Early mornings, late afternoons, max heart rate, lung burning interval sessions – day in, day out, for four months. Peaking your body for the race of your life, laying it all on the line. Giving it your all in the race, achieving beyond your goals.

Now what… post race blues set in.

I have had this experience over and over. The harder, the bigger the race, the deeper the post race blues. None as bad as after the Land Rover G4 Challenge 2006 – 4 weeks of racing across four countries, Thailand, Laos, Brazil & Bolivia, against 17 individuals from around the world.

Having  supper together at the Boulder Creek Spur in Maritzburg on Monday evening helped ease the blues(generously sponsored by Duncan Paul). Boy, did the guys gorge themselves. Huge chocolate milkshakes to start, double cheese burgers, coke and then to top it off with ice-cream for desert.

I have been communicating with the Computershare – ‘Change a life’ execs and have got the green light to carry the program through to Drak Challenge, with Non-Stop Dusi as a stepping stone for some.

Thereafter I have a new goal going forward with targets to hit along the way, but still need project approval before I make any noise about it.

Thanks to all those that have helped along the way.

Computershare – ‘Change a life’.

Hi-Tec – Trail running shoes.

USN – Muscle Fuel and Cytopower – train harder, recover quicker.

Fritz – use of his Land Cruiser for tripping, accommodation and his driver Khanyile, for Dusi.

Nigel Payne – payment for extra canoes.

Kayak Center – 10 strong bash boats for tripping and 10 light racing snake boats for Dusi.

Garmin – Forerunner 305, nowhere to hide, keeping it honest in training.

Orka Paddles – 10 reliable blades to get the job done.

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Going into this Dusi, because I wasn’t paddling, I never thought I could be on ‘cloud nine’. I was wrong, I’m still floating…… ecstatic with the boy’s performance and extremely proud of their achievements. Two dusi golds and seven in the top twenty….   someone pls pinch me.

Watching at Earnie Pearce, seeing Ant Stott, Michael Arthur and Shaun Rubenstein powering on their own up front, I could only will my guys to keep a cool head and settle in to their ‘wild dog’ hunting pace. Steady wins the game.

Nhlanhla and John(right pic) goofed at the bottom of Earnie. Eric bent his rudder at Commercial Weir, stopping twice before Campbell’s portage to straighten it. Otherwise the guys were soon on the first big portage with no serious glitches.

I invited the CEO, Stan, Ursula, Mnandi and Pieter from Computershare to join my support crew, to witness first hand where and how the funds from the ‘Change a life’ Trust have been spent. I think they had big eyes with the going ons, observing in disbelief as the valley boys attacked this challenging course – steep rugged portages and wild water. Derek, Jeannie and Iain did an amazing job seconding all twelve of them.

Nkosi (2nd on Campbells to Dusi Bridge) struggled with cramps, so too did Lucas. Kwanda was the most impressive, finishing 16th overall and first junior (under 18).

Results: Three golds, eight in the top twenty.

Day 2 was tough as hell due to the low to medium water levels, plus the headwind that reared its ugly head on Inanda Dam. Bungi had a nightmare; bending his rudder badly enough to warrant getting a new one at the top of the Ngumeni portage, losing valuable time to Ant. While making a breakfast (fell into a deep pool) of the portage at Hippo, Ant speedily shot the main drop and went into the lead.

My guys were very consistent, except for a couple of swims here and there. Iain and Jeannie had their work cut out when they left Marianny Foley on Bikes, carrying all the necessary juice (12 liters) and tools to second at the top of Ngumeni. I chaperoned the executives, following the race on river left on that spectacular rd high above Gum Tree, Tombi & Hippo. After watching at Umfula Store for a while, we headed for the finish.

Crossing the line, the boys were absolutely shattered, having given their all.

Results: One gold, eight in the top twenty. For the second night running, they set up camp and lay under trees to get away from a blistering hot sun.

Day 3 started with the best news they could have heard. Stan (CEO) donated a R1000 to each paddler for their tremendous courage and efforts incurred. Then offered a further R1000 to any paddler that bettered their overall position on Day 3. They beamed from ear to ear.

Day 3  was a concern as my boys had not tripped the river at all, however they had run Burma. All I could do was hope that their improved skills would hold them in good stead tackling uncharted waters. They all opted to run Burma .The hyacinth further downstream caused havoc amongst some paddlers, blocking their path, costing valuable time. Eric, Thomas and Tom were amongst those casualties. But that’s Dusi, deal with it.

It was tense waiting at the finish line, not knowing if Eric had defended his 9th position as Michael Arthur came in 6th,, having lost 12 minutes and his 5th position to Andrew Birkett, because he got stuck in the hyacinth.

