My best Umko memory is my first, 1987.
Although still a beginner, in those days no-one stopped you doing the classic old 130 km, two day race, without helmets, so with youthful ignorance, I entered.
An untried combination of Tony Webstock, me and a re-repaired Accord decided to tackle the ultimate river challenge. We set our sights on a finish – that would be an achievement, given all the war stories we had heard.
We left Jozi in Lightning’s Toyota double-cab. Memorable for two issues:
- There were four Tonys in the car: Lightfoot, King, Webstock and Purchase
- Lightening had a good looking filly with him (they took one of the two rooms in the PMB hotel).
After the obligatory “kak your rods in anticipation” descent into the valley, we heard the announcer saying “Seventeen swimmers in A batch, you could pick a Springbok paddling team from the swimmers”. Well, I must have had five veldies in the half hour waiting for my batch. There was no more kak left. We tapped down the river, portaging as much as we could. Nevertheless, after an hour the huge stoppers and wave-trains had broken the Accord, but we had anticipated our lack of prowess and a cake tin full of repair kit was stowed in the back. We rustled up the locals to collect firewood to help the mix go off. At the cut-off bridge old man Chalupsky advised us we were half an hour late, “But if you vant to go, its yoor problem”.
We arrived in the dark, only finding the marquee at Riverside due to the noise and the fire. We filled up our bellies with Hansa to counteract our blisters being filled up with Merthiolate. Jeez, what pain, but it worked like a charm.
We finished the second day at Goodenoughs with our craft underwater, and were immortalised with the attached pic in the Sunday Star. The other Tonys finished their race more competitively, going backwards down Goodenoughs. The feeling of achievement was immense “The River Gods had let us through”.
Annoyingly I have only done another three Umkos, but 2016 is already in the diary, written in permanent marker.