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My brief life as a proud Sharenet Canoe

A month ago, I was living a peaceful life in a garage in Durban North, nestled between a surfski and a paddle ski. The only girl in the group. My owner described me as ‘second hand, wide and stable. Dusi-ready with good pumps.’ It was all true. My photos were even on an internet site. I blushed in pride.

One fine Wednesday I was transported to Pietermaritzburg to meet my new family: Ingrid and Themba. I soon realized we were going on a huge adventure on the uMsundusi and uMgeni Rivers: The Dusi Canoe Marathon! I was filled with fond memories and great excitement! Stickers were lovingly smoothed onto my body. I was now even branded...a SHARENET canoe:

part of a team helping people invest successfully on the South African and international stock markets. WOW. I was helping others invest in their dreams!

Our race started in L batch. Themba sat in the front. He had big feet. I could feel that he was very capable and experienced. Ingrid was in the back. I could sense that she was a newbie: nervous, slightly apprehensive but eager to please. Her stroke was OK, some of the time. Shame, I often heard her knuckles banging against my side. On occasion I heard here swear. She did have nice red shorts though.

The first day was exhilarating. Themba steered me down the correct lines and we handled the rapids like ’wannabee’ superheroes.

My team was super fast on the portages, but I did not appreciate Themba calling me ‘heavy”. Ingrid carried me like a pro although I was aware that I was rubbing the skin off the sides of her neck.

Well, even canoes need something to wipe their wet noses against. With the pain came glory. We came 5th in our category!

We were promoted to B batch for the second day. What a proud moment! The day started well but unfortunately it soon went pear shaped. My rudder broke while going down a rocky rapid. You can imagine my embarrassment. I tried to alert my team to the risk of having no rudder, but the noise of the water was too powerful. The only way I could communicate my unfortunate predicament was by capsizing, frequently, down many rapids, hoping that they would recognise there was a problem and fix my rear end.

Thankfully they did eventually realize that all was not well. They made a plan. Duct tape! I had heard other boats talking about duct tape being used to strap jiggly loose body parts together. Some said it was “kind of nice”, other boats said “no ways”. I really didn't know what to expect. Well, I felt ridiculous and humiliated. But I knew that I was part of a greater cause and there was no other way forward. I just had to swallow my pride and take one for the team. I did, however, make sure that they got me a new rudder at the very next support station. And a coke to compensate for the indignity of the experience.

My humiliation was not over however. I kept filling up with water. For any lady fluid retention is awful. For a canoe it is worse. Themba and Ingrid stopped to check for leaks in my body. Luckily I was intact and there was no need for me to be subjected again to the horror of duct tape being used to cover any undesirable holes! I hoped that they would notice that the cause was Themba’s torn splash cover. I know Ingrid wears contact lenses and doesn't see well at the best of times, but hello, why could she NOT see the gaping hole in his splash cover. It was literally right in front of her eyes. Eventually she did notice and I chuckled in delight as duct tape was used to try and keep this flappy item together. The duct tape sort of helped, but I still kept retaining water, despite every effort from Ingrid to pump my pumps with great commitment and vigour. I didn't dare admit to Ingrid that there was a big cut in one of the tubes attached to my right pump. The thought of more duct tape was too awful. Besides, the ‘nightmare’ of the second day was almost finished. Suffice to say we didn’t do so well on day 2.

The third day loomed. As expected we were booted back to L bunch. The day started well. We even led the group across the Inanda Dam and the first few rapids were glorious. I could feel Ingrid starting to enjoy the exhilaration of the rapids, bracing with her paddle and doing her bit to turn the canoe and keep us stable. It was then that disaster struck.

We came down a rapid called Tops Needle, not long after the Inanda Dam. Themba expertly steered me down the correct line. But another canoe capsized on our line and we hit them at 90 degrees. I spun out. We flipped over sideways. I was now wedged against some rocks and the water flowing furiously down the rapid was filling me up very quickly. Themba and Ingrid tried to pry me loose but I was now very, very heavy. In the process, Themba twisted his knee. I was royally wrapped on the rocks. And not in the birthday present kind of way. There was no other way. The laws of force took control of the situation. I bent…and broke in half.

I am told by other canoes that it does happen. We were unlucky.

Half of me drowned in the river, lost to the world. Luckily my better half, the part with the pumps, was saved. Themba and Ingrid refused to abandon me. We would finish this race together, come hell or no water, they said. We are part of the Sharenet family. We see things through to the finish line.

A rope was tied to my nose ring and I was pulled along the road for 28km. Ok, I was dragged, but I was still glad to be included in this exciting adventure. I felt no indignation. Just pride. I got to see new sights: cars, taxis, traffic lights, Nandos, MacDonald’s and many petrol garages. It was like being in Las Vegas! The smell of car fumes mixed with the tinge of samosas and curry spices was divine. People stared and took photos. I guess the sight of a blond lady and a Zulu man, both dressed as Superman, dragging a Sharenet emblazoned canoe on a highway near Durban was a sight to behold!

In the end we finished the race, albeit last. Despite not looking my best and being only half of my former self I accepted my fate. The life of a canoe is complicated. I had tried my best. We had succeeded. I had done my duty. I have now been advertised on a Facebook sales page. Ingrid must need more money to help her enter some women mountain bike riders in her next adventure, which I overheard her talking about. It’s a mountain bike race called the Freedom Challenge. I am now being described as a super compact, Dusi-ready K2 canoe, with good pumps. A canoe that has only done one Dusi and one that will fit into a small sedan, or even a large box. I hope she did not mean coffin... A slight mistruth, I think. I have a latent defect she is not disclosing.... the slash in one of my pump tubes.


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