THE FAMOUS WATERFALL EPISODE – Frank Emmett
This was my introduction to the Umkomaas River.
Tony Scott was competing in Australia and told me to take his white water canoe if I wanted to do the Waterfall to Goodenough race. I had completed one Dusi in an old borrowed boat with Bruce Webber. I got a lift to the race with Rory Lynsky and Dave Biggs. They told me to get out on the left bank at the waterfall around the bend and then portage round.
No one was in sight and I ended up leaving it a bit late, so abandoned Tony’s canoe for the safety of the bank. The boat went over, but there was no sign of it at the bottom of the falls.
Suddenly, my search was distracted by a canoe followed by a body crashing over the falls. It was Peter Peacock! He surfaced 100m or more down stream and promptly hurled up gallons of Umkomaas water.
He and I then searched the banks below for remnants of our boats but to no avail.
Returning to the top of the falls there was Jimmy still clinging to a rock on the lip of the falls, still cursing and making sure we understood that he would not budge without the assistance of a helicopter. A group of local umfanes fortuitously appeared with a length of conveyor belt. A branch was tied to one end and after many attempts the belt was hurled to within Jimmy’s reach. With the umfanes help we pulled Jimmy to the safety of the bank.
A long walk out of the valley followed, not unusual for canoeists. I do not recall who came looking for us.
Tony was fairly understanding about the fate of his white water boat, fortunately the Mandester was new on the white water scene.
For me, numerous Hella Hella to No 8, Waterfall to Goodenough weir and Umko Marathons were to follow, trailing behind the race leaders and legends of this awesome river.
The post marathon prize-givings at the Lido preceded by the obligatory kaalgat swim in the fish tank have been well documented. I do not know how finishing the Umko is enjoyed today.