Forget the beer, Valley heroes are here

2012-02-17 00:00

NO beer until our heroes are through Mission Rapid.

That’s the rule enforced by Valley of a Thousand Hills tavern owner Thandeka Dlomo, who drums up support among locals there for Thulani Mbanjwa and Sibonelo Zondi.

And the heroes did not fail to impress.

Dusi day one second-place finishers Mbanjwa and Zondi gave the Valley of a Thousand Hills a master class in paddling at Mission Rapid yesterday morning.

The pair led until four kilometres from the finish when defending champions Andrew Birkett and Jason Graham pipped them to the post.

But this didn’t dampen the spirits of the local community. The day started early for residents of Nkanyezini as they gathered at the Jabulani Tavern near the Mission Rapid viewpoint.

The tavern was filled with about 100 supporters, who were singing and dancing and getting in the mood for the race.

Dlomo said the gathering has become a tradition with supporters arriving as early as 7 am.

“We do not serve them beer until Mbanjwa and Zondi are through. Those are the rules,” she said sternly.

At 9 am, six minibus taxis pulled up outside the tavern and filled up with supporters to take the winding road down to the rapid at the bottom of the valley.

They were joined at the bottom of the hill by a number of other supporters who secured the main group a good viewing spot to see the pair leading the men’s race. Shouts of encouragement and ululation went up as the pair came through.

The crowd then went back up the hill to the tavern where the boys were the toast of the town.

“It really is a blessing to see these boys doing well. It warms the heart of this community. They live for this, to see our boys succeed,” she said pointing to the punters.

“Ten years ago you would not have seen this. It was a white-dominated race. Today you saw that at least four boats out of the Top 20 have black paddlers,” she said.

The race is also good for business. Dlomo pointed out that she ordered 15 cases of beer just for yesterday.

“By 6 pm that beer will be finished. And then tomorrow [Friday] is another day. Even if the race has moved closer to Durban, a lot of people tour the Midlands and will come here after visiting the Lion Park.”

It really is a blessing to see these boys doing well. It warms the heart of this community. Thandeka Dlomo, tavern owner

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