Injured Nhlanhla & his brother Richard power off the start of Day 2

There was a dramatic change among the leading paddlers during the first hour of the second stage of the Unlimited Dusi. Defending champions Andrew Birkett and Jason Graham were desperately defending their hard won position at the front of the field. The Change a life dream team of Thulani Mbanjwa and Sibonelo Zondi had slipped back during the day’s proceedings, from a rookie swim at Gauging weir and having to stop and empty their boat 3 times due to faulty pumps. Change a Life Kwanda and Lance caught took advantage of their misfortune, catching them up at the Dam Bridge and then pipping on the finish line line, to place an incredible  3rd overall.

Change a Life passing under Marianney-Foley Bridge

Injury, stitches and hospitalisation were just some of the challenges the Change a life team had to face today. Thomas Ngidi who was in the 12th position took a tumble early in the race on a rocky downhill area injuring his leg and arm but managed to persever to finish 17th.

Thomas & John paddling hard….

Shaun Maphanga , paddling with Mkhonzeni Gumede got injured 5min into the race they swam at Earnie Pierce Weir. A Canoe freakishly impacted between Shaun’s legs…. long story short – it ruptured his urethra and he was hospitalised overnight. Nhlanhla, one of the Cele brothers who was 9th also severly damaged his ankle, so much so, he couldn’t walk. His brother, Richard Cele soldiered on, carrying their Canoe on his own, whilst Nhlanhla bravely hoped along on one leg.

‘Hero’ Richard soldiering on his own with their double canoe, whilst Nhlanhla hops along on one leg….

In spite of the injuries, Martin convinced the Cele brothers and Thomas to race – saying “plan A was to finish top 10, plan B was to finish top 20 and plan C was to FINISH. We now on plan C. Nhlanhla, this is like Life,  its not easy, do what you need to do today to finish, Rich carry the boat, and Nhlanhla, use your paddle as a crutch….“.

They lost many positions (94th) but the goal was to complete that leg of the race – mission accomplished.  Lucas and Mmeli took control of the flooding river, paddling superbly to maintain their top 10 position [I am so happy for Mmeli to get through the Day unscathed, because last year he was absolutely devastated when his hopes of winning the R9000 first Junior prize were sadly washed downstream when he wrapped his canoe and had to catch a ride to the finish].

Skhumbuso and Nkosi paddled flawlessly to climb 6 positions from 24th to 18th overall. With their ‘tails up’, they will go into Day 3 with all guns blazing.

Stan Ursula and Jonathan continue to support and cheer the guys on.

Mart,Stan,Ursula & Jonathan watch on…. 

Change a life still has 5 boats in the Top 20 and 3 in the Top 10 [CAL is currently 3rd, 4th, 9th, 17th,& 18th overall]. Tomorrow  promises to be another exciting day as there is the infamous Everest of Dusi Portages – Burma Hill.


With a field of over 1 800 paddlers assembled for the start, the 61st Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon got underway this morning. The first day of the race did not disappoint – showcasing the talents of paddlers who were not only trying to win but also those who have come to compete with themselves and the great uMsundusi river and its rapids. With extreme weather conditions forecast for the duration of the race, the strength and endurance of the paddlers will be put to the test over the next three days. The race made a great start with defending champions Andrew Birkett and Jason out to win their second title. They felt the pressure from the Change a life dream team Thulani and Eric who were hot on their tails. Day 1 comes to an end with the Change a life team having achieved incredible results. There are 5 teams in the Top 12, although Martin had to run around attending to two leg injuries from Thomas and one of the Cele brothers. It was a sprint to the finish with the Change a Life team coming home to an epic traditional village welcome from their local supporters in the valley – only 3 seconds behind the defending champs: Birkett and Graham. Stan Ursula and Jonathan were there to witness Kwanda Mhlophe and Lance Kime come in 5th position, Lucas and Mele in 8th, the Cele brothers 9th and Thomas and John Themba in 12th. Martin is incredibly proud of his Change a life Zulu’s. More tomorrow…….

DUSI FEVER – out of control….


With a day to go before the big race, there is nothing you can do now regarding race prep, except to patiently let the minutes tick by – with your feet up on the Couch, lying in the horizontal postion, devising a race strategy that will get you to the finish in your quickest time possible. For some (Lucas & Mmeli), that race strategy will have input from what went wrong whilst practicing….


