THIS CHAPTER IS ON THAT SPECIAL FIRST RACE IN 1966
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Today’s paddlers might have been surprised, had they stood on the Josephine’s bridge that wet December of 1966 and watched the forty paddlers in the first race get underway to notice the absence of lifejackets and helmets. Their mothers may have tut-tutted at the shortage of hats and suncream. Less obvious would have been the scary fact that most of the paddlers were “racing blind” never having paddled on the Umko before!
Determined to give paddlers great value for money, Kingfisher supplied all food, logistics and accommodation at a R2-per-paddle entry fee. No seconding was needed – and anyhow, few seconds would have known where to go. The aim was a different experience, greater camaraderie, more wilderness – modelled on the trips the organisers had undertaken and enjoyed so much.
Who was the 17yr old in the first race who paddled with Dusi legend Bob Templeton?
What Jimmy Potgieter had been up to the night before the race.
Who the schoolkid was who cycled from Park Rynie to watch the finish and ended up paddling many, many Umkos himself?
Most paddlers got to Riverside store that first day. The food trucks, however, did not. Only two vehicles had made the overnight stop – Ozzie Gladwin’s WW2-vintage Willys Jeep and Papa Chalupsky’s borrowed Landrover. In reliable and predictable Landrover fashion a side-shaft had snapped, leaving Papa Schultz with only front-wheel-drive.
Everyone hung around waiting for the promised kit, tents and food and drink to arrive – in vain. What did they eat?
Next morning the vehicles couldn’t get out under their own steam. How did they make it out?.
Next overnight stop . . .
The Chalupsky’s had their own tent and, in the established tradition of Dragon-baiting, . . .
The last day included the famous waterfall, Kingfisher Falls. Everyone knew you had to portage around it and necks were stretched and ears strained to be sure to see it well ahead. The brothers Willan, though, decided on an unconventional approach: . . .
Most of the forty entrants finished the first Umko. One reason was probably that it did not include the rougher Hella Hella section. Another was they had no alternative! You finished the race or – what? No helicopters!
The winners of that epic and historic first race were . . .
Prizegiving was held at The Lido Hotel and who were the popular winners of the Sportsmanship Prize?
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