Africa, Canoe & Kayak

Umzimkulu Ambition

Rippleby the Kirb was desperate. He had a boat with two holes in it and only one body to fill one of the holes. He needed another body and he was at the stage when any body would do.

It was the South African K2 Champs and this time Rip was not going for a top spot, he just wanted to be there on the lovely Umzimkulu River with its fascinating and unusual features: Clean water and running water. We’d had a few seasons with neither in our other rivers.

He obviously didn’t ask me, as I was a bit handicapped. Firstly, I had a firm ‘one man, one boat’ policy; secondly, I had never paddled a double, so although that made me an unknown factor, it was not widely thought that I’d be an asset in the engine room. Thirdly, when once I tried to join his group he called has-beens he put me firmly in my place with ‘Swanie, you can’t be a has-been if you never was.’

Eventually he did ask me – I told you he was desperate – and I accepted on condition I did not have to take a paddle along. I would sit in the back and provide company and good cheer. And some heckling. No, he insisted, I had to take a paddle – even though he knew it would be mainly for ornamentation.

We compromised: I took a paddle and a carry-pack of beer.

We decided to come last, so when the gun went off, nothing happened. This was my usual start but for Rip a novelty. Only when shouted at from the bank to ‘Get A Move On!’ did we mosey off downstream.

It soon became apparent that our plan was in danger. We passed a lot of people. People swimming, people looking for their paddles, people trying to lift up their boats filled with water and wrapped around rocks.

But we were prepared. We stopped below the first big rapid and had a beer each and helped people in need. Then we moseyed off again once everyone had left the scene. But once again we started passing hordes of boats. Flotillas! It was a problem. We stopped twice more for the same reason and refreshment.

Eventually there was nothing we could do, the finish line arrived and we crossed it burping pleasant beer breath. We kept an eye on the line over a couple more beers at the finish and about ten boats finished after us.

Mission unaccomplished. But a lot of fun was had.

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K2 – double kayak, or two-man kayak (also called double canoe)

Umzimkulu canoe marathon – now called the Drak Challenge

Africa, Canoe & Kayak, Life, Nostalgia, Sport

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.