In theory that is….
Reality has it, that most (Change a Life included) are running around still trying to get their ‘ducks in a row’. Right now I am fixing broken paddles to have them ready as spares, half filling 25l water containers to put in the chest freezer (tomorrow morning you add water to the frozen half and you have instant iced water available), replacing torn splash covers from the weekends race and so it goes on….

But now its the time of truth, where what you put in, is what you’ll get out.

Race predictions: Race favourites Andrew Birkett and Jason Graham have done their usual ‘flying under the Radar’, where none of their competitors have been able to match themselves against this formidable crew – why? because they have not raced against anyone, thus not showing what their true potential is. Which worked perfectly against Ant Stott & Michael Mbanjwa in the last doubles Dusi, as they completely under-estimated their opponents.

‘Change a Life’ Sibonelo Zondi  & Thulani Mbanjwa are undoubtly the fastest crew on land and because they can hold their own on the water too (10th at the 2011 World Marathon Champs in Singapore), makes them an extremely dangerous combination. However stringing 3 perfect days in a row, will be the fate that decides whether they will be crossing the finish line first at Blue Lagoon, come Saturday.

Hank Mc Gregor & Len Jenkins by the mere fact that they have both won Dusi single titles, makes them a threat for the top of the podium, not too mention their list of amazing achievements on the water. However if you cannot recover 100% after Campbells portage, with the ‘Hole in the Wall’ extra, to put full power into the paddle, then you ain’t gonna claim numero uno in this unique Canoe race of running & paddling.

Other top 5 position crews are Shaun Rubenstein (currently still holds the Junior Dusi record) and Steve Farrel(fastest runner without a boat), Craig Turton (Non-Stop Dusi winner) and legend surfski paddler Jasper Mocke, and Lance Kime & Change a life Kwanda Mhlophe.

Ibis to Diptank:Winners Jasper Mocke & Craig Turton and second place – Lance Kime & CAL Kwanda Mhlophe

Then the bun fight for the much sought after Top Ten Gold Medals will be the ‘Change a Life’ crews of the Cele Brothers (winners of the Campbells to Dusi Bridge Race), Lucas Mthalane & Mmeli Cele, Thomas Ngidi(3rd overall in 2010 Dusi) & John Ngcobo, Biggs Brothers, the Trautman Brothers and Piers Cruikshanks and Mike Stewart.



    Change a Life Richard Cele punching through a huge ‘Stopper Wave’ – with his backseat partner, John Ngcobo under the water.

Hard work pays off – Richard Cele and John Ngcobo, both from ‘Change a Life’ in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, pulled off an amazing victory in Gauteng’s final Canoe Race of the year – the Belloord Canoe race, hosted by Florida Lake Canoe Club.

This race was not for the faint hearted as it involved 25km of paddling on a tricky Klip River and two portages adding up to 5km. To many canoesists, portages are torturous – sending your Heart rate through the roof. But it is here that the ‘Change a Life’ paddlers come into their own - they have maderunning with a canoe their friend.

This is the first win for Rich & John and will no doubt be a huge motivation for their Dusi 2012 onslaught,  where they going for that coveted Gold medal top 10 position.


Report Back – Highlights of September:
•History was made when Eric Zondi partnered Michael Mbanjwa and got selected from SA Marathon Champs to represent South Africa in the World Marathon Championships in Singapore next month.

- Eric & Michael won a Canoe race in Jhb - 22/10/2011.

•All the CAL paddlers raced in the popular Ngwenja Challenge Canoe Race (start of Dusi to the Motor-Cross Track 14km downstream) on the 11/09/2011. This race was used as a selection race for KZN Development paddlers to make the Team to travel to the Fish River Canoe Marathon next month – the first 7 Development K2 canoes would be eligle to make the team. Lucas & Eric almost caused a major upset, when they were narrowly beaten by 1 second in an exciting end sprint. Ist Juniors and incredibly 3rd overall were CAL paddlers Paulos Shozi & Mmeli Cele. Brothers Nhlanhla & Richard were 6th. Thobani & Mzamo were the 4th CAL crew to make it in the top 7 Development Canoes. Zonele & Skhumbuso would have easily made it into the top 7, however they failed to check over their canoe and right from the start, had to continually stop to empty, due to a massive hole made from the 2 Day – Dam to Dam Canoe Race in August and so this put them out of contention – only themselves to blame.

•the CAL Juniors raced in the Jock Claasens Canoe Race on the weekend – 18/09/2011, with CALifers  Mthobisi & Emmanuel winning the U/16 category and Paulos & Mmeli coming 2nd in the U/18 category.

