By Nicola Parks
I arrived in Pietermaritzburg last Thursday and was immediately assaulted by the heat. I'm thinking of you all back home, out on the freezing Thames! Thanks to everyone who put me in touch with contacts at this end, everyone has been really helpful so far.
On Saturday I went on a drive down the first 2 days of the Dusi marathon with the race committee, stopping off to look at the rapids, weirs and portages. This race looks TOUGH, so respect to anyone who has paddled it so far. For those that haven't, it looks like great fun, so why not?
Sunday, I was invited to go along to the first ever meeting between the race committee and all the amakhosi (Zulu leaders) in the valley that the race passes through. In previous years the chairman of the committee has had to meet all the chiefs separately so it was great to be there for the first time that they all sat around a table together. One amakhosa in particular is really keen to see his people get involved with paddling or just helping out at the Dusi race.
On Monday evening I was lucky enough to go to dinner at Graeme Pope-Ellis' farm. The 'Dusi King' has paddled over thirty Dusis and won 15 of them. It was great to hear him talk about the old days when guys had to fix their boats as part of the race, setting off at a run to cool the hot resin as it dripped off the boat and onto their shoulders. The race was a totally different game back in those days, before the dams were built. However, the King of the Dusi admitted he hasn't paddled the Devizes to Westminster as he couldn't hack the cold! A few people that I've met so far have however said they are thinking about visiting the UK to tackle our 'big one', which I've been encouraging profusely.
Over the next week till the race I will be chatting to plenty more paddlers and organisers of the race. To any Richmond paddlers who'll be out here I wish you good luck; see you on the river!
If you have any Dusi news or info please send me an email.
Dusi Website -
Nicola is in South Africa on a Travelling Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. If you're British, you might be eligible. For more details visit their website.