Intrepid Dusi travellers make it to Durban in canvas canoes

2007-12-31 00:00

Ten intrepid paddlers yesterday made it to Durban after tackling the Dusi in the crafts of days gone by. The first Dusi Canoe Marathon to Durban began on December 22, 1951, when eight men set off from Pietermaritzburg’s Alexandra Park.

These eight explorers did not know it at the time, but their adventure would one day become the world famous Dusi Canoe Marathon.

“Deep in the Valley of a Thousand Hills where the Umgeni meets the Umsundusi, the water is compressed into a churning mass of whirlpools and boils, but this was not the only challenge that these eight intrepid adventurers would face,” said Ray de Vries, spokesman for the canoe marathon. “One of them, Ian Player, would become the only finisher that year, despite being bitten by a snake!”

On Wednesday, December 27, 2007, another 10 adventurers set off from exactly the same place in Pietermaritzburg on a commemorative journey to Durban.

“They paddled on canoes exactly [like the one in which] Player completed his first Dusi, which had no rudder, was made of wood and had a thin canvas cover to keep the water out — a flimsy craft that requires many stops to fix leaks.

“The outfits they wear could be called ‘period costume’ and each paddler wears the compulsory leopard skin band around their hats. The start of each day is the finish of the previous day.”

The modern-day adventurers, led by Anton Venter, made it to Durban in four days.

Tired, but elated, Venter said on Sunday “this was the best one ever”.

“We had water, great weather and a terrific bunch of guys including Cameron Mackenzie, chairman of the Hansa Powerade Dusi, who uses the event to test the river and mood in the Valley.”

In the five years that the paddlers have been putting the event on, 17 people have now completed the Commemorative Dusi.

“The only rule is that no-one is allowed to race — that would be uncouth. It’s simple: we start together and we finish together,” said Venter.

The 2007 edition is the fifth edition of the race.

It was started to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the race and has become an annual 140-km homage to its founder.

De Vries said it was “magic to see the spirit of these guys as they commemorate something and someone that is very dear to them”.

“The Dusi jealously guards its traditions and this event is another example of how deep the taproot of tradition goes.

“The vibe in the Valley is terrific and all the communities of the Valley of a Thousand Hills are excited about the forthcoming Dusi to be held on January 17, 18 and 19.”

The Hansa Powerade Dusi is a three-day canoe marathon that starts at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg and finishes at Blue Lagoon in Durban three days later.

•Online entries are still available for the race at www.dusi.co.za.

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