A Dusi for the virtual paddler

Day 1, 42 kms

The dusi.co.za and myriver.co.za websites provide a rapid-by-rapid online journey on the Umzindusi and Umgeni Rivers to the finish in Durban. Here’s a paddler’s eye view of what awaits participants.

First up, one kilometre in, is the Erne Pearce weir. Pearce took the journey completed by Ian Player in 1951 and turned it over many years into an annual race. There is a chute built into the weir which is the first obstacle for paddlers.

A few kilometres further on is the Commercial Road weir, also complete with a chute, which takes you into the rapid below. 

Then, after a few more kilometres, is Musson’s, a broken weir, more of a rapid now than a weir. There are several possible lines through, all with advantages and disadvantages.

Shortly after Musson’s the river goes under the N3 highway and drops down Highway rapid. before heading towards Low level bridge. This is not a rapid, but an obstacle and a dangerous one. The river normally flows over the bridge and is easily shot, but needs to be treated with caution as you don’t want to end up in the river upstream of the bridge as you could get washed under with potentially fatal consequences.

The next rapid of any consequence is Taxi, a natural weir with a metre drop. Such a fall is enough to cause a washing machine below the drop which can both knock you out of your boat and hold you in the wash. It is mostly shot on the extreme left. 

The Campbell’s portage, about four kilometres long and the longest of the three days, follows. Tegwaan rapid is the first rapid after the put-in. 

There a number of rapids in the next section followed by the 3,7 km Guinea Fowl portage. There is a climb followed by a descent into the Devil’s Cauldron, which can be intensely hot and has a sharp, steep climb out and then another descent back to the river. More rapids follow, including the Maze where the water turns and twists, twists and turns. 

Now for the biggest rapid of the day, Mission, which is in two parts, standing waves at the top and a drop at the bottom. http://dusi.co.za/mission-rapid/. There is also the Arrestor Bed after Mission. Esay rapids take you to the overnight stop at Dusi Bridge.

Day 2, 46 kms

A few kilometres after the start of day two is the Saddles portage of 2,7 km. This is over one saddle and then back to the river, a short paddle upstream and then over a second saddle. After this the river joins the much larger Umgeni River, but which is not always flowing as it depends on water release from the Nagle Dam is not far upstream. The Confluence rapid can be challenging if the river is full.  An aerial view of the next section is here: http://www.myriver.co.za/index.php/races-dusi2-confluence

The Washing Machine is the next major rapid followed by the Cascades. The Dusi website has this to say about Cascades: this is a 400-metre long testing section of rough water that can vary from tight and technical to downright huge in a full river.

The unshootable Ibis Point follows, which requires a portage, and then Gauging Weir, which is shootable at most levels. A few kilometres on is the Marianni Foley causeway, a bridge which covers the expanse of what is a wide Umgeni River at this point. 

The Nqumeni portage, 1,8 km long, with a savage climb is up next, followed by some of the most challenging rapids of the three days. First there’s Gum Tree, then Thombi and finally, in this three-rapid set, Hippo.

There are several more rapids after these three, including Marriott’s, Mbetchi’s, Big Bend and several steep drops formed from sand harvesting where miners create weirs with rocks to collect sand.

Drought conditions in recent years have seen the beginning of the Inanda Dam recede by several kilometres, last year even creating a surprise rapid with a fair drop under a bridge which under normal conditions is part of the dam. The paddle across the dam to the overnight stop will take most paddlers at least an hour.

Day three, 36 kms

The third day is the shortest, but also has a set of rapids where have to stay on your toes, or alternatively, take the excruciating Burma Road portage, so steep and so long that but for the fact that you are carrying a canoe, you can forget you are in a canoe race.

After paddling four kms across the Inanda Dam you take out and portage the dam wall, putting back at the mind-focusing Tops NeedleKindergarten and Side Chute follow.

Then comes another long rapid, Umzinyathi followed by the Burma Road portage, just three kms in length according to the official Dusi site, but it seems much, much longer than that. The portage misses out some of the best rapids on three days, Little JohnGraveyardMolweniIsland and Five Finger

Now the big stuff is behind you, but there are still one or two rapids worth mentioning before you hit the flat final stretch into the blue lagoon. These are Dog’s leg and Mango, both sufficiently notable to have been included in the video footage on the Dusi website.

From more or less the Outer Ring road, which bypasses Durban, with about six kilometres to go, the rapids are behind you and, depending on the tide, you may even have deeper water to ease your passage to the finish line at the Blue Lagoon.

Kevin Davie

Kevin Davie is M&G's business editor. A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked in senior positions at most major titles in the country. Davie is a Nieman Fellow (1995-1996) and cyberspace innovator, having co-founded SA's first online-only news portal, Woza, and the first online stockbroking operation. He is a lecturer at Wits Journalism. In his spare time he can be found riding a bicycle, usually somewhere remote.


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