Archive for November 2009


Eric caught a bus to Gauteng to join Michael Mbanjwa in the 2 Day Klip River race. They blitzed the main portage, to put back into the River first. It was only the class crew of Jacque Theron & Piers Cruikshanks that managed to close the gap and then capitalise on an error their opponents made later on.

Eric has had a fantastic year, finishing 9th – Dusi,  2nd – K2 Non Stop,  1st – 88km Dusi Trail Run,  2nd Triple Challenge.




Rain but not rain….

A dense carpet of cloud has and continues to hover over the Valley of a Thousand Hills, the sun has taken early leave and the result is a measly dampness in the air. The noisy storm last night was all bark but no bite. The ‘Change a life’ boys are on standby, super keen to test their new K2 combinations on the River, however we need real rain to make a river trip worthwhile.      

The hopeful paddle around Burma seems unlikely, so 50 Miler looks to be the same as last year, which still makes for exciting paddling.

Day 1 – Mission, around Fingernek & Cabbage Tree, past first Saddle takeout, infamous Bells Rapid, Second Saddle’s Portage, Confluence Rapids, finishing below Marianney-Foley Bridge.

Day 2 – Inanda Dam to Durban (Day 3 of Dusi). Compulsory to paddle around Burma Hill. Initially it was going to be last years Day2 of 50-Miler because Inanda Dam is not spilling over, However, Umngeni have guaranteed 1mil cumecs release between now and Dusi. 

The Valley Boys have put Triple Challenge behind them, and are back on track for Dusi. Having had an easier week, the sessions have upped a notch or two or three. I sometimes wonder if they train just so they can have the  ‘Milkshake’ after. The absolute joy and pure satisfaction they still get from its consumption has not decreased one bit.  

Big Question – are Len & Hank doing Dusi.

Other crews with podium potential:

Jason Graham (Toothpick) & Andrew Birkett– allrounders

Craig Turton & Miles Rasmusen– strong runners, will their paddling be good enough?

Piers Cruikshanks & Jacques Theron- strong paddlers, medium runners.

News is that the 2011 Dusi will be at the end of February and the Drak Challenge will be in December.



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The ‘Change a life’ squad took advantage of the  flowing waters of the Dusi on the weekend. We put in at Dusi Bridge and paddled 50 Miler style to Umfula Store, via the infamous Bell Rapid and Pearl Harbour Rapid (just before 2nd Saddles take-out) 

Pearl Harbour got its name way back when that section was just being explored by paddlers due to the new 50 Miler route. Ken Holden came around the corner and there was a scattering of boats submerged/wrapped across the river from the group tripping ahead of him. He described it as a scene out of the Pearl Harbour movie when the Japanese bombed the hell out of the USA Warships. A very apt name for a rapid that seems to reinact that movie come 50 Miler.

Pearl Harbour Rapid has a grassy/rocky island in the middle. It is best negotiated paddling down the middle of the right option (few meters right of grassy knoll), with minimal boat speed, letting your boat feel its way down. 

                             I paddled with Thomas Ngidi (15th-Dusi 2009) 

When we launched our canoes at Dusi Bridge, I allowed myself the luxury of thinking that  because this is the ‘Change a life’ second Dusi Season, we should have less drama on the river.

One mistake, I forgot to ‘touch wood’, and so jinxed that thought.

Lucas, top ten Dusi finisher, wrapped his spanking brand new Eagle K2 around Egg rock a few hundred meters downstream of Washing Machine. Thobani following, proceeded to do the same. In a split second it was game over for those two crews – huge effort to free boats – missioning to get boats to vehicle – drive to Umfula – run from Umfula to top of Ngumeni for their lack of exercise, whilst we tied our boats on the trailer and ate peanut butter & banana sandwiches.

The water level was the most user friendly (we caught up some water, once we put in after the Ngumeni Portage) for shooting Gum Tree and  Tombi rapids. The guys dropped over the right of Tombi pinnacle rock like they were on a Sunday picnic. I was quick to warn them that its not all ‘Peaches and Cream’ come higher water levels.

The males in the Valley of a Thousand Hills don’t take instruction very readily from woman. However having top female K2 crew, Abbey and Robyn on our trip, had the guys following their lead.

These guys popped out of nowhere looking for a ride to get back to Dusi Bridge. Unfortunately we were jam packed inside, so had to do it ‘Africa style’.

The following day I took part in a 70km MTB race from Giba Gorge down into the Dusi Valley to Inanda Dam, then onto to Durbs. Walking to the start, I heard the commentator doing his bit. I thought to myself, I know that person (although I had never met him in my life). He sounded so familiar – Phil Liggitt. Being such a legend of the Tour (‘voice of cycling’, commentated on every Tour since 1973), I couldn’t resist doing the School boy thing – posing for a foto.



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TRIPLE CHALLENGE – 21km Run/52km MTB/18km Paddle

…and the feeling just keeps getting better…another day to witness my guys exceeding my expectations and once again (as like Dusi finish), a ‘wild’ expression of total focus turned instantly into a look of absolute elation (and an enormous white-toothed smile) on Eric Zondi’s face as he crossed the finish line of the Triple Challenge, in an amazing second place, behind the winner Dan Hugo.


