Stuart Clifton – ‘make sure your mentor has a tinge of grey hair’

Hi Pete
I reluctantly share this story with you for consideration.
Only reluctantly because I am not an “Umko legend” and do not wish any credit for the story if it makes the book.
My 1st experience of the No. 1 – 8 section was supposed to be as a sweep in 2003. I had volunteered to help the club and go with the experienced sweeps to learn what it was all about (having only experienced the No. 8 to Josephines section prior).
It turned out that there were too many sweeps? So we were given a roll of Duct tape and asked to go in “C batch” and help anyone who found trouble along the way. No problem…
Then, about 10 minutes before the start, my partner found he couldn’t reach the pedals in the boat he had borrowed from his brother! So I was immediately pressed into the driver’s seat as I was taller than he.
I spent that 10 minutes with one Mr. Rob Davey! I didn’t yet know him and was directed to him by all and sundry moderately experienced paddlers who I tried to pester.
My questions went something along the lines of “How do I shoot (insert rapid no.)”
He would then tell me, and I would ask “How do I know I’m at (the same rapid)?”
In that short time, he filled me in in every single BIG rapid, as well as all the in-betweens that I had never heard of. (There is a rapid before No. 1?) The ones he couldn’t tell me about, he told me to use common river sense and go by what I saw.
I didn’t get No. 4 right that day as we were on the wrong side of the river by the time I realised the monster was upon us. We didn’t swim, but did do a bit of damage to the boat. We shot everything else more or less in a safe place, portaged 5&6 and got to the end having had the most fun I had ever had on a river. I can still remember what it felt like down the left of No.4 and getting spat out of that hole.
Since that day, the ‘spirit of the Umko’ has been all to evident to me.  People who have paddled this wonderful valley are all so keen to share their experiences and knowledge with others, that I have not found an Umko paddler who is not keen to share this ‘spirit’ with a fellow paddler.
Just make sure that the paddler whose knowledge you choose to soak up has at least a tinge of grey hair, and at least 10 Umko’s under his (or her) belt.
In tribute to all the legends of the Umko who have shared with novices like me!
Stuart Clifton (of only 7 Umko’s)

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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