•CAL John Ntuli flew over to Spain to race in the World Duathlon Championships [10km run/40km bike/5km run]. After a blistering first 10km, John got onto the bike  a couple of minutes behind the leading bunch. The bike leg consists of 8 x 5km laps and the Rules state “Any athlete that gets lapped by leading competitors, must withdraw from the race”. Unfortunately John was lapped and didn’t get the opportunity to cross the finish line, along with +/- 20 other competitors. Which in my opinion is quite a harsh setup as you might be the World Champ, have a flat tyre, get lapped, must withdraw -whereas that individual, might still have positioned in the top 10 at the end. The fault in such a Rule is that it does not encourage International participation as it is a long expensive journey to make, to have a DNF – “Did not Finish”. John has returned to SA, realising that there are UBER athletes outthere, and he can do better….

•Lucas has just obtained his PDP (Professional Driving Permit) and so is legally qualified to transport passengers. He bought a second hand Citi-Golf last month, but upon servicing it, found it had previously been in an accident. Long story short – the Indian second hand car dealer bought it back from him but shrewdly charged him for kilometers driven and so he lost a quick R10 000 – which was devastating for him. So he is back to square one, Car-less.

•Kwanda has been regularly taking driving lessons and does his final Drivers Test on the 7/10/2011.

•Very pleased to say – there are ten Schools now taking part in the CAL Schools Running League and this weekend -01/10/2011, “Change a Life” is hosting another Inter Schools X-Country Competition, where these ten Schools will send their 20 best runners to represent them. Kwanda & his posse are currently preparing and marking the route, removing thorns etc…. Trophies will be awarded to the winning Primary & High Schools, prizes from Hi-Tec and medals to the top 3 finishers (girls & boys) in each category and USN Juice and Hotdogs to all finishers. It promises to be an awesome day, with a DJ blasting Music to entertain all.     PLEASE SEE previous posting regarding this INTER-SCHOOLS CHANGE A LIFE X-COUNTRY COMPETITION

Report Back – Highlights of October:


 - hosting the Inter Schools CAL X-Country meeting at Nagle Dam. With the number of Schools now taking part, increasing to 10, I wondered if all would go smoothly as logistics now doubled. My concerns did not materialise as ten of my CAL Zulus rose to the accasion, under the guidance of my Running League Coordinator – Kwanda Coordinator.
Two CAL Zulus made fire and braaied Boerewors for 230 people [200 kids +20 teachers + 10 CAL]/Two CAL Zulus were “Rabbits” out front on the course/Four CAL Zulus were course marshals/Two CAL Zulus were halping me record names at the Finish.
It pleased me that we had a new winner in the Junior Schools – Ngabanyena (smallest School) and the defending champions, Nhlanhlayayebuze, won the Senior Schools again.

- Nhlanhla Cele won the 25km Duct Trail Run down at Nagle Dam.

Kwanda, Nhlahla & Lucas bolting off the start….

- Change a Life athletes, Kwanda, Nhlanhla and Lucas once again did the Academy proud, all making it into the top 10 in the Time-Freight Multi-sport race at Albert falls Dam. Eric Zondi didn’t race, as he is overseas in Singapore

- Recently Trophy winners (10 children) from the CAL X-Country Competition have been enjoying their winner’s spoils, eating out at the Spur (Huge thanks to Spur for Sponsoring these meals) and watching movies.

- Kwanda Mhlophe passed his driver’s License.

- Highlight of October was Eric Zondi paddling with Michael Mbanjwa in the World Marathon Champs in Singapore where they finished an incredible 10th overall last weekend.


- The core of the CAL Zulus have been focusing training on Triple Challenge [20km run/52km cycle/20km paddle], which takes place this weekend on the 6th Novemeber .

- Then the following weekend, we are hosting another CAL Inter-Schools X-Country Competition and the next day all the CAL boys will race the biggest 1 Day race in SA, called the Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Race.

- The following weekend, Kwanda is going to race the notoriuos Ithala Challenge Canoe Race, where it is compulsory to have a full repair kit (fibre glass/resin/paint brush etc….) in your canoe – for two reasons; 1- great chance you will damage your canoe with the big technical rapids. 2 – if you do break, there is no way out from the river valley, except to continue downstream – which you will need your canoe.

- Three CAL crews are going to take part in the 2 day Vaal Canoe Marathon in Gauteng, well known for long grinding paddling.



