Without a word, he stood on the edge of the bank in his grey three-piece suit, held up a finger to the sky as if he was testing the wind. Then out of nowhere, he turns and dives headfirst into the river, pops up and shouts, “The water is COLD!”
And, of course, it was, even in July this fringed glacier-fed river, as clear as can be could never be warm enough for even a quick swim. Yet, a group of geologists, miners and explorers stood together on the gravel banks of the remote Toodoggone River. The river Tube Race of 1981, was planned as a mid-season celebrate and take your mind away from the fact that everyone was stuck in bush camps in the middle of nowhere.
So once word spread. Helicopters were frequently seen slinging loads of inner tubes, and countless cases of beer, food and other supplies from nearby airstrips.
In the days leading to the race, crews flew in from every direction within a 300 km radius and set up temporary camps along the river.
People appeared out of the bushes, disguised in costumes, florescent capes, fake beards and noses, whereas others were stark naked and covered in only mud. That July 31st nobody expected to see so many people standing on those river banks.
The rules were simple. Three people per team, each team had to share one river tube. There were 16 challenges stationed along different points of the river and if the team was successful they would be awarded points. Whoever had the most points at the finish line won the Trophy.
The next morning campfires were doused with water. And crews eventually struggled back to their nearby or far-flung camps. Little did they know at that time that that economy would hit another serious downturn and most of the crews would be out of jobs.
But, that summer of 1981 will always stand out in memories as the most legendary bush party the Toodoggone has ever seen.