Dusi race is a ‘metaphor for SA’

2008-01-17 00:00

Canoeing and conservation legend Dr Ian Player yesterday launched the 57th paddling of the Dusi Canoe Marathon with a reminder that, like the race, South Africa has many rapids ahead but some smooth and easy times too.

With paddlers milling around the Natal Canoe Club yesterday to register for the race, which began at 6 am this morning, Player said the race is “a metaphor for our country”.

“You don’t see canoeists with fat bellies, because they train so hard.

“And we must train ourselves very deeply to understand what is happening in our land,” Player said.

In 1951, Player was the first person to paddle from Pietermaritzburg to Durban on the Msunduzi River, and remembering those first trips he said times have changed drastically.

“The Hansa girls [the skimpily-dressed Hansa promotion women who welcome the leaders] — we didn’t have those,” he said with a laugh.

“But I remember a beautiful ntombazane [girl] coming to me with umqombothi [traditional beer], which I drank, and got very drunk, and then fell over.”

But, he said, some things about the race will never change. “It is a race, ultimately, of self-discovery.”

During the press conference, he also urged South Africans to turn their minds away from political squabbles

He urged people to momentarily switch off from the “conservation crisis” this country is in.

“The river tells us the state our country is in.

“A healthy river means a healthy town and countryside.

“Conservation is the most important, and the focus must be on the rivers and land. If we get that right, the politics will come right.”

Both Player and race chairman Cameron McKenzie thanked the various amakhosi (chiefs) from the valley, without whom they said the race would not go ahead.

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