50 Years of Umko 1966 - 2016 1966 - 2016 - Page 90

hit nothing on the way down and, as in those days we had no lifejackets, I began swimming up as soon as I could. I seemed to be going nowhere and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps I was disoriented and swimming down instead of up so I stopped swimming for the surface to see what direction I would move in. It didn’t help, time passed, I suppose seconds, and the need for air was becoming urgent. I started swimming for the surface again thinking I would rather go out trying for the surface, even if it was the wrong direction. I have no recollection of surfacing and was woken by water splashing in my face at the top of the first rapid after the falls. Luckily for me I was alongside a submerged rock and I just had to throw an arm over it to get my head out of the water. I was exhausted and had it been any further away I would have drowned in the rapid. I lay there retching until I recovered then ran back up the gorge to see where Jimmy was. “As I climbed up I was relieved to see a figure sitting on a rock right on the edge of the falls. In my haste I stubbed and broke my big toe. Once back on top Jimmy indicated he would wait for a helicopter. Looking around I saw some cattle and two herdboys watching. The cattle had rope (asbestos belting) around their necks. I asked if I could borrow it to pull Jimmy off the right hand edge of the falls. I duly knotted two pieces together, tied the end to a large log of wood and walked upstream and threw it into the current to float it down to Jimmy. It proved impossible and the current kept pushing the log to the left of the falls. At this stage I was shivering with cold or perhaps shock and was wondering what to do next. “The herders had watched with interest and at this stage asked how much money I had. I happened to have a R1 coin and for this princely sum one fellow agreed to take the log much higher upstream and swim it down to Jimmy, from where his friend and I would pull them both back to the bank. I checked the knots, held the end running down the bank while he swam for the falls. Once together on the edge of the falls they both held on and jumped while the friend and I ran back with the rope. It worked and they both virtually bounced on the surface of the water to safety.” Yo! So now we actually know all about this incredible saga - every paddler’s worst nightmare - which attained legendary status over the years! Canews in 1977 emphasised that the race that year would be starting BELOW the falls (capital letters and underlined) and editor Kelway Tanner added a comment: “If you guys don’t know where the waterfall is ask Peter Peacock! Actually this is most definitely a compulsory portage always - if you don’t take out you probably won’t be around to be penalised anyway!” Hail to the King - King Arthur! It may have been the same race or another when Charles got a lift back from Goodenough’s with the ever-colourful Arthur Toekoe Egerton in his Datsun 1200 bakkie, two boats on the tiny roof (one named ‘Excalibur’). A thunderstorm brewed and soon hailstones as big as golfballs (you always have to say that) were pelting down. The boats were cockpit-up and started sagging, forcing them to stop and empty. They got soaked through. Their misfortune and not having any dry clothes reminded Charles that he was well-connected in Umkomaas village: He had Italian family-in-law there! They arrived on Mama’s doorstep looking miserable. Papa was at the Italian club, where else, it was Sunday and Mama ushered them in and fed them a large Italian lunch. We hope Papa got his when he got home. His lunch. Unusual Craft Rob Davey is passed by a guy - on a lilo! During one of my swims I was suddenly overtaken by this guy on a lilo clutching onto a paddle. We agreed that it would be better if I took his UMKO 50 Years Rob Davey & Dave Biggs paddle and let him concentrate on getting to the overnight stop on his lilo. This was the start of a great friendship with Dave Biggs that has spanned almost forty years. Dave has been an inspiration to me and I will always treasure the great times we have had on the river together. Hugh Raw - K3 Madness In the early days of K3 development, after the Gandy brothers had completed a Dusi in a K3 I felt that it was not designed for carrying but would be a great boat for a really big river. So I started plotting to find someone brave enough to paddle this unknown entity with me. My old mate Dickie Edwards had declined after I swam him through No.5&6 and suddenly I discovered I had no friends. Luckily, two adventurous and possibly overly-trusting young ladies took the bait and pitched up at Hella-Hella to take on the Umko. (Or as Di Rietz put it: There are two ways of getting to Josephine’s, one along a tarred road, the other along a treacherous stretch of river. Our adventurers chose the river). Two nights before, Di asked if I wanted a repair kit in the boat. Well there were two rolls of tape already tied in the K3 so I said no thanks, visualising a small suitcase of stuff that she normally carries. It was already a very heavy boat and it took both ladies to carry it to the pound, trying not to struggle. At the start there was much shaking of heads and muttering about nutcases with the river level estimated at about 1.8m and having that oily, silent look except for the little rapid above the start which was throwing up a bit of spray. None of these portents worried me because driving a K3 is 90