Unsung heroes

Called ‘seconds’ or ‘shuttle bunnies’, these are the people that provide support for paddlers. Their role typically involves taking a vehicle to the take-out point of a trip, or in the case of river races, meeting their paddler/s at multiple points along the river to offer refreshments and spare parts. More often than not, though, their unofficial duties extend to that of being a cheerleader, cook, navigator, paramedic, psychologist, physiotherapist and emotional punch bag. The list of tasks is endless.

For these reasons, a more apt name for them would be ‘unsung heroes’. They are the true legends of the sport. Paddling can easily become a very selfish pursuit, and a very common manifestation of this is that paddlers take their seconds for granted. I mean, face it, why are they called ‘seconds’ in the first place? Second to what?

Heading for the Orange River
Heading for the Orange River

Our lives as paddlers would be quite miserable without sacrifices from shuttle bunnies. Here are some suggestions to keep the shuttle bunnies in your life on your side. (more…)

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Dusi River (including lower part of the Umgeni River)

The 3-day Dusi Canoe Marathon is the most well known race in South Africa, and one of the biggest races in the world. The first race was held in 1951, with 8 men competing. The only paddler to finish the race was Ian Player, who took 6 days to do it. The whole trip was non-stop and unsupported, and the boats used were heavy and made of all kinds of materials but fibreglass. Ian Player subsequently wrote a book, Men, Rivers and Canoes, which gained publicity for the race. In 1956 it was decided to hold the race over 3 stages, which is the format still used today. Since then it has grown to a huge affair with big sponsors.

The race has attracted close to 2000 entries in the past few years, with participants competing in K1’s and K2’s, wildwater racers and even touring kayaks. The race is not only famous for its rapids but also its portages, some of them kilometres long over rugged terrain. Some of the portages are compulsory to miss out sections too hectic for a K1, while others are taken just because it is quicker than paddling around some huge bends in the river.

Although the race is called the Dusi, less than half of the route is on the Dusi River. The confluence with the Umgeni is soon after the start of the second day, after which the race continues on the Umgeni River down to the sea. The section of the Umgeni used in the race is also described here for ease of reference. The race takes one through the Valley of a Thousand Hills, a scenic, but warm and humid, area. (more…)

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Mpompomani to Goodenough’s Weir

This a great day trip for competent K1-paddlers. The section is similar to 1-8 below Hella-Hella and should not be underestimated. It starts with long flat pools with small rapids scattered in-between. Be cautious when the river breaks up into channels, as one of the channels contains a bad rapid.

  • Ideal for: K1 and K2
  • Grade: 2 to 3
  • Length: 34km
  • Duration: 3 to 5 hours
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: Mpompomani
  • Take-out: Goodenough’s Weir
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

(more…)

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