50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 77

C HA P T E R S E V E N On the Water “Life’s not so bad” Charles Mason, kicking back with a cold beer. To paraphrase Oom Schalk Lourens and his tale about leopards: Rapids? – Oom Schalk Lourens said – Oh yes, there are two varieties of rapids in the Umko. The chief difference between them is that one kind of rapid has a few more rocks in it than the other kind. But when you meet a rapid on the Umko, unexpectedly, you seldom trouble to count its rocks to find out what kind it belongs to. That is unnecessary. Because whatever rapid it is that you come across in this way, you only do one kind of swimming. And that is the fastest kind. S o starts another chapter in which being on the water can end up on the bank and vice versa. The ever-colourful Arthur Toekoe Egerton’s description of his first paddle on the Umkomaas back in the early 70s was the start of an oft-repeated rural legend, usually told by a (recent) veteran describing a novice. Toekoe himself was one of KCC’s urban legends, a paddler from way back. When he bought his first Sabre he painted “Excalibur” on the nose (King Arthur’s sabre, geddit?). The original Toekoe tale from the 70s goes like this: “We set off from Hella Hella and came to No.1 and I fell out! Then we got to No.2 and I fell out. The same happened at No’s. 3 and 4! Then we came to this huge rapid! This must be the famous No.5&6? There were some people on the bank and I shouted across to them – “Is this 5&6?” “No, you have just reached No.1!” “My first attempt at anything other than the Umsinduzi/Umgeni (apart from youthful Sunday afternoon forays in hired canoes on various South Coast estuaries in search of forbidden fruit - of the agricultural variety) was a bash at the Kingfisher Canoe Club White Water Championships held on the Hella Hella to Number Eight stretch of the Umkomaas one Sunday in February 1963. In true canoeing style we arrived late at the start (but nevertheless still before the officials) to see a handful of hardy souls anxiously pacing the bridge and others heading purposefully for the nearest bush, toilet paper in hand. After a short while the club heavies (the organisers) arrived and they were immediately set upon by an irate papa Chalupsky (Paul’s father) who proceeded to rant and rave in his broken English/German vernacular which very few understood, but which left the listeners in no doubt that he was somewhat upset at the start being delayed. Thereupon Paul and his other Dragon Canoe Club members - about six in all - decided they would not be entering the race, and paddled off ‘unofficially’. Reflections “You’ll find the Umkomaas a little different” - unknown heavy to a young Charles Mason Charles writes: “To the unitiated the sport of canoeing begins and ends with the famous, or shall we say infamous, Duzi. A large proportion of canoeists (for want of a better word) never graduate to much more than a few Duzi qualifiers and an annual slog down the fly-infested Umsinduzi and Umgeni Valleys. Most years temperatures during the race approach those at which most sane humans would seek shelter in some shady spot with an adequate supply of their favourite beverage close at hand. Fortunately, many paddlers do progress to experience the exhilaration and delight of paddling the many other rivers available to us. 77 Wildlife: Dragons in the foreground, Kingfishers behind. Tension at Hella Hella UMKO 50 Years