1988 Albums

The big old album is hitting the recycling bin. I have recorded all the pictures.

Home after our lo-ong honeymoon and some surprise welcomes:

Also in 1988 we had a big optometry conference in Durban. As part of the hosting committee I produced a daily newsletter. Then I became president of the optometric association at the end of the conference.

Friends at the conference – and an induction (Brauer says they induced me):

I dragged some non-canoeing friends out to the Umgeni Valley. I wanted to see the valley for a last time before Inanda Dam drowned it forever. The river was rather shallow – um, VERY shallow! We dragged for miles!

We visited the folks in Harrismith, clambered the slopes of Platberg and sang around the piano:

Bernie & Karen Garcin got married in Empangeni – George Stainton and I were his best men.

In between all the scurrying we lived in our lovely Whittington Court one-bedroom apartment in Marriott Road, and I think I occasionally did a bit of work. Sheila reminded me that she lived there for two years after we bought our house in Westville.

Another of our frequest visits to Hella Hella. And a visit to the Hills on Melrose farm, Mid Illovo.

~~~oo0oo~~~

R.I.P Herve de Rauville

Dammit, Hervie died!

Herve
Me, Herve, Dave Jones, Jurie, Steve - The Lincoln loaded
– Me, Herve in red, Dave Jones, Jurie the cameraman and Steve Fourie, Chris Greeff’s buddy –

Greeff took the pic, cutting off the nose of the Lincoln to make sure he got my elbow in. The Lincoln is loaded and ready to take us to paddle the Ocoee River in Tennessee after a night at Dave Jones’ house in Atlanta. Dave is a military man, a dentist and an international paddler. We were there cos Chris Greeff is a military man, a dentist and an international paddler. Weirdos like that tend to stick together.

Here’s Herve on all fours studying my map of the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Willem van Riet left of Herve with the ducktail is telling us about the moerse rapids he went through that day.

1984 Grand Canyon (3)

Here is Hervie again, red cap left back, in the Swim Team, much as he tried to earnestly explain why his swim didn’t actually count as a swim! Competitive swine, our Herve!

Canyon 1984

. . and here he stands dead centre with the faded red cap at the end of our 360km 12-day trip through the Canyon:

1984 Grand Canyon (4)

My last supper with Herve was positively biblical: He arrived in a cloud of holy blue smoke in a hundred year old chariot – a faded yellow Merc diesel with four million miles on the clock. Nice car, Herve, I said. ‘Hey! Think of the money I save’, said he. He brought four quarts of beer and six bottles of ‘communion wine’ which he called his ‘quota wine’. I thought, ‘quota for the night!?’ but it turned out he owned shares in a Western Cape wine farm and – just like they did with their workers – he get some of his pay in liquid form. Suddenly I thought through the blur that I understood ‘liquidity.’

We had gathered together, dearly beloved, to write down Herve’s tales of the Umko canoe marathon. As the evening progressed I would say ‘but Herve, wasn’t that the Dusi?’ Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey? But Herve, wasn’t that the Berg? Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey? But Herve, wasn’t that the Breede? Oh, Yes! The Crocodile? Oh, Yes! But you didn’t saw your boat in half to get it on a plane to go to Umko, did you, Herve? Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey?

We laughed for seven and a half hours. We talked of the hardship of owning property in England – Herve’s a farmer, things are very hard, you don’t understand. Then he left after midnight in a cloud of holy blue smoke in a hundred year old chariot – a faded yellow Merc diesel with four million miles on the clock.

That was the last time I saw Hervie.

Too soon. Go well, Herve.

~~~oo0oo~~~

R.I.P Linda Grewar

Linda Grewar was a Kingfisher paddler from back around 1990. She and Bernie Garcin paddled really well – a number of mixed doubles podium finishes on the Dusi, Fish and Umzimkulu. Then she buzzed off ‘overseas’.

In May 2016 Bernie gave me Linda’s address, so I wrote  to her:

Hey Linda! – LONG time no hear!
Meantime I have freely been using your name in vain in the Umko book we put together for this year’s 50th running of the marathon and for a story on an Umko trip Bernie and I did where you helped us out with driving. MOONS ago!

Last I heard you were out East teaching English, now I hear you’re in England. I’m glad, as in my considered opinion, a lot of Englishmen could do with being taught English proper!

