The idea of racing down the Umsindusi and Umgeni rivers was born during World War II when Ian Player, sitting around a campfire in Italy, tired and homesick, came up with the idea of formalising a race downriver from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. The Dusi Canoe Marathon was founded in 1951, and covers roughly 120km between the cities on the East Coast of South Africa.
It is the biggest canoeing event on the African continent, and one of the world’s most popular river marathons, attracting between 1600 and 2000 paddlers each year. The race is held mid February every year, to take advantage of the summer rainfalls. Temperatures can be extreme, often exceeding 40 degrees celcius in the valleys. The race includes a number of weirs and Grade 1 to Grade 2+ rapids using water released from Henley Dam. At roughly halfway point of the race, the uMsindusi River meets with the far larger uMngeni River and the race becomes more challenging, with some rapids rated Grade 3+.
The race is unique in that it includes numerous portages where the paddlers carry their craft over hills, either to cut out unrunnable rapids and cataracts, or to eliminate long loops in the river. Most of these portages are through thick bush on steep and undulating terrain, and several of them are around 4km in length.
Expand a Sign has been involved with the Dusi Canoe Marathon and their sponsors for many years, always enjoying the opportunity to brand the banks of the river. This year, from February 13th – 15th, 10 donated Flying Banners waved in the summer wind at the start and finish points. Multiple other businesses erected their banners to celebrate the 3 day canoe race; from Ex-Shades and Ex-Stars to Gazebos, Feather Banners and A-Frames – the splash of colour, branding and shade cover was thoroughly impressive.
The feeling when finally reaching the banks of the Blue Lagoon at the mouth of the Umgeni River must be difficult to match. Perhaps one year…