Sorry it has taken me a bit of time to get back to you, but I am very old and everything seems to have slowed down, except time, which flies by.
I am not sure that any stories you might have heard about me are true, but celebrities cannot avoid the media, and must plough on no matter what is said – True or False.
I have a few stories about my mate Raw, but “what happens on the river stays on the river” – as the old saying goes, so I’m not sure how far we can go.
Firstly I must tell you that my dear old Mum – Bless her – always said that she didn’t like Hugh Raw very much???!!! I asked how she could be so judgmental when she had never met the man, and her comment was that she didn’t like him because “He makes you do things I don’t approve of”. That about sums up my mate Hugh Raw – always making me do things nobody approves of.
In the good old days when the Umko was the Umko, we were on our way to the sea and had been paddling for a good many hours – not showing any signs of competency. We had more or less broken completely, to the extent, that at any sign of a rapid, we made a bee-line to the bank to portage. Everybody who has paddled the Umko knows that pools follow rapids which tend to end up against cliff faces and so it was that we would paddle a pool for a few minutes, climb out for the rapid and walk for about a half an hour, and back in again.
At about eleven in the morning I suggested to His Highness that we spend a half hour on the bank repairing our canoe. “The finish is just around the corner” was the curt reply and so on we trudged. At last at 3.30 pm, Hugh finally conceded that we should stop and do a repair job. I have to admit – although it hurts me to do so – that Hugh Raw is the best plastic surgeon in the canoeing fraternity. Of course at 3.30 in the afternoon it is starting to cool off and the sun has dipped a little, and it takes much longer to dry the boat than at 11.00 in the morning. The result of this of course, that instead of taking half an hour to do the repair it took an hour.
Once again my skipper did a remarkable job of fixing and we set off at pace to get to the finish, which we did in ten minutes.
Had we done the repair when I suggested we should at eleven, we might have been in the prizes. Our faithful wives were the only seconds on the river by this time, and we missed the prize giving in Amanzimtoti by about 2 hours. I must say that neither Hugh nor I have been seconded by our wives again.
On another occasion HF Raw organized an overnight trip from Deepdale to Hella Hella. During the week prior to said trip it bucketed with rain for about four days. I happened to meet Sean Biggs – a most accomplished Umko paddler – on the day before the start of our journey who said to me that there was no way he would undertake the section we were about to run with the water level as it was after all the rain we had had. When I remarked to Hugh what Sean had said he shrugged and said that we would make a plan.
The party was reduced from about eight to four – Hugh Raw, two Domleo brothers and yours truly – after the rest pulled out with various lame excuses. We were in plastics, and Richard Domleo, who has since become a river guide on the Umko I think, and I, were novices, certainly not able to Eskimo roll or anything fancy like that. We set off full of the joys on a sunny afternoon, Rich and I taking chicken runs at any conceivable place that we could. Hugh sank on one occasion and his sleeping bag was saturated between his legs thus trapping him in his canoe. Scary situation, but I guess there is a guardian angel who looks after the foolish. (ed: That’s St Christoffel, patron saint of the foolish).
After I had fallen out about ten times, I had had enough, and refused to go any further announcing that we should set up camp where we were. The Domleo boys had expected to spend the night in a cottage, close to the river, in warm luxury, and had not brought any dry clothes, sleeping bags or food, and were reduced to spending the night sharing whatever they could of our rations. There was snow on the Berg and it was as cold as charity. Hugh slept in a sodden sleeping bag, and Nick and Richard Domleo spent the night virtually in the fire, trying to keep warm.
The next day dawned warm and sunny and proceeded to heat up until the temperature was unbearable. We got to a rapid called Long Drop – I think – and the decision was that only Nick was competent enough to run it. Out on the bank the rocks are the size of houses, and yours truly was finding it more and more difficult to drag his boat up the one side down into a valley on the other rock after rock after rock. Finally in despair I sat down, overheated, dehydrated and exhausted, and decided to die where I was.
After what seemed like an eternity Hugh’s cherubic face appeared over the top of the rock and peered down at me. “Don’t you ever @#””$’% – you can imagine the language – take me down a river that I can’t manage again”, I shouted, at which point the face disappeared and I didn’t see him again, except in the distance.
I finally managed to get to the bottom of the rapid and limped to the collection point, bent, and totally aware of my frailties as a canoeist. Hugh has not waited for me since that day, and I have had to get out of all my scrapes without his assistance. Fine paddling companion.
We have done a few things together Hugh and I, and I wouldn’t have had another partner to accompany me, unless Hugh chose not to paddle with me. It has happened.
I could go on endlessly but as I said earlier, “What happens on the river stays on the river”.
Look forward to reading your book when it comes out.