With a week to go until the 2023 Dusi Canoe Marathon, veteran of the race Ric Whitton believes it is going to be one of the more exciting contests with plenty of unknowns following the 2022 April floods.
The Msundusi River has remained largely unchanged following the devastating floods in April, however the Mngeni River changed significantly during the heavy rains.
Paddlers have had a good chance to trip the river in its new form and have had a number of pre-Dusi races to learn new lines and ponder new tactics along a river that will test even the best paddlers during the three-day epic starting on 16 February.
“There are a few rapids that have changed, but the big change along the Mngeni River is that the vegetation has been scoured away following the massive rains,” said 39-Dusi veteran Whitton.
“A lot of the landmarks that people would have used in the past have been washed away so I think this year being able to read the river flow is going to be an important part of the race.
“The genuine river paddlers are going to love it and I think that this year is going to be an awesome adventure!”
KwaZulu-Natal was recently hit by a summer heatwave and a sustained period without rain, however a low-pressure system over the province in the week leading up to the Dusi suggests more rain before the race.
“It looks like the water level for the Dusi is going to be really good and the Mngeni River is holding its level well.
“Often in the past you will get a big rain and a few days later the water level subsides, but that isn’t the case at the moment.
“The rapids are a lot deeper after the floods, but the sand has had to go somewhere so there are quite a few sandbanks that paddlers will have to navigate.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting element to this year’s race because a lot of the younger paddlers will need to learn how to spot and avoid sandbanks,” Whitton added.
It’s been well documented in the canoeing fraternity the changes in the river below the Inanda Dam wall and Whitton feels that these are the most significant changes.
“Little John Rapid is now Big John because there was a rock slide into the river, so the rapid just under the bridge is no longer there, but there is a short, steep rapid there that we’ve called Big John.
“Tops Needle has really changed. It’s not as steep as it used to be, but Granny’s Pool is no longer there; so if you don’t want to shoot it from the top you will have to portage on the right hand side of the river.
“I think that this will cost paddlers quite a lot of time, so I think the best option is to shoot it from the top and shoot it down the right hand side now as well.
“The rapid below the Pump House Weir is hectic,” he added. “It was always hectic but it’s more hectic now, and there’s a big pile of rocks in the middle, so I shot it down the left.
“I do think that this is what the Dusi needed to be honest. These changes to the river will really mix things up and it’s going to provide paddlers with a very different test, which is exciting.”