Quite frankly by rights Kurt Radzom should have accepted a formal leadership position in Quo Vadis on George Malan’s hasty departure from the Club after the 120km Amatola Hike in 1989. Instead I naively accepted the role. Not that it conferred a large stipend or prestige, but insofar as the duties were involved, it was more akin to that of an Executive Secretary’s role.
What a superb canoe trip! Personally I rate it as the best such excursion for a number of reasons especially for the personal gratification that the Cameron/McCleland team experienced in NEVER capsizing not even once during the five days much to certain attendees’ chagrin. As always, the main reason for such an agreeable trip was undoubtedly the camaraderie amongst all the guys. That factor alone is what indubitably makes Quo Vadis Hiking Club such an exceptional Club.
Notwithstanding that, it was not all beer and braais as we experienced two hard paddling days due to flat water and gusting head-winds but more on that later. At least we have a legitimate claim when we declare that it was not all plain sailing (sic) and that we had to do some exercise!
Amongst other things when one is paddling down the Orange, one has to learn a number of things apart from how to paddle – and rapidly. One also has to assimilate a new language, the unintelligible risible language of the Gariep River People. On previous excursions we had commenced learning the vocabulary. Everyday words such as sun and wind could not be uttered. There were Verboten! Banished from our lips. Instead they were replaced by the avant-garde words “spike” and “spoekasem”.
Throwing down the gauntlet, Mike & Kurt were gone. With their long strides – Mike because of his long legs & Kurt, well, because of his long strides – they easily increased the gap between George & I. I strained to keep the gap as small as possible but to no avail. They steadily drew ahead. I could almost hear the strains of Straus’ Radetzky March that Kurt was humming to himself. Eventually I consoled myself with the fact that as the first of the team into Coffee Bay, they would have to resolve the transport issue which now became the focus of our concerns. It was upper most in all our minds at this juncture.
The next day presented the same challenge as the day before, a surging enraged river hoping to do its worst. Not enamoured with the prospect of another treacherous crossing in dubious boats with equally dubious Sea Captions, that option was quickly discarded. With insufficient rations to allow for any delays to the schedule, there was no alternative other than a long haul up river to find a suitable ford. Turning back was not an option. A second treacherous crossing with Captain Treacherous was out of the question.
Refreshed & reinvigorated, we charged off after a breakfast comprising the full enchilada – eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato & toast. The resort had even managed to wash & iron our clothes overnight. The menacing clouds had converted themselves into friendly wispy innocuous candy floss fluff balls, cute & cuddly. First we had to pass the hut where we were supposed to have stopped the day before. That made the day’s hike slightly longer but being as fit as we were, not an undue burden.
Clear blue skies welcomed in a brand new day. A steady radiant sun hidden for the past 5 days greeted all & sundry with gay abandon as if it was a long lost friend. But first things first! I had talked both Kurt & Mike into doing a quick 21km run before breakfast & prior to commencing the hike. A work colleague at Monoweld Galvanisers, Danie van Wyk, had challenged me to a duel, a 42km race from Fairy Glen in Pretoria East to the western side of Acasia Park.
An unrivalled experience awaited us, the four members of George Malan’s hiking club eponymously called George Malan’s Hiking Club, before its transmogrification into the Quo Vadis Hiking Club as we set out to hike the Wild Coast Trail in August 1988. Having only previously done the Fish River Canyon Hike & the Blydepoort Trail with the Club, I was still the novice in the Club, minding my Ps & Qs – pints & quarts – so to speak. By now the team dynamics were becoming evident but this trail would expose those that were not the team players. Unfortunately it was not the appropriate time to do so but when is it ever?
In 1994 the Quo Vadis Hiking Club was still teetering on the brink of extinction. Mick Crabtree had been a new appointment & shortly afterwards, his two mates Norman Dellar & Barry Williams had been brought into the Club. On our previous hike in the Drakensberg, a squat rotund Austrian – never call him German – appeared in the Club.
With Mike Brown deciding to retire from hiking altogether ostensibly due to shoulder problems but more likely due to complaints from the Spousal Department, a replacement was urgently required. Being work mates at CBI, Gunther invited his physical antithesis Walter Baumgartl to decisively outnumber the Prussian element represented by Kurt.