Colin ‘Ballie’ Roets

Ballie’s very first Umko was in 1976 – “A high year starting at Josephine’s. I swam soon after the start and very often after that, all the way to Krause’s farm”. He got to a rapid  where he and his gang of sweeps gathered and followed each other down a left sneak past an island. Unfortunately that channel was hit side-on by the full force of the main current, washing them against the cliff. One by one they fell out and rescued each other. Then a double went past and he spotted a hand hanging on to the bank, the paddler’s body barely visible. They reached over and rescued the paddler: A young Mike Davies. Where’s your boat? “Dunno”. Where’d you fall out? “Dunno”. How long have you swum? “Dunno”.


Pitched their own army tent a bit away from the main marquee at _____.

Found dagga plants growing. Picked two fine tall specimens and placed them on either side of the tent entrance.

Ballie went to sleep and the others (son Steve and Tony Botes among them) pinched the plants and put them on the braai fire. Then they pinched Ballie’s anti-snore machine and tried to sniff the smoke. When that didn’t work they threw a big duvet over the smouldering fire and all got under the duvet to inhale the smoke!


Broke his Limfy at No.4 once and walked all the way to No.8 with Allie Peter who had also come short. When they got there there was transport for Allie but not for him! He was left to fend for himself. Hitch-hiked out . . .


Was an expert YAKKA maker: Take one heb cooler with a tap; Fill with ice; Pour in a liberal amount of cane or vodka; Add a little powerade and some lemons. Tap off and enjoy!


One high year Ballie approached the finish at Achilles Fontana’s farm a few miles upstream from the mouth on the north bank LEADING THE RACE! He could hear the applause of the people at the finish. Sadly he then ran aground on a sandbank and was passed by Springbok paddler Sunley Uys who won the race with Ballie coming in to the finish second!

Of course he had had a few hours start in the “last-go-first” format having finished the first day somewhere near the back! Sunley had led the first day, so left last on the morning of the last day.


The Elephant Trunk cabaret was at (St Elmo’s?) – a duet with Allie Peter.


At “Toilet Bowl” below Staebraes he hit a rock and clung to it, remembering his brand-new expensive spectacles. What o do now now, as he was definitely going to swim. He shoved his specs and cap down the front of his shorts and, gripping his paddle abandoned ship, leaving his boat to the mercy of the river. A short way downstream he was able to get everything together and in the right place and paddle on.


Watched Frank Emmett shoot Goodenough’s weir at completely the wrong spot and get sucked back by the wave, then luckily spat out downstream at a pace.


Author: bewilderbeast

It's about life, marriage, raising kids, paddling rivers, travel in Africa . . . re-posting thoughts written over decades - at random, I'm afraid.

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