50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 71

And finally - even Charles has walked Charles didn’t finish his 5th Umko in 1970 when he broke at the old No.8 rapid and walked out. He had walked out before but not in a marathon. This almost points to Mr. Umko perhaps being human and allows us to forgive him for the 44 Umkos he has finished since then to add to the 4 he had completed before 1970. Special sub-category of walks: Roger Collinson’s hop - as told by Guy Haines Roger Collinson had harboured ambitions of winning the Dusi, and was a magnificent paddler, but got a malignant tumour on his ankle or heel resulting in his leg being amputated. Undaunted, he persuaded his friend and Pietermaritzburg digs-mate Guy Haines to paddle the Umko. Guy reached the bottom of No.1 rapid with his poor old battered Birddog kaput and decided to abandon ship and head back to the bridge at Hella Hella. As he lay “in the dappled shade under the big old fig tree at the bridge dreaming of rescue”, he was joined by Jerome Truran, who had also come to grief. Jerome told of finding Roger Collinson who had crashed out at No.2, having struck the big round boulder in the very middle of the fastest part of the pre-1987 rapid. Roger’s shoes and crutches had been tied into the boat and these had been swept away forever by the current! With no alternative, Roger proceeded to hop back, shoeless, one-legged, on the South bank through rough, uneven, steep and overgrown terrain to the start at Hella Hella. Jerome had lent Roger his paddle to help as a crutch, but this proved to be more of a hindrance than a help as it hooked on the thick bush he was trying to negotiate. Guy elaborates: “I ran up the hill towards Highover to see if I could help him. I spotted Roger as his head bobbed up and down above the crest of the road in time to each hop. This was quite amusing so I stopped to watch. A few hops and bobs of the head and he would stop for a fairly extended break. Roger appeared exhausted and used some colourful repetitive language to describe his ordeal. He had wrapped his scants around his now sore-looking, cut and worn foot. A kind old man who met Roger had offered his hat to tie onto his foot to help cushion the impact! I gave Roger a piggyback down the last section of road to the bridge.” And Guy pays tribute: “This was truly an amazing example of Roger’s determination and a reflection of the steely character that has made him such a success in his passion and chosen career of conservation.” Memories! Forty years on memories do differ, but all are good, so here’s how Jerome Truran remembers that day: “In the early days of my time in Natal, so it must have been 1974-ish, I came round a corner in the river and pitoned a nasty, submerged horn rock that looked like a wave, right in the middle of the channel. No.2? No.4? I’m not sure. The only rapid number I kept track of in those days was Robbie’s Special: 5&6. I swam, lost my paddle, but managed to get myself and the boat to shore. That’s when I met Roger, standing there on one leg, facing a barefooted ‘hop’ out of the valley, as he had hit the same rock and lost his paddle and boat with his crutches inside. He told me he had a spare pair of crutches in his car at the start at Hella Hella Bridge, so I said I would run out, get them and bring them back for him. He said he would start making his way back, so I gave him the spare paddles I always carried in my boat, to use as crutches, and my helmet to put around his foot to protect it, for which he was grateful. I hid my damaged boat in the bushes and started out at a trot. A couple of hours of run/walk later I was pleased to find my way out to the road and finally back to Hella Hella. Doc Curson was (knowingly!) still at the bridge (now why would he just happen to still be waiting there?). We got Rog’s crutches and drove off 71 down the farm road I had come in on. I was still thinking about the various forks I’d encountered on the paths and game trails at the end of the farm track, when who do we see hopping along in his underwear, shorts on his head to keep the sun off, shirt tied around his bloody foot, my helmet in one hand and my two paddles in the other, with a big grin on his face, pleased to see us - Roger! Geez, did he ever make good time! Not wanting to waste a good river, I got my paddle and helmet back and - duct tape in hand - set off back downriver to find my boat . . . “It’s been a while since then (can it be 41yrs!?), but that’s how I think it went down that day. I believe someone even found Roger’s boat and they salvaged his crutches, not sure. Roger would probably remember that. Good times, hey!? SA paddlers - bonded together forever by the rivers, hey!?” Roger Collinson Another time involved Pete Peacock in a K2: “During a long swim from No.5&6 to House Rock I was with the boat trying to get to the bank. I looked back to see how Roger was doing. What I saw is indelibly fixed in my memory. Roger was hopping along on his one leg at speed, in what seemed to me enormous jumps (his crutches were in the boat). The river was full so it was a kilometre or so before I managed to reach the bank and Roger was not that far behind.” On the dry bank On the Riverbank sit stalwart timekeepers John & Margie Oliver. They have finished. The race is closed. They’ve packed up. They’re waiting for their lift out of the valley when out of the blue (OK, brown) arrives another paddler - a totally unexpected not-on-my-list late finisher! Who knows where he’d have ended up had John’s lift been on time? Comms between start and finish weren’t what they are today. Yet again on the Riverbank under a blazing hot African sun sit John and Margie under meagre shade at the timekeepers table (‘course some would say John carries his own shade). They’re surrounded by umfaans creeping ever closer to get some of that shade. One gazes up at John’s flowing beard and whispers “Jesus”; Another says “I am scared, very scared”. John gazes down sternly and nods at him, “A healthy attitude to have, my boy”. Speaking of time-keeping, 1981 saw the first computer in the valley. Rory Lynsky’s friend DHS schoolteacher Colin Pay played backup to results UMKO 50 Years