Me I’m raising kids at my age, they’re 18 and 14 now.

I haven’t paddled for ages, but I have bought a new boat (no logic involved; actually, keep it secret, I’m planning a big comeback). Be careful when you look at the pics of me and Bernie with my new boat – you may get a fright!

bernie_detox1.jpg

Saw Greg Bennett yesterday. He’s well. Thanks to the Umko book project I have seen or spoken to a lot of the old paddling guys in the last year that I hadn’t seen for ages. Allie Peter, Mike Frizelle, Ernie Alder and various other maniacs are currently trudging south down the whole Wild Coast. Three to four weeks from the bottom end of Natal, ending in East London or Kei River or somewhere down there in Darkest Eastern Cape.

Fill me in on your movements since – when? – about 1990!?

Cheers now – Love to you – Pete Swanie

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Linda replied: Hi Pete – So good to hear from you after so long. Yes, I was out East, in Taiwan. I then also taught English in Slovakia and Czech Republic before ending up here in the UK. I live in Esher, Surrey and was teaching fairly close by, in Surbiton. As Karen probably told you, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer in January- one hell of a surprise, as you can imagine. So far, I have had a course of radiotherapy and have had four sessions of chemo. Obviously I have not been able to work since I have been ill and things are quite hard financially.

Is it possible to buy hard copies of the Umko book? My brother is keen to get one and he can buy me one at the same time! Those days are but a distant memory now . . . All the best – Love, Linda

Me: Dammit. Dammit! What a bliksem! Bloody cancer! Good luck with your treatment. Hope it goes well.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

** May 2018 – Bernie contacted me to tell me Linda had passed away. Dammit. Bloody cancer.

Worst Man

I have thrice been ‘best man’ at a wedding. I took my duties seriously. Much rehearsal took place. At first it would look quite good:

Garcin Wedding3

Then someone would invariably ply me with grog . .

Garcin Wedding2

. . and then things would go pear-shaped. Like in this case when the canoe club heavies attacked me:

Garcin Wedding1

Why don’t they do this to the actual victim? I’m not the groom!

Bumbling Down the Grand Canyon

(early draft needs work – and being worked on as I find stuff)

1984 was one of the very few years since 1960 that Colorado river water from the Grand Canyon actually reached the sea. High snow melt had pushed it past the point where golf courses and old-age homes are draining it of all its water and it reached the beautiful estuary at Baja California into the Sea of Cortez ! Unknown to many, this also made it the first-ever time Mexico would have been able to taste Mainstay and river water. Well, recycled Mainstay and river water. Passed through the kidneys of a mad bunch of South Africans that Chris Greeff had assembled to paddle through the famous American Canyon.

That’s because we were on the river sponsored by Mainstay Cane Spirits and South African Airways. The “Mainstay” we drank was actually an SAA Boeing 747’s supply of tot bottles of whisky, brandy, gin, vodka – and some Mainstay cane spirits – which we decanted into 2litre plastic bottles to help the stewardesses on board with their end-of-Atlantic-crossing stock-take. We had resolved to drink the plane dry, but man, they carry a lot of hooch on those big babies (I spose in case they end up with all 350 passengers happening to be as thirsty as paddlers are?).

Fifteen paddlers from South Africa joined our guides Cully and JoJo Erdman on a trip down the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to the take-out on Lake Mead 270 or so miles downstream. We were accompanied by one other paddler, an Argentine José who was ticking off his bucket list, having climbed Everest. Five rubber inflatable rafts carried the food (and the Mainstay and a few hundred beers) and a motley assortment of rapid riders from America and SA. Talking of motley: Us paddlers ranged from capable rough water paddlers to flatwater sprinters to happy trippers to complete novices. Some had Springbok colours, others had a lot of cheek.

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (48) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (2) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (6) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (8) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (26) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (28) GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (30)

Some twists in the tale: My boyhood kayaking heroes had been the van Riet brothers, Willem and Roelof, who won the Dusi three times just as I was first learning about the race ca 1970. As I started to participate in the race Graeme Pope-Ellis was winning the first of his eventual fifteen Dusi wins. Both Willem and Graeme were with us on this trip. More: In the year I first saw the Colorado river (1973) by walking/running down the Bright Angel trail from the South Rim to the Colorado’s swiftly-flowing green water, Willem had launched a boat at Lee’s Ferry, done an eskimo roll and come up with ice in his hair, causing him to postpone his trip to this one, eleven years later – in the summer!

