Dave ‘Jesus’ Williams

Hi Pete,

Trust that in this format you will be able to use it in your layout. Haven’t looked for any photos yet, this week has been busy at work.

Umko Camp.jpg

I remember when the race was still a three day event, finishing in Umkomaas. The prize giving happened at a venue in Umkomaas. When the race got bigger the prize giving was held in the civic centre in Amanzimtoti.

The catering for the race was done by the scout master from the Hillcrest troop assisted by Geoff Dyer, bearing in mind the two overnight stops.

The transportation of the generators/lighting equipment, refreshments/beers including the sponsors products , drinking water, dry ice, the planks and thrones, toilet paper, digging equipment for the pit latrines , hessian to screen them off would all have to be transported into the valley.

Those years when the helicopter was available we would also have to load the drums of jet fuel. This was all loaded onto an open truck which we at times had to find place on the back for ourselves to be transported.

The paddlers kit would be loaded onto Dave Biggs truck on day one. The truck would be parked at the end of the tarred road leading into the valley at Hella Hella. No seconds allowed.

Colin Mercer, Dudley Brickell and I would be recruited by Ernie as the workers. All of us municipal employees at the time.

The big marquees were hired and I always said that if the hire company knew what roads his truck had to drive on he would have increased the price substantially.

At the overnight stops the workers would string up the lights in the marquees, man the separate tent which was the pub and sort out the toilet long drops.

Allister Peter and Tookoe from Yellowwood Park , Colin Roets and that other good paddler who was in the defence force at the time (ed: Chris Greeff) used to provide the entertainment late into the night. The jokes and special mixers for the novices were fully controlled by those certain naughty buggers. They had designer aprons worn only on these special occasions which made a strong statement (ed: elephant trunks as willies, see below). The farmer on whose land we occupied in certain instances would join us, consume plenty and listen to many war stories.

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Allie thinks:

If my memory is not too doff these special aprons, when lifted, had elephant ears on either side of a rather large male appendage — hence “the dance of the extremely rare and threatened Umko sub-species of the African elephant” which only happened on very rare occasions and only during the marathon — I think there were only two old bulls on the last occasion [one MUCH older than the other!] The farmer I think was Krauzer.

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Dave continues:

In the camp site layout the bar tent needed to be set well away from the main marquee where the serious competitors needed to have an early night.

Can you imagine after the lights in the main marquee were turned off, the majority of the paddlers fast asleep on the ground in sleeping bags, next thing the dronk fellows now come wandering back from the bar  trying to find where their little sleeping spot was.

The next morning we would need to pack up and move on.  We had to now make space for the rubbish on the truck.

Have some other storiejkies to follow. Deadline is looming fast.

Regards, – Dave

A bearded Dave was called ‘Jesus’. Since he shaved it (see top pic) he’s called John Cleese.

Dave Jesus Williams on the right working hard as always

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Continued: We had no hired workers with us. We dug the toilet holes etc., but the marquees were provided by a contractor and yes, those guys did stay overnight in their own separate tent.

I will be talking to Dudley this weekend. Will check with him.

Episode 3.

The one year it was decided to move the overnight stop to St Elmo’s. It rained hard during the night. The farmer spent some time with us in the beer tent. When he left he stopped along the way to discharge a few live rounds into the air. The noise was most impressive in the valley. In the morning some of the smaller vehicles like time keepers who were first to leave had a problem on the wet and slippery road getting out.

It was decided that after we had packed up we would wait a while for the road to dry out before attempting to hit the hit the road in the hired trucks which were transporting  all the paddlers kit.

Ultimately it was decided not to risk it, the heavy vehicles were left in the valley and we jumped onto Bev Swingewoods’ bakkie and managed to get out.

I remember Neil Southey the helicopter pilot landing the helicopter on the road where there was a slight clearing. He had to relay some info back to the finish organisers. Those rotors clipped a few leaves off some of those bushes.

As it turned out the vehicles needed to stay in the valley for a few days. Security guards were arranged. The original drivers were no longer able to drive the three ton trucks when the road had dried out. So those of who had the required licences and others who did not but had driven trucks in the army had to drive the trucks back after work during that following week.

We offloaded all the kit into the small upstairs section of KCC club house. You can just imagine what the paddlers had in the kit bags. Car keys, house keys, office and safe keys, plane tickets, cash/cards etc. In the process of sorting out which kit needed to get up to JHB we were faced with a strong smell coming from one of the bags. We sniffed it out, to find that a guy has a chunk of raw steak in a packet in his bag which by now had started turning green. That weekend club members arranged to transport the kit to clubs like Dabulamanzi and drop it off there for collection.

John Oliver should be requested to tell the story of how his Cortina bakkie did not make it across a small stream while attempting to get closer to the river to time the finishers. The water rose to the point that the cab had water in it.

Hugh Raw was providing a boat patching service. His resins and equipment was transported in a very old modified caravan. Going into the valley the chassis broke under the weight. We had to off load our truck and go back and get his stuff out of the caravan and leave it on the side of the farmers private road. Days later Hugh went back with welding equipment and retrieved the caravan.

On another occasion Colin Downie a member had organised a Land Cruiser from Toyota to get our stuff into the valley. Dudley and I thought we were indestructible in this vehicle. Much to our surprise we ended up getting a puncture along the dirt road to Riverside. What a mission finding the tools needed to change the wheel and then to change the wheel while it was under full load.

At Josephines bridge over night stop a Clover tanker truck supplying us with fresh drinking water managed to get itself stuck in the open field while trying to turn. I tried to assist to pull it out by using Mike Frizelle’s jeep. That did not work. Eventually the farmer brought his tractor and pulled it out.

Following the arrival of portable chemical toilets, and the need to transport helicopter fuel, we needed a bigger truck to transport them. Raw Power have for many years made a truck with driver available. Then we introduced the famous plank for the paddlers to walk up onto the truck to access the unisex toilets. Cliff was one of the first to be named kakhuis mechanic.

Dudley and I on more than one occasion had to travel on the back of the truck, You can imagine the downwind smell while we were on the road back to Durban.

When the prize-giving venue was first moved to Richmond country club, the Richmond dump was across the road. We would go and off load the rubbish we had brought back out of the valley. After a couple of years they chased us away. We then had to make another plan at the refuse sites in Durban.

Someone needs to write the story of the paddler who at Hella Hella in the approaches had his nose cut open by the blade of a paddle and how a Doctor had stitched it up while sitting on the tail gate of a truck after the paddler had been brought from the river to him.

See: theumko.com/2016/04/11/dan-crosby-better-looking-after-fibreglass-surgery/

Kenny Reynolds and the chairman taught my son to catch barbel in the river about five years ago.

Rob Davey will need to tell the story of how the trailer axle moved while he was driving home this year and how roadside repairs were carried out.

Also the incident when paddlers were driving home, Gary from Eric’s canoes and others, witnessed the accident with the farmer who rolled his horse trailer with three polo horses in it, while traveling home after a polo match. They assisted in getting the horses out.

See: https://theumko.com/2016/04/11/tony-botes-saving-the-polo-ponies/

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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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