Then suddenly there were two black paddlers heading to the finish line, Eric & Lucas. They had done it, claiming the last two gold medals. They threw their arms around each, a moment of sheer joy and absolute exhaustion.

Not long after, Richard (2nd under 21), Zonele (3rd under 21) and Thomas finished in 13th, 14th and 15th respectively. Nkosi made up huge time finishing 17th, with Kwanda (first under 18) on his wave. Kwanda’s parents were waiting for him, over the moon.

John came 24th, Nhlanhla 33rd, Mkhonzeni 36th and Tom 43rd. A fine effort from Mmeli (Nkosi’s baby brother ), 105th and first under 16.

It was quite emotional watching each one of my boys cross the finish line. I thought ‘what a journey we have had’. By no means did I make it easy for them.

Program goal – ten in the top 50

Mission successful – eleven in the top 43.

Thank you Computershare ‘Change a life’ for my most rewarding Dusi todate. For believing in this grassroots project and making it possible.

And ultimately for Changing Lives.

Thanks also to USN, Garmin and Hi-Tec for their unwavering support.

Would I do it again?

When can I start….

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How to shoot Commercial RD Weir (personal opinion)

Well, both shutes are shootable.

The left shute is best shot on the left hand side going down. If you go middle there is a grass reed roster tail which has a rock in it. The water washes across from left to right on the shute so angle slightly left as you go down, keeping your boat speed up.

Photos of left shute, you can see reed rooster tail you want to be left of at the bottom (just right of canoe nose)

The right hand one (old shute) has been made easier. It is best shot on the right hand side of the shute a foot away from the right hand side. Follow the tongue coming out of it and make (bump) your way down the rapid below. Its a bit bony, not as full as a good Dusi but still quite pleasant.

Really, both are quite easy.

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HOT NEWS! – Commercial Road Weir.

They are busy building two makeshift scaffolding shutes at Commercial weir. One on top of the existing weir and the other on river left.

Will update info on Commercial weir this evening once I have shot the two new shutes with the water release.

Above two pics of the river left shute

There is hyacinth block on day 3 at the  golf course, here they have cut portage already. There is a narrow channel you can paddle from Dogsleg to Mango.

However they will release 40 cumecs for two hours to “blast” path then 20 cumecs thereon for Race.

So things could change ; no hyacinth or block in a new place. Will let you know.

So third day is looking pretty rosy considering that two days ago they were not having a release at all. System b costs $517,000, has an rare source 8-year life, and requires $79,000 in pretax annual operating costs


The valley of a Thousand Hills has adopted a beautiful green texture, as rain is plentiful in KZN at the moment. Today is ‘Open Day’, allowing paddlers to scout the longest first day portage.

Campbells (conventional) or Pine Tree portage, that is the Question? Similar length.

Campbells (conventional) Portage: (suits the good runners)

The advantage of choosing this portage is that the terrain is easier underfoot, so you can run faster. However this portage has a kilometer more running than Pine Tree and a longer, higher hill to climb once leaving the river. One negative is that the marsh soon after the takeout is not looking pretty, but you can run around it.

Pine Tree Portage: (slower runners)

This has a kilometer more paddling to get to the take out (thus a kilometer less running). Positive – the first hill is not as high as Campbells. Negative – the terrain is rougher and slower going, however this is not of concern to the ‘non runner’.

Before campbells bridge/checkpoint, the two routes join. Only run hole in the wall if there is fuel in the tank, remember there is still the optional Cabbage Tree Portage near the end of Day 1.

Guinea Fowl : Going down into the Devil’s Cauldron, the path splits three ways at the cactus plant.

Left is quickest to get to the bottom, then its best to turn right in the river bed for 50m before climbing up. Middle is the shortage distance travelled, but is twisty and has big steps and if wet can be slippery as hell. Right is very runnable until the mine shaft 10m steep drop into river bed. All three soon join together leaving the river bed. Take your pick.

Coming out of Devils Cauldron, there is a powerade/water station at the top of the hill.

Durban Trip:

Took the guys, boats and all on a road trip to Inanda Dam. After a productive interval session we drove to the Burma takeout.

There was no water coming over the dam wall and  zero flow in the river.

Tops was an impenetrable wall of rocks.

I stopped at Side Shute to show them the line down this potentially tricky rapid (if you get it wrong).

Burma was the same old route, (just needs some trimming here and there), except that the path after the last piece of tar rd, before the put in, has been obstructed by a pile of rocks. Just a bit slower going but still very passable.

Campbells Checkpoint to Umfula Store:

I broke this trip up into three sections so we could regroup. Campbells to Finger Neck, Finger Neck to Marianney Foley, M. Foley to Umfula Store. Also separated the guys by setting them off on elapsed time, slowest to fastest, so they didn’t just ‘follow my leader’ and would have  to think for themselves (this has increased the learning curve dramatically).

