The other dice that never was

The other dice that never was

Monday, 06 July 2009

So there were five paddlers who lined up at the Mark Street weir for the start of our inaugural one stop Berg. Race organisor, David, offered to paddle a double with Aussie Dave Barr, being unsure of the latter's river paddling proficiency. Not wanting to miss out on a good thing Eugene and Trevor also upgraded to a double and then there was Andrew in his single.

Just as the launch of the Duzi Trail run was brought about by the change in the Comrades date so the idea of the One Stop Berg had been brought about by the late change in date of the Berg River Canoe Marathon which meant that it no longer fitted in with the cycle for those wanting to do the Extreme Triathlon.

We set off at first light. Ahead of us lay 240 kms to Veldrif. For the day the first 108 kms of paddling would need to be completed in daylight because of rapids, tree blocks and obscure channels and then there was another 12kms of flat water across the Misverstand Dam to the overnight stop at the dam wall.

After the first few admin stops we were progressing at the desired speed of 10km/hr. We meet up with the seconds at Skooltjie bridge and had a quick bite to eat whilst we watched the front runners in a provincial race go paddling past. We then hooked in with the rest of that race field and continued down the river, spurred on by the comraderie and sitting on the waves of these other paddlers.

And then we arrived at the first major obstacle, Clay Rapid, to find carnage. Paddlers swimming all over the bottom of the rapid. Andrew shot through clean as did the Daves but Eugene and Trevor went bush climbing before joining the swimming masses. 10 minutes later we hit the first of the tree sections and after picking our way through it the Daves took their first swim.

Whilst Andrew disappeared downstream the doubles show was left to get back on the road (river?) again - which it did but not for long. Then followed more tree blocks and twisty turny eddy out scratchy paddling in the middle of which the Daves put a tree stump through the cockpit of their double. This was followed by a long stop and attempted MacGiver fix with leatherman, sticks and duct tape. Then more tree blocks and getting out, fighting through the bushes and after a while it felt like taking a tandem through Stettynskloof.

Where the first 25 kms took us just over 2hrs 30 mins the next 20 took us 5 hours. By then blisters had set in, backsides were already numb, one boat was broken. Arriving at the lunch stop near 3pm with 45 kms of paddling completed and needing at least an hour to repair the damaged double it was quite apparent that it would be a battle to just get through the next 20kms before nightfall, never mind the 60kms before the river started opening up.

A council of war followed in which it was concluded that:
1.To complete a One-Stop Berg with only one overnight stop you need to know the river very well;
2. You also cannot afford to lose any time to boat damage.
3. It is a HUGE undertaking which is probably beyond the reach of many experienced paddlers;
4. It was just not going to happen for us in 2009.

So we decided that those who could would return in a week's time to do the 4-day Berg River Canoe Marathon and in so doing qualify for the Lehana Club. Andrew immediately elected to do this (he had clearly enjoyed the company fo the other paddlers). Those extreme triathletes who could not return for the 4-day event but still wanted to bring finality to their journey across South Africa would reassemble in the morning further downstream and paddle the last 45 kilometres through to the Atlantic Ocean at Velddrif which is what Dave, Eugene and Trevor opted to do.

The three, who had run the 85km Duzi Trail Run and cycled the 2350 km Freedom Challenge, arrived at Kersefontein to complete their paddle. It was a glorious day and they no doubt felt that it would be a cruise through to the finish - that was until they got 15kms out and the tide started pushing in and the wind got up a bit. Nevertheless they got there, got their blankets and headed off to bed.

As for the Extreme Triathlon - well the Duzi Trail Run worked very well. Perhaps next year we will hold it on the 16th of June which will enable those who want to to go on and do the 4 day Berg River Canoe Marathon.

As for the Non-stop Berg - it does seem like a race worth doing. Perhaps now is just not the time for it.

To Trevor, Dave and Ugene one can only repeat what was said to them by some of the other paddlers with whom they paddled for a part of Saturday - Respect.

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