Dusi Klutz Blog 2: Fixing the numb bum

2009-01-14 00:00

The butterflies have started sooner than I thought.

The day before the Dusi should be one of relaxation, a little chit-chat at Camp’s Drift during registration, and perhaps a little afternoon nap. Lucky those who managed to get that one right.

My day started with a flat battery. I got Katie, still suffering from jet lag, to pull her Opel Astra out of the garage and dust the cobwebs off the windscreen. Will her car even start, the thought runs through my mind with dread. It does. I pour boiling, hot water on to my alkaline-induced battery to make the connection clear. I place the jumper cables on both batteries and then, after a few tries at starting, I put a book on Katie’s accelerator to let the power pump back into my battery. This is my father’s idea. After trying several times to start my Subaru Impreza (2001 model, 2003 model battery) I am told to let the cars have a little "alone time" together. So I go for a swim and Katie watches me, probably thinking, "how long can my car sustain having a book on its accelerator," or "welcome home Katie… back to the life of Matthew le Cordeur".

Eventually, I phone Battery Centre. They come, they conquer and then they tell me to drive back to Battery Centre to get my battery checked. This is apparently nonnegotiable. I get there to find out my battery is too old and needed to be replaced. Kevin, the man who assists me, recognises me from the paper, and then the whole "I know your dad and mom through my wife" chat starts. You know, the usual in Maritzburg talk.

But what was more interesting, was that Kevin is paddling in his 20th Dusi this year. "I should have shared the record with Laura Oliver last year as the youngest person to reach this spot," he explains. I look at my watch. I have to be at work in 15 minutes to start designing the newspaper. "You see, I have done the Dusi every year since I left school, except for one year. I was in the army and based in Potchefstroom and the army chiefs didn’t dig canoeing that much. So you see, I should be on 20 already. Let’s just hope I make it." Ok 10 minutes to get to work. "You should make it," he says, a reference to getting to work on time, not finishing the Dusi before dusk on Saturday. We shake hands and wish each other well.

Before Battery Centre had arrived, I had organised so they’d arrive an hour late so I could dash off to register and get some supplies from Hugh Raws canoeing shop. Katie jumps in and says, "let’s turn on some aircon". I agree and roll down my window. It’s a sweltering hot day and the hope is that it’ll turn into a massive storm for extra river bulk on Day One.

Registration is groovy. We get our Dusi bags and the goodies inside are a real treat. One times T-shirt made to fit, one times pen (I’ve used it all day – it’s great), one times Bar One (made up for my lack of breakfast) and some dodgy stickers that I have to place all over my brand new canoe (just kidding its, 10 years old).

From there Katie takes me to Hugh Raw’s. Her driving is great, for someone who hasn’t driven in a month. Well, it’s adventurous. I ask Kevin, who runs the place with Hugh, to get me a better seat so I don’t get bad numb bum during the Dusi. I was motivated by a friend of mine, who sms’d this morning to mock me for the quote he read on page one yesterday. He didn’t believe the problem was from canoeing. If you know Nick Hiltermann, you’ll catch my drift.

Kevin explains it has to do with the sciatica nerve from sitting awkwardly on my canoe seat for so long and then shows me his canoeing partner’s seat. Well, it’s rather creative. He gives the materials to create the seat that "will" cure the pain and wishes me luck in my endeavours.

To understand how bad this problem has been getting, let’s go back to the 50 Miler last month. The two-day version of the Dusi, this year’s race was by far one of the best years – the water level was brilliant and, as Hugh Raw told me, "with the river this high, you can just bounce your way down to Inanda Dam". He was looking forward to it. Anyway, it was great. Until, that is, Inanda "Bloody" Dam. Half way across and I was cursing almost everyone. The pain was excruciating. All the paddlers I’d overtaken with my superior river navigation were overtaking me in droves. I simply could not push myself with the pain I was feeling in my bum, legs and feet. At one point, I had my legs dangling out the cockpit, splashing the water and cooling the body down. Then, that too didn’t help and I paddled to the edge, defeated. Two boats went passed and the occupants gave a little wry smile. They felt my pain. But they went on. Just as I was about to get back into my boat, I looked up, thinking I was hallucinating.

Three blonde girls in bikinis were sighting rather stylishly on a jet ski. Throwing her hair back with a fling of the neck, Blonde Babe A bellows: "Hi, are you alright?" "Quite fine," I reply. "Do you need some help? We’ve got some rope and we could tow you to the finish if you like." "Sure, that’ll be great," I say. "Ok, but you won’t get disqualified or anything like that?" "Naaaaah! Of course not." They turn to each other to discuss it and just as they are about to proudly announce they can help, I admit the truth. "Don’t worry; I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just needed a little exercise on dry land." And then, just like that, they were gone. A missed opportunity I thought, as I continued paddling to the end in utter agony.

That’s why, you see, I have such butterflies in my stomach. With little time left to actually do any last minute changes, I am starting to feel the imminent battle of the Dusi. And the chances are it’s going to be a bloody eina ride down to Durban.

Click here to read Matt's third blog entry.

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