As Good Books Go

Talking about ‘fuck’ – I read a wonderful book ‘Duzi Fever’ by an entertaining old bugger Rob Gouldie who did the 1955 Dusi. I once heard him give a hilarious talk at Kingfisher. He told a lo-ong story of hardship, paddling, dragging canoes, breaking boats, chopping one up and stuffing it into the other, lunch breaks and – eventually – settling down for the night in the darkness on their own after a long and stressful day – ‘we were at sewerage farm!’ That brought the house down, as usually one passes sewerage farm within an hour of the start!

Rob Gouldie has since shuffled off down his final rapid.

– straight-talking book –

Excerpts:

On portaging on the Duzi – “Negotiating barbed wire fences was a ball ache second to none . . . you had to pry open the strands so your partner could squeeze himself and the the canoe through without hooking his nuts“.

Winning the Dusi one year his partner “blew” and said “Rob, I’m fucked, can I just trail my paddle behind me and pretend I’m steering?”

He asked for leave from his job at a bank to do the Dusi and his manager refused. He writes: “I never knew how important I was as a junior clerk and felt quite proud that the bank would grind to a halt without my services”. Anyway he went AWOL, wrote a letter of resignation “should the shit hit the fan”. It did. He expressed great relief at no longer working for them.

On the race his partner “developed a severe chafe due to sand in his underpants” so he threw away his pants and underpants and “went Beau Brummel”. When they got to Umfula Trading Store the owner kicked him out. His wife was serving in the shop and Rob thinks the owner “was upset that she might be able to compare notes”. After Rob explained and his partner demonstrated, the owner took pity on his partner and gave him a roll of plaster “to wrap around the emaciated-looking Percy”.

In shooting a rapid: ” . . where we nearly saw our rings . . “

They were lying second one Dusi, 44mins behind the leaders who were “obviously cocksure of their lead, not knowing we had caught up to them and could almost smell their farts”.

On a trip down the Umkomaas he bought and drank way too many raspberry-flavoured milk drinks at a remote valley trading store, got bilious . . . and “hurled the most spectacular pink cat”. His mate caught the moment on film:

Trip Rob Gouldie Umko shoots pink cat

And on in that vein.
I thoroughly enjoyed it! My kind of book! I was delighted to read his full and free use of ‘English as she is spoken on riverbanks’ and determined not to censor Customary Paddling Language in the Umko 50 book. Someone proofreading suggested I use f___ or f__k instead of fuck. Not.

Or: Fuck That!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Paddling Down Rivers

Looking at the Dusi results today I see the first finisher who, if I bumped into him, would say “Howzit Swanie or Howzit Pete” came in 93rd !!

Getting old! Gone are the days when I knew most of the top ten!

Another observation – 13 of the top 20 had African surnames. Wonder how the Anti-Affirmative-Action boys would explain that away?

I would bet good money if they (we!) were asked beforehand “What sports are black Africans likely to do well in if given a chance?” few would have suggested Dusi paddling!

sbonelo-khwela
Sbonelo Khwela came second

Talking of prescience, the first lady finisher came in 30th!! Shades of Frith vd Merwe finishing 15th in the 1989 Comrades!

abby-solms2
Abby Solms won (30th overall)

And we used to ban ladies from even doing the Dusi (“to protect them” – to protect ourselves from getting our arses whipped, it turns out!).

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Yesterday a past Dusi and Umko winner phoned me about his eyes. I asked him if he was planning to do anything stupid in March.

He is. He is about to do his 51st consecutive Umko canoe marathon, the hardest of all the river marathons!

The reason? He has done 50 but he has only finished 49. He broke his boat back in 1970 and didn’t finish that one.

Fukkit!! So he wants to do his 50th finish.

He said to me “You should do it too, you know”. I said no ways, I’m too slow. He said “We paddle quite slowly these days you know” (he won the very first one in 1966).

I said you don’t understand. My slow includes frequent stops, and a lot of resting on my paddle and checking the scenery. He understood that was slower even than him and other 70yr-olds.

Just Before Inanda Dam

1990 saw the completion of Inanda Dam on the Umgeni River. As always, a dam profoundly changes the river and the valley. Yet another river tamed to serve our insatiable thirst. Drown a valley to water lawns. It also changed the Dusi Canoe Marathon, inundating the Day Two sandbanks and creating a 10km flatwater haul to the new overnight stop at Msinsi Resort.

For old times sake I wanted to go down that section before it got flooded, so I took all my boats and borrowed a few more and invited a few non-paddling friends – my partners and optometry friends – to accompany me. For me a nostalgic trip, for most of them a first look at a section of the Dusi course.

– Before – Dave Briggs map – see https://www.skytribe.co.za/

We launched all the craft at a low level bridge and started laughing: They didn’t float, they just plopped onto the sand under a millimetre of water. Talk about LOW water! We dragged the boats the length of the dam-to-be to take out about where Msinsi campsite is now, hardly getting our shoelaces wet. About 6km, Sheila said.