The trip was put together by yet another iconic paddler Chris Greeff, winner of more kayak races than I’d had breakfasts. One of the craziest races he won was the Arctic Canoe Race on the border between Finland and Sweden. About 500km of good pool and drop rapids in cold water. When he arrived at the start with his sleek flatwater racing kayak (the others had wider, slower, more stable canoes) the local organisers thought Ha! he intends portaging around all the rapids! (they’d heard of the Dusi and how mad South Africans run with kayaks on their heads) so they amended the rules: Every rapid avoided would incur a time penalty. Chris just smiled and agreed enthusiastically with their ruling: He had no intention of getting out of his boat!

Later: On the trip our American kayak and raft guides kept asking us about our sponsors stickers we had attached to kayaks and rafts. SAA they understood, but what was this “Mainstay” stuff? Ooh. you’ll see! Was all we’d say.
At ___ rapid on Day __ around the camp fire we hauled out three or four 2litre bottles filled with a suspect-looking amber liquid. THIS we said, was that famous stuff!

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (65)

1984Grand Canyon (1)

The little Colorado was flooding and massively silt-laden. At the confluence we stopped and had mud fights and mud rolls. I fell out just downstream and got some of that ‘water’ up my snout. A month later I had to have an emergency sinus washout!

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff Confluence (1)

Lunch on a small sandbank, Colorado River, Grand Canyon - Five rafts, seventeen kayaks
Lunch on a small sandbank, Colorado River, Grand Canyon – Five rafts, seventeen kayaks

Grand Canyon Chris 2 Grand Canyon Chris Crystal-001

Jannie Claassen stands. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right. All poring over the map, plotting the next day!
Jannie Claassen stands. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right. All poring over the map, plotting the next day!

 

The Mainstay SAA Team from SA; At the usual take-out before Lake Mead; Paddling is over (for most of us!)
The Mainstay SAA Team from SA; At the usual take-out before Lake Mead; Paddling is almost over (for most of us!)

?Me and trip girlfriend Wendy in foreground

Bernie Garcin - great mate; - - and WHAT a campsite!!
Bernie Garcin – great mate; – – and WHAT a campsite!!

Happy daze drifting in the current, lying back gazing up at the cliffs and watching the waterline as century after millenium of geological lines rose up out of the water and each day rose higher and higher above us.

Then you’d sit up and listen intently. Then peer ahead with a stretched neck and drift in a quickening current as the roar of the next rapid grew in the canyon air. The river was running at an estimated high 50 000cfs (about 1650 cumecs). Once you could see where it was, you pulled over and got out to scout it. Plot your way through it.

Lava Falls
Lava Falls – *click on pic* spot the blue helmet

Dave Walker led the singing:

The canyon burro is a mournful bloke
He very seldom gets a poke
But when he DOES . .
He LETS it soak
As he revels in the joys of forni- CATION!

and (to the tune of He Ain’t Heavy)

Hy’s nie Swaar nie

Hy’s my Swaer . a . a . aer

.

We went down the Canyon twice

I always say we did the Canyon twice. Once we would bomb down in our kayaks, crashing through the big water; The second time was much hairier, with bigger rapids, higher water and far more danger: That was when Willem would regale us with tales of his day on the water around the campfire at night. ‘Raconteur’ is too mild a word! The word MOERSE featured prominently in his stories.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I recently had a letter returned to me that I wrote to my folks in August ’84, the month after this trip. So now I know the extra section of river we paddled an extra 21 miles after the diamond creek take-out point was washed away; plus the trip across Lake Mead sitting back drinking beer while a motorboat towed out the four rafts (one of which had 14 kayaks lashed onto it) was ‘about 50 miles’). Three kayaks weren’t on board, Crazy Chris Greeff, Wendy Walwyn and someone else paddled the flat water too!

BUT NOWADAYS: We check such statements. I’m going to check how far it actually was. Aha! The total distance from Diamond Creek to Pierce Ferry is 54 miles. So no exaggeration happened in the telling by our boatmen and trip guides, who would’ve known. The planned trip was 225 miles, Lee’s Ferry to Diamond Creek, plus this extra leg. So in the end, something over 400km.

A snapshot of the level in 1984 from google earth.