I really had no idea what to expect from my team of six ‘Change a life’ guys as they lined up at 5am for the start of the Triple Challenge. Four of the boys had never completed a ‘long run’ of 21km and only Lucas had ever had a taste for an endurance multipart event before.

Although the weather looked miserable, it was a blessing in disguise, keeping the racers cool as they made their way on foot over trails from Pietermaritzburg to Camperdown, 21km away. The leading three of Eric, Thomas and Dan left the run/bike transition together. The 52km bike leg to Inanda Dam was surely going to be the podium decider? I witnessed Eric riding like a demon out in front, the 4kg lighter bike (using my Carbon Zascar GT) was adding some magic to his maiden assault on this gruelling race.

Eric managed to stick with Dan for a fair distance on the mtb leg, which got Dan a little worried as he thought if they were to reach the paddle transition together, then the race was going to be a very different battle as Eric was a top 10 Dusi man. Dan’s biking experience allowed him to open a lead on Eric and I wondered if Cas Van Aardenne or any other experienced mtb’ers would catch and pass Eric. With relief, Eric made it into the transition, refuelled by gulping down a shaker of USN Muscle Fuel and headed off onto the water with only a 100m gap to third and fourth positioned, Cas and Craig Carter-Brown.

Eric looked like a man possessed on the paddle, but my heart sank as he made a very slow exit onto the second 2km portage and the gap he had on Cas and Craig seemed to close rapidly. It was clear that Cas had the strongest legs still as he dropped Craig and put in closer to Eric. But the thought of Cash prize money and being able to contribute to the building of a house for his Gran gave Eric the ‘Vooma’ to close 2min on Dan and to maintain his second place overall.

Halfway on the bike, Thomas was coming second out of my ‘Change a Life’ guys (5th overall). Unfortunately he suffered a broken chain which he battled to fix. He watched in despair as all his team-mates passed by unable to help him. There was nothing I could do, outside assistance from me would mean disqualification. Part time Anaesthetist and Ironman athlete, Bruce Piccard stopped and gave Thomas a special chain link to solve the problem. Thanks Bruce.

Nhlanhla and Kwanda raced in each others company, working beautifully together on the paddle leg, to overtake Trevor Hellens and Carel Esterhuizen. Posting the fastest paddle time, they crossed the finish line in a very creditable 5th and 6th place.

Lucas bravely fought his way into 10th position, completing our ‘Change a Life’ goal of getting 4 in the top 10. Zonele battled with stomach cramps early on in the run (was his choice of French Polony for breakfast?).

However he crept through the field to finish 12th. A disappointed Thomas claimed 15th. He could have easily quit when the odds were against him, but that’s not in his nature.

Actually, all these Valley boys are as resilient as hell. Not having running water or electricity at home what do you expect.

Their hunger to succeed separates them from the rest.




1 DAN HUGO 01:22:31 02:04:44 01:50:36 05:17:52
2 ERIC ZONDI 01:22:30 02:16:55 01:48:22 05:27:49
3 CAS VAN AARDENNE 01:27:18 02:12:12 01:51:02 05:30:33
4 CRAIG CARTER-BROWN 01:25:31 02:15:11 01:53:02 05:33:46
5 NHLANHLA CELE 01:26:13 02:31:07 01:44:19 05:41:40
6 KWANDA MHLOPE 01:27:17 02:30:01 01:44:22 05:41:42
7 CAREL ESTERHUIZEN 01:30:11 02:25:46 01:47:07 05:43:05
8 TREVOR HELLENS 01:32:19 02:22:36 01:48:46 05:43:42
9 RYAN HODIERNE 01:27:32 02:19:26 02:10:19 05:57:19
10 LUCAS MTHALANE 01:23:49 02:49:07 01:46:18 05:59:16
11 BRIAN KEELING 02:19:24 03:33:06 00:06:51 05:59:23
12 ZONELE NZUZA 01:27:52 02:45:26 01:50:59 06:04:18
13 BRUCE BICCARD 01:33:56 02:31:57 01:58:28 06:04:22
14 GREG CARTER-BROWN 01:34:58 02:33:53 01:58:51 06:07:43
15 THOMAS NGIDI 01:22:32 02:52:21 01:58:40 06:13:34

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ACSA & DTP add huge value….

Many Months ago Tim Cornish gave me a contact to send a proposal to Carol Church – ACSA (Airport Company South Africa) and DTP (Dube TradePort) for assistance with the ‘Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy’.  Suddenly I was meeting with Carol Church and discussing the ‘wish list’ of the Academy. I put the Academy needs in three separate categories.

1 – Canoeing equipment

2 – 14 seater Toyota Quantum

3 – Club House.

