Last weeks flooding Mixed Doubles Kzn Champs on the Umzimkulu River had everyone on red alert driving to this weekends Drak Challenge. The ‘Change a life’ boys arrived in Underberg late Friday night, helmets and all, ready to put their recently acquired skills to the test. Surprisingly the rain of late didn’t make any impact as none had fallen in the correct catchment, so the river was running at a low level. Good for some – k1’s, terrible for others – K2’s.


Day 1 – 26km

The start was a frenetic affair. Paddlers lined up with their kayaks 60m from the river. Bumping, shoving, as they sprinted madly to get into their canoes first.


Len Jenkins impressively accompanied Ant Stott all the way down the tricky Day 1, the duo dominating the front of the race. Grant and Hank were next in. There was a three way cat fight (not in the nasty sense) in the girl’s race, one second the difference. Carol Joyce first, then Robyn Kime and Michelle Erray. I enjoyed Lucas Mthalane’s company  for the second half of the day. Not adding much value to the last 4km of our partnership as I sat on his wave, pap as a snoek in the hot Cape sun. We finished 22nd & 23rd respectively. Not being a focused paddler anymore, I was undercover, racing my Vet age group. Finishing 2nd behind local farmer Gavin Tarr. Zonele Nzuza came in soon after us. Tom Ngcobo had the paddle of the day, charging down the river, leading the B batch across the finish line (his time was 1min 50sec faster than Lucas and I). Loveday Zondi’s little brother, Mzamo cracked the top 50. The notorious Black Murray rapid as usual lay claim to weary unsuspecting paddlers, turning their day upside down.


Day2 – 39km

A most welcome thunder/lightning storm bombarded the Drak Gardens catchment overnight. Paddlers were greeted with a half meter increase in river level. What an inviting sight, considering today is 13km longer than yesterday.

Paddlers within 20min of the leaders left in elapsed time. Hank’s race came to an abrupt end when his canoe folded on Taylor’s weir. Taking no prisoners, Grant put the hammer down and started grinding in the classy Stott and Jenkins duo (at one point he was only 30sec behind). He posted the fastest time of the day by 1min 41sec to Ant. Ant and Len paddled 36km together until Ant outfoxed Len at the ‘Heaven & Hell’ Rapid. He crossed the finish line 41sec ahead, to claim his 6th Drak title. Eastern Cape, Cradock local Greg Louw out sprinted Jacque Theron to get a brilliant 4th position. Hard to believe Piers Cruickshanks won the K2 Non Stop Dusi 2 weeks ago, when he came in 6th.


Michelle Erray got her first win on her first attempt at the Drak. The Umzimkulu Nyami Nyami got the better of Robyn and Carol when they had multiple swims.


With all the smaller streams adding their bit, we caught a substantial amount of water enroute. The Gorge was less technical than usual, gnarly rocks blanketed with huge roller coaster rapids. Glen Haven savaged countless boats that took on the regular right line. Those who braved the unconventional left option, sailed through unscathed.

Lucas dropped off the pace early on, fatigued from his tremendous effort in his first Non Stop K1 Dusi. Mark Mulder and I cunningly caught and passed eight paddlers in front of us, using all the tricks in the book – from holding impossible conversations, hogging the fast lines down rapids, to juggling positions in the bunch to suit our needs. All this a desperate attempt for me catch my top ‘Change a life’ paddler, Tom Ngcobo, negotiating the swollen river like it flowed through his backyard. I sneaked past with barely 2km to go, and in so doing remain top dog in my ‘Change a life’ posse. Zonele, Mkhonzeni,  Nhlanhla, Kwanda, Skhumbuzo and Richard made it into the top 100. Thomas Ngidi paddled with Tracey Diesel to claim 2nd in the mixed.


The boys embraced the challenge of the testing river conditions, loved the weekend outing. Tomorrow, it’s back to the drawing board to discuss the plan of action for the 6 months going forward. Having had a taste for mtb biking last week when I gave them two bikes to play with, they are excited to the Nth degree.

17th -  Tom Ngcobo

27th – Lucas Mthalane

30th – Zonele Nzuza

53rd – Mzamo Zondi

59th – Mkhonzeni Gumede

75th – Nhlanhla Cele

82nd – Kwanda Mhlophe

92nd – Skhumbuzo Ngidi

99th – Richard Cele




At least the whole album solution remains decently priced, although it seems even at $9

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