On the second trip, we did the Yellow Rock portage (Non Stop Dusi) skipping out the boring section around Dusi Bridge. On the third trip, a couple of guys swam at Gum Tree rapid, Tombi was negotiated successfully by all and Hippo claimed a few swimmers too. They all walked back upstream and did it again, no one swimming this time.

After,we had a well deserved massive peanut butter &  banana sandwich feed at Umfula Store, accompanied by ice cold cokes bought at the shop.

What a magic days tripping, perfect weather and  lekker water level. The drive back, high above Gum Tree, Tombi, Hippo was spectacular as usual.

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COMMERCIAL ROAD WEIR – mutton dressed up as lamb??

If Commercial Road weir were to get a facelift why not do it less than a week before Dusi??

Speaking to the foreman today, he says they are drilling away the concrete base to make the bottom 400mm deeper. Then putting in another thin slab of 50mm.

In theory this will make the ‘water level’ at the bottom 350mm deeper. However in my opinion it won’t deal with the angle issue boats were having by being suspended nose and tail coming off the shoot.

Watching the guys pneumatically drilling the base, its hard slow going. What you see is a days work with three workers constantly rotating. You gotta love the life-jackets.

Personally, I would have left the infamous weir as is. Paddlers have become familiar with its ‘design’ and can thus make their own decision to paddle or to portage.

I’m no engineer, but would of thought the easiest quick fix would be to fill in concrete to lessen the angle at the bottom.

As soon as its complete and theres enough water I will give it a bash. Will keep an eye on proceedings and let you know what the outcome is.

Min dae to Dusi, start easing off. In the words of Bruce Fordyce when approaching a big race, “Go into it slightly overweight and undertrained”.

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2009, 2000&mine, 2000&fine…….

The boys in the Valley of a Thousand Hills have kicked off the New Year – Dusi style.

Excellent rains have fallen in the correct watersheds, to allow for some real productive river trips. My fear of lack of river my top 50 hopefuls has been laid to rest.

Typical Day to date in 2009

4am      – wake up

5.30am – meet at Nagle Dam, load boats

6.30am – start paddling on river

10.30am  – finish tripping session

10.35am  – peanut butter & banana sandwich feed

12’o’clock  – arrive back at Nagle Dam

I advise the not so confident out of province Silver hopefuls, to hook up behind one of the ‘change a life’ boys to show you the lines through Confluence, and the big three – Gum Tree, Tombie, Hippo. If there was a Toll Gate on the nd Saddles to Umfula Store section, we would be bankrupt; we have done it so many times. What pleases me is that the guys are starting to understand the importance of observing the water levels along the way so that they know what to expect up ahead. For example there is a marker rock paddling around the gum tree at the start of the Confluence Rapids which will tell you what to do at Washing Machine.

Day Three will be interesting due to no paddlers being able to trip whatsoever. Good news is that Inanda Dam is filling fast and could be overflowing soon.

Magnificent storm klapped Maritzburg/Durban last night, with the Dusi flood waters reaching Mission by sun rise. I jumped on at Earnie Pearce with some mates and floated down to Low Level Bridge today(rest day for the boys). Stable boat to handle the turbulent chocolate waters would have made things easier, free for all choosing your line.

Its full steam ahead down here in the Dusi valley, tomorrow we will trip from Campbells Checkpoint to Umfula Store.

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Christmas is always family time for me and that means migrating home, hanging out in my stomping grounds of Plettenberg Bay. As much as I love the magical beauty of the Garden Route, come peak holiday season it’s a congested nightmare and best experienced in small doses

Plettenberg Bay’s annual Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge has become a traditional and much-loved fixture on the holiday playground’s summer calendar – one in which visitors and the people of the town show their support for children living with disabilities.

Participants can take part in one of five different categories: a 6 km open water swim, a 15 km ocean paddle, a 10 km fun run, a 600m open water swim for kids or a 3 km beach walk. Strong winds and angry seas made the paddle and swim move to the Keurboom’s lagoon, wise decision.

The Sabrina Love Ocean Challenge is all about people helping people, where 100% of entries go towards helping children with disabilities. It has also become a tradition for South African celebrities to join in.

Celebs giving of their time were Derek Watts(safety kayaker) from Carte Blanche, Elana Meyer, Bruce Fordyce (paddled the 2005 Dusi together -never heard someone squeal so much on the portages), Nick Bester (passionate about his deep sea fishing, even though he doesn’t eat fish), Olympian paddler Michelle Erray, Natalie du Toit.

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