Dusi Klutz Blog 3: Only two (sigh) days left

2009-01-15 00:00

It all started with a thump on the head.

The atmosphere at Camp’s Drift this morning was as expected: Paddlers and their seconds dashing about doing last-minute things before they checked in their boats; marshals keeping everyone in queues ensuring sponsor stickers had covered the entire boat and ensuring canoeists had life jackets, splash covers and buoyancy; a helicopter buzzing above us; the ongoing canon sounding off each batch as the paddlers embarked for Durban; and even, atop a block of flats overlooking the Dusi, a huge banner reading, “Go Matt!” That would be a message for me. Thanks Robin. He’s my boss, who usually hates the sound of canon fire on January 15 each year. “It’s the first year I have actually been able to enjoy the Dusi,” he says.

Getting on the river should be a simple exercise. I’ve done it enough times not to worry about it. Somehow, though, I lived up to my name as Dusi Klutz. As I was bending over to put my boat in, my water bottle, having not been tied into its place, fell on my head. Thump. “Michelle,” I silently scream. “No, you can’t blame the seconds Matthew, not after all they’ve done for you.” Well, maybe it was my fault, but I’ll choose to blame her.

Jono Bailey, my wing man who prefers to paddle alone (who can blame him), says I am unprepared for the Dusi. Hell yes. It was priority zero in my book. I just had too much else to do. Which explains why I, after heroically making my way down Ernie Pierce (with a smile according to one fan), I discovered my pedals had broken. Eish, I felt like twit. But logic being my middle name, it was fixed in a jiffy and I was off to The Witness Weir, home to heartache and bitter memories. Not for me, I love the weir. As I paddle down the hazardous weir I hear, “Go Matty, go Matty.” That would be my girlfriend Katie. She’s got jet lag from Australia and this is as far as she could come. I’m sure any of you who have done the great Oz trek understand what she is going through. I don’t. But I try to understand.

Just after this I see a double canoe. It has planks on its side with duck tape tied to keep a very broken boat together. The two paddlers had just gone awry on the ill-fated aforementioned weir and they will now spend the rest of the day, and possibly the night, battling down the river to the end of Day One. If they can do that, then a repair man can fix their boat and they’ll be able to continue the three-day marathon. It just sounds too much to ask for and it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t make it. If they did, and someone knows them, please leave a comment that says so. I think we’d all be rather impressed.

The portages were not fun. A boat on your shoulders for at least 15 km of a 40 km stage simply can not be. But the water stops were great. There were so many hands at work handing out cups of water and Powerade, as well as biscuits and bananas. There were also showers spraying water as paddlers ran under them and people were oozing sponges of water over our heads. There must have been about four of these stops along the way, and it was a real treat.

The weather was good. It started out slightly sunny but got overcast, which is a good thing. I thought the water levels were good, but others had seen it better. Tomorrow is the tricky day with water, so we’ll see then. My seat seems to be falling out the boat, so let’s hope I can keep to my track record of not falling out yet. That’ll keep everything together.

The sights and sounds on the river were quite fun. One canoeist had an American Indian head do. There was also one canoeist from Great Britain. You could tell, because he was wearing clothes and a hat with the Union Jack emblazoned on it and his boat had a lovely little flag on it. So quaint. He beat me. There were two Lemthethi Club paddlers who ran the entire portage bare foot. Hats off to you two gentleman. While I was on the water there were no incidents of bad sportsmanship or foul play. Everyone seemed to be getting on with their journey with pleasant dispositions and with a helping hand where it was possible. There certainly were no blue light VIP cavalcades on this highway.

The end was spectacular. The Hansa and Powerade girls were simply mouth watering, as were the drinks in their hand. It gave one that added reason to get that boat on your shoulders and make your way up to the boat pound. Once here, the smell of fiberglass was ubiquitous. Canoes that came second best lined the repair zone, all in queue to get fixed up for the next day. The paddlers should be tucked up in bed by now (4.30 pm). I know that’s where I am. I’m emailing this now to The Witness and then rolling over for a good night’s sleep.

Hopefully I won’t wake up with a bump on my head.

Click here to read Matt's fourth Dusi Klutz blog.

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