– the unplanned extra leg – bottom right to top left – where the river pours into Lake Mead and tragically! – stops flowing –

google earth will fly you through the canyon here.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Tugela Gorgeous – Boats and Bosoms

Bernie Garcin (Bernie and the Jets), Doug Retief (Doug the Thief), Dave Walker (Lang Dawid) and me at Fig Tree Sandbank campsite, one of the planet’s most beautiful spots.

Three plastic (or ‘tupperware’) Perception Dancers and one Quest in 1984 and 1985 – we went both years. In those early days old-timers would still mock plastics, saying ‘tupperware keeps turkeys fresh’ but we knew the joy of not having to schlep fibreglass patch kits along and just smiled!

At the time Greg Bennett was sponsoring and competing in, a motorised rubber duck race down the Tugela (sacrilege!!). In ’84 he had Jerome Truran as crew, in ’85 Rip Kirby. We used Greg’s bakkie to get to Ngubevu.  Who fetched us at Jamieson’s Bridge?

Tugela boob2
– she was like –

On one of the trips bare-breasted maidens flashed us. We saw a Landrover parked on a hill on the left bank, then saw some swimmers in the river, who ducked down as they saw us. As we passed two of the girls popped up their lily-white tits to huge approval. They were like this except the water was brown. And they had no cozzies on:

Four-man Hole was soon after that and I crowded into a Bernie-occupied eddy straight after the drop and punched the nose of my Quest into his ribs. Being Bernie he didn’t even wince, but I knew it had hurt.

The current swept us past them, but the mammaries lingered on.

Cleavage
– she was like –

Overnight at the duck race camp the sponsors Lion Lager thought we were competitors so their beautiful beer hostesses liberally plied us with ale. OK, lager. When they ran out I rummaged in the boats and found wine papsaks we used for flotation and squeezed out the dregs. Karen the gorgeous, voluptuous newspaper reporter (remember the days when they wrote stuff on paper?) covering the event for The Natal Mercury held out her glass and as I dispensed I gave her the patter: “A good wine. Not a great wine, but a good wine, with a delicate bouquet”. She shook her mug impatiently and said endearingly “I know fuckall about flowers, I’m in it for the alcohol,” and I fell deeply in love. My kinda dreamboat lady in shape and attitude. She was like . .

Tugela beermaid
– she was like –

Dave too, was smitten as one of the comely lager hostesses joined him in his laager and treated him to sincere sleeping bag hospitality above and beyond the call of duty, ending the session with a farewell flash of delightful décolletage as she kissed him goodbye in the morning.

As we drifted downstream we sang:

The landlord had a daughter fair – parlez vous

The landlord had a daughter fair – parlez vous

The landlord had a daughter fair

Lily-white tits and golden hair

Inky Pinky parlez vous

We sang to the resident goats:
I ain’t afraid of no goats

We sang (to the tune of He Aint Heavy . . . ):

Hy’s nie swaar nie, hy’s my swaer

.

Ah! Those wuz the daze!

~~~oo0oo~~~

We stayed at Figtree Beach Camp again a few years later.

This should actually be on my pre-marriage blog vrystaatconfessions.com

An Idea Was Born

From: pete swanepoel home
Sent: 16 December 2014
To: Allie Peter
; Greg Bennett; Doug Retief;
Subject: Deepdale – Hella Hella

Hey Allie, Greg & Doug
I just posted this story about an Umko trip with Bernie Jamludi The Jet.
Thought you might like to check it out:

Cheers – Pete
PS: I’m licenced to scribble:

poetic bullshit licence.jpg

~~~oo0oo~~~

Hi Pete

Great, and a very personal story to be shared with the “old boys”.

Pete, I have now worked out what you MUST do and that is start putting together an anecdotal account of the famous canoe stories from way back then. We would have to do a chapter on the Tarka Canoe Club and some of the other trips, the Whisky canyon episode etc. etc.

You will have to be the scribe and we can then get the fellows together with a small supply of cold tea in order to refresh memories — remember ‘n man praat altyd die waarheid na ‘n paar doppe !!

Allie

~~~oo0oo~~~

Well, ex-Chairman Allie Peter started a small seed growing; in March 2015 ex-Chairman Charles Mason and I sat down to write the Umko 50 years book. We finished it just before the fiftieth Umko in March 2016, where Rob Davey handed out 300 copies to all who took part in that memorable race.