                               FISH – KEITHS FLY-OVER 

To my absolute delight, Carol got back to me saying that the stakeholders of the New Airport Development in Durban, namely ACSA & DTP were willing to come to the party with 1 and 2. Their support has bumped the Academy to another level. Gone are the days when the boys get drenched in the back of a borrowed bakkie when we go to races. The vehicle was such a bonus for our long journey to the Fish River Canoe Marathon in Cradock. We travelled in style, aircon and all. Thank you very much.


Midmar Mini Canoe Marathon (16km paddling, 7km running)

The ‘Change a Life’ boys from the Valley of a Thousand hills excelled at the weekend’s Midmar Mini Canoe Marathon, claiming all three podium positions. Admittedly some ‘big guns’ didn’t compete, but as they say, ‘there aren’t any comments on the results sheets – a wins a win. Eric Zondi and Thomas Ngidi raced in their Non Stop Dusi Noka K2 (Kayak Centre). Enjoying the added stability with the rough conditions – big waves and strong winds, they made their break into the lead on the first of three portages, and never looked back. Lucas Mthalane and John Ngcobo paddled together for the first time this year and did incredibly well to place second. Brothers Nhlanhla and Richard Cele surprised their teammates when they gallantly hung onto third.

 These results are a great confidence builder for the ‘Change a Life’ guys, it shows us that we are on track with our training.

 However no time to sit back. This coming weekend will test six of my very best athletes as they tackle the ‘Ironman’ (Triple Challenge – 20km run, 52km Mtb, 18km paddle). I will be observing every step, providing support/encouragement, watching them redefine their limits, in terms of endurance barriers.

 ‘Stand at Ease’ Book launch

I really recommend you to get your hands on the hilarious account of Gary Green’s adventure of completing his first Dusi. The book is called ‘Mad Cows and River Spiders’. I guarantee you’ll absolutely love it.


So now by popular demand he has written another book – ‘Stand at Ease’. Its about his ill-spent youth serving uncle Magnus Malan in the army, doing as little as possible, snivelling out of almost everything. 

 Hilton 50 Miler Mtb Race

Taking place at the beautiful grounds of Grace College near Hilton, the scene was set for some magnificent riding. However the heat wave of note played havoc amongst those brave Mtb’ers racing the 115km and 75km distances. Race organisers made a snap decision to shorten both the above distances to 60km to avoid eminent heat exhaustion amongst those participating.

I think it was a wise decision considering that by the 40km mark, riders were taking time out swimming in dams and reservoirs en-route in an attempt to bring their core body temperatures down and there were an abnormally high amount of cyclists pushing their bikes up hills. Maybe the racing through Devil’s Cauldron at 40 degrees plus, made the heat seem okay. However a ditch out of nowhere on a single track section nailed me proper. This was no Formula One pittstop, sitting on the side fixing the burst front and back wheels with a limp left wrist,  saw me ride off 11min 47sec later. Once this Blog is posted, I’m off to get some X-Rays. From the swelling and pain, I’m thinking its at best fractured…. and this was supposed to be the start of my Epic training. Oh well.

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‘Change a life’s’ African Champ and Triple Training on track

               Eric Zondi, Grant van der Walt, Thomas Ngidi, Nhlanhla Cele.

It seems some other world class paddlers are joining the world of multisport…? if this paddler has what he has to move a boat so sweetly on water, then his bike ain’t going to touch the ground much. 

So far real Dusi training has been on hold with the focus being on the Triple ‘Ironman’. It has been great to expose my ‘Change a life’ team to multisport and this diversity allows for goal-setting throughout the year as well as adding continuous exposure for and value to the sponosorship package.

Tom Ngobo is back after a very successful Africa Champs. On being selected for the SA development team to compete in the Ivory Coast, Tom’s commitment and dediction to training jumped to a new level. He is by far my strongest paddler, (I just wish I could say the same for his running, with Dusi in mind. But then again, these valley boys are great at pulling occassional ‘rabbits out of hats’). Tom’s 2nd in the 500m and 3rd in the 1000m at Africa Champs was well deserved.

Triple Challenge training hit its peak this weekend. After a few quality sessions during last week, myself and 6 of my guys joined Max Cluers pre-race mtb-course recce ride from Camperdown to Inanda Dam. This 52km cycle route has seen many changes since the start of this multisport event, and I think they have now established a pretty unique off-road route. (Previously it was quite possible to race this course with slick tyres as majority of the ride followed tar roads). On one section of remaining tar, I did have to stop for my warriors to check out the Comrades Wall-of-Fame, (a race i am certain many of them will do one-day when they are old but still as light and as fit as ever).

A 200m hike-a-bike section joins the competitors onto an awesome single-track that winds its way down into the Inanda Dam valley and onto the final section of the course which runs along the edge of the Dam and which has three ‘stings in the tail’- well worth saving a little bit of legs for these three ‘speed-bumps’.

Having said 6 of my boys made the training ride, I was surprisingly impressed by Zonele, who hadn’t got the message about our departure time from the valley to the start of this recce ride so missed the bus, but on arriving at Inanda Dam there he was having made his own way there following the course of the Dusi on his trusty 2-wheeled steed.

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