Paul Chalupsky – ‘I actually ran out of air!’

Tripping on a very low river. Bumped down a rapid and saw two ladies washing clothes in the river. They looked up and saw the boats, screamed in terror and ran away, leaving their washing behind.

On one race: At the overnight Paul’s eyes were itching and blurry. He thought from the constant splashing of waves into his face. He consulted Doc Curson who rolled back his eyelids and removed packed strips of mud! He then instilled eyedrops that stung like hell. “I usually only use that on cattle, but its all I have” said Doc casually. Back in the big smoke an ophthalmologist prescribed oral cortisone tablets when drops didn’t do the trick, so that was one stubborn infection.

Paddled one Umko with son Herman.

Raced Roelof van Riet in singles one year. Roelof cracked his boat quite badly but only really looked at it in the morning, and it needed work! He thus only started repairing it 15mins before the start – that put him out of contention. “You’ve got to inspect your boat straight away in the afternoon, Roelie” said the ever-thorough Paul – who went on to win that year.

The meal one night was hot chicken ala king from the (check on this) Astra Hotel – “Best chicken I ever ate!” said Paul in admiration at that catering coup.

On a trip with George Green they swam in No.8 and he disappeared in the hole at the bottom, getting sucked down and held down – “Worst swim of my life – I actually ran out of air!” says Paul.

Paddled three Umkos with Eric Clarke – and broke their boat all three times – two of those wraps being in the same rapid!

Took a German national sprint paddler on the Umko one year. Broke up before No.8. Fellow paddlers were great: They stopped and gave them duct tape (Paul had no repair kit on board). It was quite a bad break and needed plenty duct tape!

One particular boat was dubbed the ‘Queen Mary’! Purpose-built for big water, it was an Accord with raised sides and a raised cockpit: BIG volume! They also used high-fitting splash covers. He paddled the QM with Robbie Rowe (Gordie’s son) one year.

Add in to the story about the Landrover with the snapped side-shaft: The next year Papa used another Landrover  – and the gearbox went! You can imagine what he had to say about British engineering then!

The story about Jimmy Potgieter and alcohol poisoning – I didn’t get it right – Please repeat – Thanks!

Paul Chalupsky & Jimmy Potgieter after coming 2nd in the first Umko tie the boat onto Papa Chalupsky's Borgward
Paul Chalupsky & Jimmy Potgieter after finishing second in the first Umko – with Papa Chalupsky’s Borgward
Paul Chalupsky
Paul Chalupsky

Umko 1983 program (9)


Tripped the Umko from Deepdale on a Kingfisher outing. Papa Chalupsky was to meet them at the Hella Hella bridge.

After a long slow few hours it became apparent the KCC boys were never going to make it as they were dawdling, so Paul and his mate Robbie Knudsen decided “Heck with it” and set off ahead. But nightfall overtook them and they dragged their boats off the water on the bank and hid them under some bushes.

Luckily a local man offered to lead them to a store “just nearby”. Hours later they got to a store where the son of the Indian storekeeper met them, Mom and Dad had gone to town. In the absence of the parents they were given the main bedroom, so had a comfortable night’s rest and good food.

The next morning they started off for their boats but didn’t have a clue where to go as they had seen nothing in the dark. Luckily an old man saw them acting lost and said “I saw you yesterday. I saw where you stopped, I saw where you hid your boats”. He had been watching them from a cliff high above the river, so he showed them exactly where to go and find their boats, saving them huge time and bother!

Eventually they got to Hella Hella where Papa was waiting, wondering where the hell they’d been!

….”We were supposed to finish in one day,  Papa pitched the tent at Hella-Hella and stayed the night there on his own, he was very worried about us , but very relieved and happy when he saw us  the next morning! we made it back in about two hours the next morning from the night stop over at the Indian’s house .”


sent by paul (inger actually) on 27 August 2015:

Deep Dale…Hella Hella
After ditching the canoes we asked at an African hut for directions, we were invited in for a chat and hot tea. We then asked for direction to Hella-Hella, one of the chaps told us it was only about 3 kilometres away. He offered to guide us to an Indian trading store about 1 kilometre away, following him in the dark for an hour in a semi run to keep up with him.( He mentioned he was not feeling too well, so lucky for us) .
The Indian Store keepers son said we could sleep in his parents’ bedroom as they had gone into town, it was freezing zero degrees during the night! The Indian Store was situated on top of a hill overlooking the horse bend in the river. In the morning we could see the camping site up stream below us.
The next morning the well spoken African Dipping Inspector pointed out to us where our fellow paddlers camping site was and then took us to the place we hid our boats and paddles in the bush! the chances of finding them ourselves would have been very slim!
The Night before the Trip
We pitched our tent. (Pops Villa! for 5 people, bedroom, 4 metre extension verandah, with folding beds, tables and chairs, gas cookers etc. all imported from Germany where they are very jacked up on camping. The tough KCC Paddlers declined Pops kind invitation to sleep in the tent, but the next morning found that they had all piled into the tent during the night! It was zero degrees outside!
My partner that year was Robbie Knudsen , a young lad with Norwegian Parents. He came to my notice at the Duzi at the Khumalo Store Stop, after he was told that they had to finish with both boats, (a singles team rule) Robbie proceeded to chop up his canoe into pieces with an axe and load the pieces into their good boat and proceeded to finish the race!
Memories of the First Umkomaas
My first Umkomaas , start at Hella-Hella, with Jimmy Potgieter. We both knew the river very well, as we had tripped all the sections of the river several times. Jimmy was a very good canoeist. Charlie and Tank were in a double ski, they were the main opposition. After a couple of kilometres, Jimmy surprisingly was unable to keep up with me and paddled like an appy, and made silly mistakes.
Pop was not happy when we limped in way behind Charlie and Tank!. We did not manage to make up the deficit and had to settle for second place. Weeks later Jimmy admitted to me (but please, not to tell Pops) that he had drunk a full bottle of brandy the night before the race and on the day of the race had suffered from double vision!
The Quips
The biggest Umkomaas Hella-Hella to the sea Paddle with Tony Scott in the Queen Mary, (Big Water Accord ) we had a massive swim on that day 1, trailed by Robbie Stewart and Rowan Rasmussen. At Goodenough Weir, as we put in after them at the bottom of the Weir, I said to Robbie (as Scotty reminded me later) “Thats your Bundle” We went on to win in record time.


Paul Chalupsky & Eric Clark walks (FIND OWEN Hemingways’s account):
Eric and I , we broke the boat above Riverside. On the second day we started last in correct time so we had the river all to ourselves. At Riverside we met a number of paddlers with broken boats waiting for lifts. Being novices at breaking boats we decided to walk out of the valley, bad decision.! After walking for hours we where picked up by the same transport they collected paddlers from Riverside. We provided the locals with a lot of amusement. The next two Umkos I managed with a bit of help from Eric to break the boat in the same Micky Mouse no-name rapid!
Can’t recall ( very convenient attack of alzheimers) how we got to the finish!


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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s