For me a lovely walk in the river bed, for them, I suspect, a bit of a pointless mission – and certainly not the ‘paddle’ I had enticed them into! I think they enjoyed it anyway. They did enjoy teasing me! Mike & Yvonne Lello, Pete Stoute, Geoff Kay, sister Sheila. And then some tag-along kids who lived in the valley.

An idea of ‘Before & After’: (better pics needed!)

Dams destroy biodiversity. You lose a lot to waterski.

– After – Dave Briggs map – see https://www.skytribe.co.za/

~~~oo0oo~~~

My Four (plus 2) Dusis

1972:
I was obsessed with the Dusi Canoe Marathon and had been training for it. A lonely pursuit when you’re in the Free State and there’s no canoe club and few have even heard of such malligheid. Planning was more advanced that I’d remembered. here are my notes on things to do – written on about 30 November 1971! I even knew I must phone Ernie Pearce and ask ‘How does a Vrystater enter your race?’

Then my boat got stolen in December, so come January I hitch-hiked to PMB with schoolmate Jean Roux to watch the start. We then bummed a ride with some paddler’s second, sleeping in the open on the riverbank.

I had been following the van Riet brothers’ winning streak closely, but that year a fella named Graeme Pope-Ellis teamed up with Eric Clarke to win his first Dusi on a full river.

222 paddlers each paid R3,60 to enter the race.

In Durban we walked from the Blue Lagoon finish to South Beach, where we spent the night on the sand. The next night the cops kicked us off the beach and we spent a night on the red polish stoep of the Point Road police station. Noisy! Rough!

Blue Lagoon at last! Louis van Reenen finishes a swollen Dusi in his Hai!
– luxury camping at Blue Lagoon – Louis’ VW – my pup tent –

1976:
I drove down from JHB with Louis van Reenen with two boats on his blue VW’s roofrack. We tossed a coin, he won, I took my white Limfy off the rack, and I drove in the mud, while he paddled his brand-new red Hai closed-cockpit white water boat, and often swam next to it! It First time he’d ever been on a river. Emmerentia Dam had been his only training ground. He swam miles and drank gallons of the river in the flood-level Dusi and Umgeni! But he was one tough character and he finished! Graeme Pope-Ellis and Peter Peacock won – their second win as a team, Pope’s fifth, equaling Gordie Rowe and Harry Fisher’s five wins..

1983:

I finally get into a new Limfy and do the race. I’m one of 1020 paddlers – the first time that the entry had broken through the 1000 barrier. I’m in a black Kingfisher Canoe Club T-shirt paddling a red and white Limfy from Gordie Rowe and Rick Whitton. Gordie made my boat “light but strong” – in-joke! On the water at the start I spot Louis – he’s back for more! His second Dusi, my first. A very low river. Louis swam his first; he was about to run his second.

Mainstay cane spirits took over as the title sponsor. Pope-Ellis and Cornish beat the Biggs brothers to give “The Pope” his tenth win –

Is the Pope a Canoeist?!

1984:

This time Greg Bennett’s brother Roland seconds us and we live in the lap of luxury the first night: Cold beer and hot food at Dusi Bridge. Then he loses focus. Then we look after ourselves.

For the first time paddlers were allowed to go home to their Mommies overnight. We thought that was a terrible development, so tried to drink for those who weren’t there. Apparently a new rule made paddling round Burma Road compulsory that year. A low river.

1985:

– Dusi start 1985 –

Sheila seconds me. In theory. I’m in a white Sabre, which reminds me how Arthur ‘Toekoe’ Egerton called his Sabre ‘Excalibur’ – “King Arthur” see?

I pitch the tent after finding Sheila in the beer tent, I cook the food and I pack the car! If she was ‘seconding’ me, I spose I was ‘firsting’ her? As always with Sheila though, she made it lots of fun and I met more people than I would have!

Pope-Ellis was beaten by John Edmonds on a low river. Women were allowed to race in K1’s for the first time – as long as they were accompanied by a male paddler! Marlene Boshoff was the first woman to finish the race in a single, accompanied by Martin Lowenstein, beating her twin sister Jenny Bentel.

1987:

Hansa sponsored 1987, bringing bigger media exposure and the entry numbers picked up again. Pope-Ellis broke the K1 record by beating John Edmonds to claim his 13th title. In a monstrous injustice and swindle we are not met by bikini-clad Hansa girls as we finish – they only came later! I paddled a white Sella.

1987 January Koos doing Duzi.jpg
Dusi badges (small)

A thought: All four my Dusis were booze-sponsored! *hic*

The official records show me having completed seven Dusis but I have only done four, and nogschlepped on two. The three phantom ones I probably paid and entered, meaning to do them, but life got in the way. Probably 1986, 1988 and 1989.

In my mind I imagine the NCC / Dusi boys asking ‘Did we lose Swanie under a rock?’ ‘Nah, he probably finished. Mark him down as finished, then we don’t have to go looking for him.’

~~~oo0oo~~~