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Dusi Canoe Marathon

Pietermaritzburg/Durban, South Africa


Canoe marathon race along the Msunduzi and Mgeni Rivers over a distance of 120km.




The river shows no mercy.

The Duzi is an iconic paddling endurance race, taking place over 3 days in KZN in February. I knew at the start of the year that the paddling events on my list of challenges were going to be the hardest and would really test my resolve. I am very new to paddling, a sport that requires both technique and endurance. No amount of enthusiasm, shouting, swearing, positive thinking or brute strength was going to help me balance in a canoe. I am learning that it takes focused time, consistency and patience to paddle. A  mid-life lesson is great when you have lots of time to put the lesson into practice.


As you can probably guess, February came quickly and I was not very well prepared for the task at hand. I had only been paddling for 6 months and my first ever true, river experience had only been two weeks before the actual  Duzi race, held on the Duzi river. My eyes were opened to the force, power and danger of moving water. I left this pre-race with absolute respect for paddlers (their skill and bravery) and much self-doubt about my ability, as well as a bout of ‘dusi guts’ which flattened me for almost a week! Fortunately, as a novice I was only permitted to paddle the actual Dusi Race in a K2 (with a partner). I managed to enlist the help of an excellent Dusi partner: a Zulu man called Themba Ngcobo, the development coach of the Umzinyathi Canoe Club. We decided to dress as superman for the race.


Our first Dusi day was fantastic. We came 5th in the mixed K2 category. On the second day we had rudder issues and capsized many times. This was very scary as the reality of hitting your head on the rocks, or getting your foot stuck under the rocks or even getting stuck under the canoe becomes very tangible. Fortunately, we finished the day OK, but my self-belief and resolve were significantly dented. The third day began well. We even led our group across the Inanda Dam. Unfortunately, our fortune changed.  


On 'Tops Needle’ rapid we wrapped the boat. We were just unlucky. The canoe broke in pieces, one part lost to the murky Dusi River, never to be seen again. The other parts came to rest at the bottom of the rapid. We were 30km from the finish, and I was not about to end my dream of completing the 12 Challenges because of a mere 30km. So, I convinced Themba that we had to carry the remaining parts of the canoe and complete what we set out to do!


We ended up running/walking those 30km to the finish, dragging the fragmented canoe behind us. You can imagine a white lady and Zulu man, both dressed as Superman, dragging a canoe along the highway to Durban. Suffice to say, we came last but we got our medal. It was a huge adventure. Luckily, I did not get Dusi guts, but I did manage to get Covid....

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