Late entries have started pouring into the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon office after heavy rainfall in the Midlands has pushed up the level of the Msundusi River just days before the start of the first stage of the race on Thursday 14 February.
On Monday evening a surge of water moved through Pietermaritzburg after the steady rainfall, submerging the pontoons and jetties at the NCC clubhouse at Camps Drift, and turning obstacles like the Ernie Pearce weir and YMCA weir into rollercoasters of charging brown water.
At the first stage overnight stop at Dusi Bridge the level of the Msundusi rose as much as four metres overnight before subsiding, submerging the race’s new exit jetties and flooding the area that traditionally hosts the race officials and timekeepers.
Race boss Steve Botha confirmed that the high level of the river would take pressure off the water that is usually released from Henley Dam above Pietermaritzburg, and would guarantee great water for the 1000 paddlers that have entered the 2019 edition of the famous three-day race.
“Ten days ago we were concerned as there was very little water in the Msundusi system,” said Botha. “With the way water is released from Henley Dam now, it was looking like a medium-low first stage as there was no base flow in the river.
“That has all changed now. The water will drop over the next few days, and we will probably not need to release any water from Henley dam for the race,” he said.
He added that the timing of the rains was good because while it would increase the pollution levels, the dangerous ecoli levels would drop before the race as the bacteria has a short lifespan and would die off in the river before the start on Thursday.
“I was also thrilled to see that the booms installed by the Dusi uMgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT) above Camps Drift worked superbly well at trapping the plastic and polystyrene pollution,” said Botha.
“This is a ground-breaking, pioneering programme to help save our rivers from plastic pollution and it is excellent to see it hold up so well in near flood conditions,” he added.
Botha pointed out that an extra benefit of the rains would be experienced on the final stage from Inanda dam to Durban.
“We have an excellent working relationship with all the water management stakeholders and they will be deciding on the ecological release from Inanda dam for the final stage at the meeting this week before the race.
“They have assured us that they will have at least the same water as we had last year, which we are very grateful for. But the point was made that if there was good rainfall in the week leading up to the race and Inanda dam was responding well, then the ecological release that we share for the last day of the race could be increased,” said Botha.
News of the rising river spread quickly on social media, and the Dusi office was inundated with last minute entries.
“Technically entries have closed, but we understand this enthusiasm from the paddlers to be part of a special full Dusi, so we are accommodating them as far as we can,” said Botha.
Late entries can me individually arranged through Sarah at the Dusi office on 033 342 1528.