50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 81

Shaun Biggs and Clint Pretorius through No.1 ©Jon Ivins “Your frailty and incompetence” Leave it to true friends to better explain the origin of No.5&6 being called “Robbie’s Special”. Rowan Rasmussen tells it thus: “The 5&6 drop ended up being called Robbie’s Special after Rob insisted on swimming rather than paddling through that obstacle. He was a young guy being shepherded down the top section with Paul Chalupsky who explained the right way to do it. Being young and knowing better, it seems Rob made his own plans and after wrapping and swallowing loads of Umkomaas a few times, they decided he needed to be forever reminded of his frailty and incompetence by having a permanent reminder to him and all who followed, that nobody is bigger and better than the river.” Courage? Or simply no choice? - Geoff Caruth In the bad old drought year of 1982 in the months prior to the race the valley was hot and dry but on race day surprise, surprise the river was a healthy 3-4 foot at Hella Hella and the consequent swimming gala in No.1 is now part of the folklore of the race. 1982 was the year that the start of the race was switched back to Hella Hella “pour discouragez les autres” or in plain Anglo Saxon - to scare the pants off us in an effort to cut numbers! Suitably scared, I paddled in the company of the redoubtable Brian Dales and we survived the approaches and the top drop of No.1 despite the chaos and near-drownings all around us. We lined up for the main drop of No.1 and shot it centre-right through the biggest stoppers I had ever experienced. 81 It was a ‘bracing’ experience! Our moment of triumph was recorded for posterity and then used in one of the official SA canoe calendar pictures the following year much to our delight. Fame! Many people remarked and still remark on our ‘pluck and gumption’ in that epic event. But ‘alas, I cannot tell a lie’ and the truth must now be revealed: Our rudder cable had dislodged just after the top drop. When I saw the main drop I was terrified and frantically tried to paddle for the bank but the rudder was jammed solid and we had no choice but ‘into the breach’. We somehow survived to paddle on to glory. This little story of course begs the question - How many VC’S and other awards for bravery have been won in similar-fashion? Swims - Serious Drama Tertius Thompson had a long and worrying foot entrapment (and brave rescue) at Mpompomani rapid in 1984. Travis Wilkinson - entrapment and rescue in The Approaches. Travis speaks of his ordeal - and his gratitude in his eloquent soliloquy ‘Shit, this is a beautiful valley!’ “Alan Paton recounts the stunning beauty of the rolling hills and sheer cliffs in the first few lines of his famous novel ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ and it was his words that came to my mind as eight sweaty men chaired me towards a waiting helicopter. Having only made about eight hundred UMKO 50 Years