Words: Greg Gearing ǀ Photos: William Gearing
Day three of the Dusi is the shortest and most probably the most entertaining. If the Inanda Dam is full, you can be guaranteed a roller-coaster ride to the finish thanks to good water release that ensures a full river.
Since last year, the organisers have implemented a reverse start on day three and this means that we mere mortals are in Durban to welcome the leaders. So, for a change, we got to start in the cool of the morning.
The day got underway with a 4 km dash across the dam. This was a great way to loosen the muscles after the long haul across the dam the previous day. Having started early in the morning, the dam was as flat as a mirror and a major contrast to the paddle the day before.
From the dam it was a relatively short portage around the dam wall to the put-in at the Tops Needle rapid. This is when the reality of 35 cumics of water release set in; it was carnage from the get-go as boats tried to negotiate their way down the rapid from a standing start. The result was plenty of people getting an early morning wake up thanks to an unplanned swim in the icy cool waters. We watched as one supporter gave his crew a helping hand while wishing them all the best for the day only to look on moments later and see their boat wrapped around a rock.
Fortunately, we managed to get on our way with no incidents and so began our usual task for the day of ticking off the rapids as we completed them. Tops Needle, The Slide Umzinyte, Little John, Graveyard, Moweni, Island, Five Fingers, Pump House, and Mango. At each of these rapids we were reminded that you are never safe at the Dusi until you are done, as we continued to pass competitors with broken boats trying to get them afloat again, to make sure they made it to the end.
One of the great things about day three is that it is non-stop fun from the time you put-in at Tops Needle until you hit the last stretch of flat water on Blue Lagoon that takes you to the end. The rapids are big and you are constantly cooled off by a splash of water as you go through yet another wave train. It can also be a fairly painful day if you swim a lot. Last year my shins became well acquainted with a number of rocks in the river as we took one too many swims. Thankfully this year there were no swims and we could really enjoy ourselves on the river.
By the time we hit the flat water we had just enough left in the tank to give it a good push to the finish and complete the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon. I am not 100% sure of the stats, but I am pretty certain that the Dusi enjoys one of the biggest return rates of past paddlers, and I think this has to do with the fact that once you’ve experienced the beauty of the race and uniqueness of the challenge, you can’t help but want to do it again. It has only been a couple of days and I am already looking forward to Dusi 2015!