~~~oo0oo~~~

River trip Deepdale – Hella Hella

We left Bernie’s white Ford Escort at Hella Hella with the Porters, and drove round to Deepdale in my white Ford Cortina. Linda Grewar (who became a notable paddler herself – she later won the Fish river marathon mixed doubles with Bernie!) then drove my car back to Durban. ‘Seconds’! ‘Helpers’ ‘Chauffeurs’! What would we do without those wonderful volunteers?  It was winter on a low, clear Umkomaas and we set off happy as larks. Or otters. In our Perception plastic kayaks imported by Greg Bennett in his Paddlers Paradise daze.

Deepdale Falls
– how low can you go? –

We put in at the Deepdale railway bridge and drifted downstream, portaged around the waterfall – Well, you’d have heard a dull thud if you tried to shoot it at that level! Deepdale or Bald Ibis Falls. It was a glorious afternoon, warm and clear with hardly a breeze. We paddled at my pace which meant this was a two-day trip,  lots of drifting, lots of chat with my mate Bernie ‘The Jet’ Garcin, frequent stops, carrying back and shooting the bigger drops again. We stopped early, to camp while there was still light to cook by.

The night was as cold as a banker’s heart and I was in my sleeping bag straight after grub. Not so The Jet who first had to go through an elaborate foot-washing ritual in the freezing twilight. A long night on the hard ground, and off early next morning. We didn’t know how far we had to go. We knew some guys had done it in a day, so we weren’t too worried and kept to my usual blistering (!) pace. Bernie had stood on the podium in mixed doubles results in his day, so was no slouch. But he knew me and was resigned to (hopefully quite enjoyed?) my drift-and-gaze-in-awesome-wonder pace.

The rock gardens we’d heard about in Longdrop Rapid were wonderful. You’d drop into a little ‘room’ and find the outlet and then drop down into another, huge boulders all around you. We decided this would be very hairy in high water!

Deepdale Hella Kayak (5)

Dropping into a ‘room’:

..

..

..

Deepdale Hella Kayak (9)

Bernie got wedged here. I made to rush back to free him, but he shouted “No! Wait! First take a picture!”

..

..

..

..

..

Deepdale Hella Kayak (1)
look sharp territory

We paddled that whole sunny day with a leisurely lunch stop. As it started to get dark we quickened the pace, Bernie deciding we needed to get a move on. But night started falling before we got anywhere we recognised. Then we shot a weir we knew was not far upstream of the Hella Hella bridge and a nasty piece of rusty iron sticking out flashed past at eye height. We decided Whoa! time to call a halt. Bernie’s legs are a lot shorter than mine, and I knew the Porters well, so we decided I’d run to the farmhouse and drive back as close as I could get in his off-road Escort.

At the Porter farmhouse Barry & Lyn gave me a beer (‘um, forced a beer on me’ I explained to Bernie when he said “What took you so long?”). Driving back along the track down into the valley, a couple guys on horseback kicked their mounts into acceleration, just beating me onto the narrow track down to the river, so they had the benefit of my headlights to light up the way, and Bernie had the benefit of my taking longer to get to him.

Halfway down into the valley a fella on foot leaned in my window (it was slow going) and asked if HE could hitch a ride. “Sure” I said and THEY hopped in: Two guys, two dogs and a huge sack of maize meal in the Jet’s two-door Escort! Ahem, I’m sure Bernie won’t mind chaps, I said to no-one in particular.

Hella Hella from Deepdale

I stopped with the headlights on the two kayaks, lying cockpit to cockpit. No sign of Bernie. I got out and a head popped up, yellow helmet still firmly on his head. He had wedged himself between the boats. As he blinked in the headlights I saw his eyes widen as a guy in a trench coat got out of the passenger door. Then another. Then a mangy dog. Then another rangy dog with a curled tail. His mouth dropped when the two guys reached back into the car and hauled out a heavy sack. He said nothing. That’s Bernie.

We loaded and set off for Durban. After a while Bernie had to talk: Did I know he was surrounded by dogs growling the whole time I was gone? and what took me so long? and was I aware his car smelt of dog?

But he forgave me. He always did. He was a really good mate Bernie and I was very sorry when he buggered off to Aussie (not because of the dogs or anything, mind).

~~~oo0oo~~~