50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 67

lift to the finish and was driving past Louis Botha Airport when Radio Port Natal announced “Duncan Paul, the 15-yr old missing canoeist has been found.” I told the person giving me a lift ‘That’s me’, but he didn’t believe me!” As we have read, Porky’s famous December 1970 walk was followed the next summer with a finish in the most famous, highest water and longest route Umko in March 1972! Paul Henry’s well-lubricated walk Famous Walks Walks?! But this was the race where you didn’t walk! This race was started precisely because some paddlers were averse to the notion that walking or running with your boat was OK. So what’s up here? Jerome Truran explains the anomaly: “The Umko, more than any other river, gave SA paddlers an unwitting head start in the yet-unknown sport of triathlon, many participating in the ever-popular and enticing Paddle, Swim and Run combo – very popular at the time.” What made an Umko triathlon different was the run was usually a slow trudge, the swim section was usually a long-lips gasping doggy-paddle, and both were often sans boat or paddle or shoes - or all three! Only the paddling was dignified - just as the pioneers wanted it. Paul’s - The Most Famous Walk Usually only the winners get radio or TV airtime and that if they’re lucky (in that respect too, the Umko is not the Dusi). But in his first Umko in 1970, fifteen year old Duncan Porky Paul achieved fame (or notoriety). He took his tired old boat (bought from Mike van Wieringen for R30) on a low river and gave it a hammering. At the overnight stop he patched as best he could. On day two it wasn’t long before it was leaking badly and as the day wore on, he finished all his patching kit. As he dropped further down the field he begged each passing paddler to spare some of their patching vinyl & Genkem. Eventually he decided to quit the race, but hadn’t a clue in which direction he should go. He knew he couldn’t walk back to the first overnight stop (there were two stops in those days), so went to the nearest kraal where he was shown the best route out of the valley, a footpath straight up the mountain on the North bank, a daunting task for a young city boy lugging his beloved canoe. He eventually crested the valley mid-afternoon after getting some assistance from two helpful umfaans. At a trading store he borrowed some money to compensate the two for their sterling efforts. The daily taxi, a broken old Humber (Humber Ghastly ?), arrived at 5pm. Packed in amongst the other passengers and with the boat strapped on the roof, he was taken to a German Mission Station. “I walked in wearing takkies, a vest and peak cap, carrying my paddle and splashy. There a friendly German Priest gave me scrambled egg on thick German bread, a bed and a blanket. Early the next morning he dropped me on the Richmond road and still in my paddling kit, I hitched a lift to the Pietermaritzburg / Durban highway and then on home to Durban. I was in the swimming pool when I was told I was ‘missing’. I called the Police in Durban to report that I was safe. The call was timeous as they were about to dispatch helicopters and police dog teams into the Valley. I then hitched a 67 Paul Henry did a Porky Paul walk in 1974 with Skaapie (or The Hulk) Townsend. They broke their K2 mid-morning ‘somewhere’ and set off up the hill. They too, found the only 5pm ‘bus of the day’ after a very long walk. Their target was Richmond. When they got to the Richmond Hotel they “bummed some money to call Skaapie’s girlfriend in Durban to come and fetch us.” “Some guy bought us some beers, and then some more and some more and an hour or two later we tried to phone again to tell her not to hurry. Or better still, could she possibly come tomorrow?” “She arrived after dark, just as well, and we trailed back to Peace Cottage in Umhlanga where we lived, still with our canoe kit on, paddles in hand.” Rob Bourne-lange had a short walk after a long career Chris Watts tells of a significant short walk: It w as only from the Approaches back to the Hella Hella bridge. Many have done it and no big deal. Except it was Rob’s 40th race! And his first non-finishing walk! Chris says, “My heart sank and his sank lower . . . the boat wedged under a rock and we couldn’t move it; If we’d managed to get it out we’d have found a way to put it together and finish. Anyway, I went back the next day and winched it out from under the rock so as not to leave a wrecked boat in the river. It was heart-breaking for Rob to have to wait another 363 days till the following year. We paired up for that again and Rob did complete his 40th - and the champagne flowed . . .“ Rasmussen: ‘No more tshwala for the umLungu’ walk “Somewhere in the lower reaches” Rowan broke up and took the hike up the left bank till he reached the road on top. Late morning he came across a collection of huts where all the men were sitting under a tree drinking utshwala. He explained his predicament and they said there would be an Indian bus along about two. “They fetched a dining room chair and I joined the circle. When my turn came they passed me the big tin can. I obviously wasn’t too good at hiding my reaction. Amidst great mirth a minion was despatched to the main hut. About fifteen minutes later the number one wife appeared with a perfectly laid tray of tea - including the crocheted doylies festooned with coloured beads to keep the flies off the sugar and out of the tin of condensed milk. After the stiff morning’s hike I finished off the lot. Later that afternoon I enjoyed a free ride with my paddle to join you guys at the Lido. “ Hugh Bland’s walk Competing in what was to be his 10th unblemished record of finishes, Hugh Bland engaged in some self-confessed bad driving about twelve kilometres below St. Elmo’s on the second day, turning his On the Water story into a Riverbank story. A two hour walk and numerous swims across the river got them to UMKO 50 Years