I had no idea what to expect when agreeing to second Seoras & Jono on their 2018 Dusi adventure. I never imagined I would visit such beautiful and rural parts of South Africa (although thinking about it, what did I expect, they were paddling along a river from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. It's not like there is an city or roads that run the length of the Dusi / Umgeni river...).
Seconding was an amazing experience, and I would do it again any day. These are a few things I learnt along the way:
- FNB have created a great Dusi app, with very useful information including Google locations for popular river / rapid / canoeist viewing spots, links to photos, videos and social media for the event.
- Seconding in a car with high clearance is a good idea. I was in a VW Polo, and was very concerned at various points along the route that I would not get through. I noticed the odd BMW getting stuck. That said, there were MANY 4x4s that would most likely be able to help rescue a damsel like me in distress.
Day 1: Pietermaritzburg to Dusi Bridge (41,7km)
- If you are lucky enough to have a great team of paddlers like I did, the seconding and racing doesn't take as long as originally anticipated. My boys were done by about 1pm every day, leaving the afternoon to relax and recover.
- It gets very hot. Paddlers and seconders need to be aware of this. There is very little protection from the sun (to me, tents don't count as the sun shines and burns straight though). Make sure you have plenty sunblock, a good hat, and if you're a seconder, a car with great airconditioning.
- Dehydration is a common occurrence. Take care and stay hydrated (this applies to everyone involved in the race).
- There are no shops by the sides of the river (unless you visit the surrounding shebeens / spaza shops). Seconders, pack your own snacks, for yourselves and your paddlers.
Day 2: Dusi Bridge to Inanda Dam (42,6km)
- For some reason, Google maps don't work very well in all areas along the Dusi race route (even when downloaded for offline use). When I opened a Google Maps pin from the Dusi app and navigated to the point, there were a few times when Google picked up my pin and moved it to another random location, a fact I would realise too late, one time 20 minutes down the road in the wrong direction.
- After being taken 20 minutes down a windy dirt road in the wrong direction, I quickly realised, when you see lots of cars parked, there's a good chance that is your next viewing spot. And, if there are no other seconding cars around you, something has gone wrong, turn around and reassess.
- Due to the points above, I recommend seconding in pairs, i.e. 2 seconders per boat. It's very difficult to drive narrow, windy, dirt roads (avoiding people, cattle, potholes and cliffs) and read and understand Google Maps on a small screen.
Day 3: Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon (35,4km)
- There are amazing teams who work through the night to fix damaged boats. You can either pay for this insurance service upfront (and get pereferential treatment) or pay as needed along the race.
- The local people in the rural areas are wonderful and inquisitive. I never felt threatened (as a single female) until day 3 when we got close to Durban. The closer we got to Durban, the more street-wise the locals got. They realised all the traffic, fancy cars, people, cameras etc. equalled money, and they started begging (all ages). One of the final viewing points near Durban had police overseeing the seconders, I guess due to the locals (and their pitbulls ... yes!).
- Dusi guts is very real. Enough said.