HANSA POWERADE DUSI CANOE MARATHON
Excitement is building in the Kingdom of the Zulu as final preparations are underway for the staging of the 2009 Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon come 15th, 16th and 17th January.
This world-class canoe marathan between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, on South Africa's East Coast, attracts around 2000 paddlers and another 2000 - 3000 seconders, helpers or supporters.
Add this to over 120 accredited media, nearly 1000 volunteers, thousands of litres of Powerade energy drink, thousands of Hansa smiles, millions of litres of water, tens of thousands of spectators and you have the "Worlds Greatest Canoe Marathon - the Hansa Powerade Dusi."
But things didn't always happen on such a grand scale.
The origins of this unique event go back some 57 years to the 22nd December 1951, when eight men set off from Pietermaritzburg's Alexandra Park on the first Canoe Marathon to Durban. They were pioneers: Ian Player, Miles Brokensha, Ernie Pearce, John Naude, Basil Halford, Willie Potgieter, Fred Schmidt and Denis Vorster.
These eight explorers did not know it at the time, but their adventure would in the future evolve into what has become the world famous, Dusi Canoe Marathon.
Deep in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, where the Umgeni River meets the Umsundusi River, the raging waters are compressed into a churning mass of whirlpools and boils... and this was not the only challenge these intrepid adventurers would face.
One of them, Ian Player, would become the only finisher that year despite having being bitten by a Night Adder!
In his canoe made from wood and canvas and carrying all his own supplies, weighing in at 70lb laden, it took the famous conservationist six days to complete the 140 kilometer journey between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
The following three Dusi Marathons were all held on a non-stop basis and the winning time was reduced to 1 day, 3 hours and 28 minutes. In 1956 it was decided that due to the grave dangers in navigating the torid waters at night, the race would be held over three stages. This has been the procedure ever since.
The credit for having pioneered this great canoe race must go to Ian Player, who also went on to claim victory in 1953 and 1954, but it is not generally known that the first trip down these two rivers was made as long ago as 1893 by two Pietermaritzburg men, William Foley and Paul Marianny, who covered the distance in a mammoth seven days.
To all guests and friends of Hartford House participating in this year's Dusi, we wish you great strength and enjoyment of a truely African experience.