Overcoming the Dusi

2010-01-31 10:48

I FELL in love with canoeing the one and only time I did it on the

Eastern Cape’s Cowie river in Port Alfred last year. In my arrogance, I ­assumed

it was enough preparation for the yearly Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon (the

­Dusi), an epic three-day 120km journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban along

the uMsunduzi and Umgeni Rivers.

Unlike other participants I only had to join the Dusi on the third

day and last leg of the marathon, which is only 35km long. The first and second

days are both 45km long.

I’ve never claimed to be an active person who likes adventure

sports. If anything, ­hurrying up to the mall before a sale ends is more my

thing.

So there we were, Lupi Ngcayisa from ­Metro FM, Selimathunzi host

Mcedi “Kaos” Matu and myself, all ready to take on the ­foreign KwaZulu-Natal

rivers.

Fortunately, we had overcast skies and a cool temperature, perfect

weather for the event, unlike the previous day’s scorcher. We arrived at the

starting line in Inanda Dam bright and ­early at 7am, kitted out in nifty

spandex suits.

Our canoe partners were professionals (with very toned arms I

happily noted) who had taken part in the marathon countless times before.

After putting on our life-vests, we were off to a decidedly smooth

start.

All the paddlers seemed excited, which, ­according to my instructor

Brett Bartho from the Natal Canoe Club, was because of the prospect of great

rapids.

“Uhm, rapids? Nobody told me anything about rapids,” I

shrieked.

Bartho ignored me and started paddling, which forced me to follow

suit. As a non-swimmer, I could hardly jump off the canoe and swim back to the

river bank –a tempting thought but I’m nothing if not competitive. I’m the type

who’d compete with a cow for the best “moo” rendition.

The calm 4km haul across the dam took us to the left of the dam

wall where we had to stop and pick up the canoes and carry them for a kilometre

through rocks and trees to get to the other side of the river called Tops Needle

rapid. This was by far the part I hated the most. Who carries a canoe on their

­shoulders?

The same park-and-carry happened three more times during the race.

Again, Bartho tuned my moaning out as we fought our way through lines of canoes

to get to the water.

The first thing I spotted were two pro-paddlers floating by,

hanging onto their upside-down canoe for dear life while ­another pair was

resting on the side next to their broken-in-half canoe. And we had to paddle in

that water?

But much to my surprise, we navigated the turbulent water with

­finesse and I managed a loud “whoop” of excitement while doing it. From then

on, I started looking forward to more rapids as I realised that they were the

only exciting part of the tediously long race.

The marathon took some strategic planning because you have to know

when to ­paddle to the left or right of the river lest you run into rocks.

The most striking thing about the marathon is the camaraderie

between the ­participants. Each time we paddled alongside each other, there

would be conversation and laughter as we teased each other.

The race continued as we paddled ­onwards, with some sight-seeing

of the ­beautiful wildlife and nature of the province. I have never been so

happy to see the sight of concrete and tall buildings as I was when I caught the

first sight of Durban, 9km before the finish line.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at the ­finish line with crowds of

people clapping and congratulating us. I basked in the looks of awe from girls

who gushed about my ­bravery. And I modestly accepted the well wishes and medal

for finishing the race.

I also told anyone who cared to listen about how fantastic it was.

And I wasn’t lying. I will do this again next year. Perhaps even over two days.

Hopefully, I will not have forgotten about the subsequent aching bum, back and

shoulders.


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