful privilege with the respect and gratitude it deserves. All it takes is to imagine what you would think or say if you woke up to find someone on your lawn or in your flat and you will realise permission, respect, sticking to agreements and leaving things as you found them are the absolute basics needed to keep being able to enjoy our rivers like we do. More than once farmers have banned paddlers from their farms (for bad news like stealing a box of prize tomatoes, and for misdemeanours like squatting under a tree, which unfortunately turned out to be a favourite tree). Be a good rural citizen while on the rivers and the riverbanks, good paddlers always make the effort. ©Craig Dutton Farmers en-route That stuff growing on the banks That stuff growing on the banks At one of the Swiftwater cou rses which Rob Hill hosts at Hella Hella the topic of the famous Umko dagga plants came up during dinner. One of the younger female participants seated next to Mike Vehbi stated that it was a pity they hadn’t paddled along the lower stretches of the river as she’d love to have harvested some of the illegal cannabis crop as she was quite partial to the weed. Her comment immediately caused all those who had heard it to look up, go quiet and stare in her direction. And then begin to laugh. She demanded to know what was going on. Imagine her surprise and embarrassment when she was told that sitting right next to her was a magistrate (Mike) and that sitting next to him was UMKO 50 Years Besides Ken Goodenough at the weir and the very special relationship with Derek and Ron Freeman on ‘Whisky Canyon’ at Josephine’s, the Umko has and had other friends and hosts. The Payns and Lynne & Barry Porter at Hella Hella, Johan de Bruyn, Mr Green at St Elmo’s where Cunningham’s drift is (the old main wagon route between Natal and the Cape where Mr Conyngham operated the ferry), Mr Te Rielle, Mr du Toit, Johnny Sfaelos of Valley View, Achilles Fontana on the north bank a few km upstream from the mouth; Peter Krause downstream of Josephine’s who had a lovely orchard on the left bank (a scene so beautiful it brought deeply romantic thoughts to Roelof Roelie van Riet’s mind when paddling with Charlie Mason one year). Not farmers, but also landowners en-route were first Dave Edwards and then Craig and Denis Drennan at Hella Hella who run the Outdoor Centre and have welcomed and supported the Umko from the outset. The Umko generates welcome income for the centre and the new landowners (the local clan) and provides some work for local people. Without the generosity and hospitality of these good people the Umko would have been far less than it is today. 66