Rory Lynsky – ‘Quite frankly ignorance was bliss’

Morning Pete,
Following your call about the Umkomaas I flushed a few thoughts from  my memory bank and the attached pics & articles from a envelope containing all those races long ago. Please feel at liberty to use whatever you wish. I have copied a number of friends who have long memories and am sure can give you much more . If you need any more pics of articles let me know.
Some background to the 6 scans
  1. Number 1 Rapid 72. A well known iconic pic of the leading doubles approaching No 1 Rapid in that 1972 marathon raced in flood conditions. I was a reporter on The Daily News and i persuaded my friend and photographer colleague Dave Valentine to come along to the start at Hella Hella. He walked downstream on the south bank and positioned himself low down to snap the doubles and this is the result. Left to Right John Keary and Mike van Wierengen ; Paul Chalupsky and Tony Scott ; Graeme Pope-Ellis and Eric Clarke and Rob Stewart and Rowan Rasmussen.
  2. Quo Vadis. An article i wrote at the the behest of the the organisers in 1981 about the future of the race. It would be interesting to see if any of the sentiments expressed have stood the test of time.
  3. Umkomaas 72. The typed and rhonoed single sheet we used to get from KCC with race results. The secretary didn’t have too much typing to do for this three day marathon. Thirteen in all, with a few lost during the three day race.
  4. Umkomaas 73. A year later over the same distance. Interesting to compare the number of finishers on a “normal” year and a comparison with the singles and doubles finishing times of the  year before !
  5. Veterans.   A roll call back in 1981.
  6. Waterfall. At the time called “Kingfisher Rapid” although I’m sure it has a localised name. This is the only compulsory portage on the then three day and later two day marathon. The story behind the picture is back in 1973-74 (not sure of the actual year) in one of the preliminary races, Peter Peacock and the late Jimmy “Iron Man “Potgieter were approaching the rapid and for some unexplained reason found themselves drawn into the vortex. Potgieter managed to make the safety of a rock in the river, but Pete was taken over the falls, where the entire volume of the Umkomaas is drawn through the falls. How he survived is a miracle. Frank Emmett was present and helped rescue Potgieter. Again still a reporter I persuaded my news editor it was worth a story and we drove to the waterfall with the resultant photograph, I’m the guy on the rock.

Waterfall 73 001

Some random thoughts from those far off days bulletproofed in our teens and 20’s and the Umkomaas was a pale male affair.
  • Looking back over more than 40 years for me the defining moment of the Umkomaas was the start of the 72′ marathon at Hella Hella. It was a first time ,both on the river and in the marathon. Quite frankly it was a case of ignorance is bliss. If i had known what lay ahead on a flood level river over the next three days i may well have had second thoughts. As it was our little band of singles stuck to Charlie Mason like pilot fish for the full 130 km. I still have a vivid memory of paddling across  flooded fields to by pass  those monstrous walls of water where the river does a wicked 90 deg turn ; of being ensnared in thorn trees normally high up above the bank ; of the roar of the river and the sound of boulders moving all under a leaden sky. The fear of falling out and being left behind on the second and third days especially wasn’t a good prospect. I recall being told we had paddled over Goodenough’s Weir – i don’t think there was even a dip in the river at that point
  • I’m sure the river has been as high , but i cant recall it during my time. I’m sure other statistically minded chaps would have records of the level on the Hella Bridge.
  • The names on the finishing lists attached contains wonderful paddlers and friends made over the years. And what would the Umkomaas have been without the generalship of Ernie Alder, “Jesus” and his band of helpers in tent town on the overnight stops
  • Remember also good people who raced and were associated with the race, to name a few – Doc Curson, Martin Biggs, Graeme Pope-Ellis , Lance Park, Trevor McWade , Johann Kruger. 
  • People like Rog Collinson, Ali Maynard and Dave Biggs were an inspiration and an example of the power of self belief
  • Prizegivings at the Umkomaas Lido were always a bit riotous. The downstairs area where the prizegiving was held had a fish tank viewing window onto the pool. On a number of occasion paddlers exhibited their crown jewels to bemused wives and girlfriends !
  • My old friend Colin Pay in the early 80’s a teacher at DHS, brought the first computer into the race when he lumped the school’s massive Hewlett Packard to the overnight stops, linked it onto the generator and fired away the results. Not sure what year that was however.
  • The spell of the race and the river is that it run its course from high up in the berg to the sea, changed over millions of year. Anyone who has paddled through it is very privileged indeed !


Hi Pete

I found some negatives among my files of what i was told was the first mixed doubles “event/outing/race” on the Umko back in the early 70’s. It was all very social, starting just below No 8 and finishing if i recall somewhere downstream near Staebraes on the Aadnesgaard’s property !
The only folk i can identify from the pics shooting the first rapid below the gum trees  are firstly Frank Emmett and Brenda ; not sure of the next pairing and then the very casual start where i can make out Roger and Wendy Collinson, maybe the Hawardens and Roly Allborough. Note the shorts back then.
Young folk then, and grandfolks now !
You may find a spot for it somewhere among the incidentals
Cheers – Rory

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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