Change a Life Inter-Schools X-Country

 Now I know why moving to PMB to be close to my Change a Life Academy was a good thing – as witnessing the raw talent and determination of kids running full speed in the Valley of a thousand Hills “Because they can”, gave me such a ‘warm fuzzy feeling’….
So instead of the conventional ‘thanking of sponsors’ at the end, I would like to whole-heartedly thank them foremost, because without them, none of this could of happened – getting ten Zulus in the top 36 of the 2009 Dusi to the present – ten Valley Schools sending their 20 best runners…. So to the “Change a Life” Trust & Computershare, USN & Hi-Tec  thanks a million for your consistent support & belief in the Martin Dreyer ‘Change a life’ Academy, so very much appreciated.

‘BOOM, BOOM’ – the tranquil beauty of Nagle Dam awoke to the beat of 6 foot high speakers, as local Taxis dropped 200 of the most athletically talented kids from Ten Schools in the neighbourhood. Two CAL Zulus already had Boerewors (kindly sponsored by Parklane Spar) braaing over red-hot coals.

With this being the most hotly contested CAL X-Country to date, the big question was, could Phangindawo Junior School maintain their unbeaten record. The Trophies were on Display, adding to the already charged atmosphere….

As I anticipated, African time took over, and the Junior Schools lined up 30min behind schedule. It didn’t matter, as a ‘hell of a good time’ was being had by all and there was no-one we were accountable to, except ourselves. Richard explained the course to the Juniors….

 and then they were off…. You would have thought this was a 1km race from the pace off the start. My ‘Change a Life’ cyclist acting ‘Traffic Cop/flashing lights, lead the charging youngsters over the Dam Wall….

The Parent instinct in me came to the fore, as I couldn’t resist giving assistance to the tail enders, running alongside them – “take it easy, this is a big hill….”

 My CAL Running League coordinator, Kwanda Mhlophe, was the ‘Rabbit’ out front. He said afterwards, “I stopped quickly to do up my lace, Shew, I had to work so hard to get in front again. These kids are running so fast!”
Taking the average of the first ten runners determines a School’s result. To the delight of their pupils and credit of the principal, Mr Mchunu, Ngabanyena claimed the Junior School’s winner Trophy. Most deserved, considering it is the smallest School of them all inflatable toys canada.

The Senior Scholars fidgeted nervously on the start-line as Richard briefed them: “….this was going to be harder than any of their School-Time trials you have run – be careful, there is a big mountain you must climb near the end!”

 It was impossible trying to get one of my CAL Zulus to be the ‘Rabbit out front’ to lead the way. This was because, some had witnessed the incredible speed these youngsters were capable of whilst hosting School Time-Trials.They had warned the other Change a Lifers: “you will be beaten”. So I asked Thomas Ngidi (best CAL runner present) to make a go of it. Before the start, he asked who the fastest kids are and then commented “I can see they fast, they skinny like me”.
However, just like the Juniors, some couldn’t resist and took off like there was no tomorrow. After the first kilometre, the frontrunners were jostling for position upon entering the single file 200m tunnel, that burrowed deep beneath the Dam.

Coming out of the Tunnel, leg burning stairway….

From here athletes ran on the rugged rural track, that circumnavigated the picturesque Dam.

Anything goes when it comes to shoes to run in, from Booties, slippers, soccer boots to running shoes 2 sizes too small. Having something on your feet, was a status symbol – better than barefoot.

 However, the first three speed machines, couldn’t be bothered with inferior footwear fashion and all three crossed the line barefoot. Below is the second Senior School youngster, gunning it high above the Dam…. 2 kilometers from the finish.

Kwanda & his CAL posse had prepared the route, marking & removing thorns etc….  Trophies were awarded to the winning Primary & High Schools, lucky draw prizes from Hi-Tec and medals to the top 3 finishers (girls & boys) in each category.

 And the USN Active sports drinks was such a treat for all finishers, along with the Boerie roll. What an awesome day….

In line, with making this Running League sustainable, quietly spoken Richard Cele was given the duty of doing the Prize-giving. I was completely blown away by his confidence  presenting the Trophies – he was quite the character, adding his personal touch, he kept the Kids entertained. He would say: “well done to X from Nhlanhlayayebuze. Mmm…. you can see he has been training hard, look how thin he is….

With Ngabayena having obtained second position the last time and Mr Mchunu’s kids enjoying their trip so very much to PMB and the Spur (first time ever to the Mall & Spur), I am so pleased that now they will be able to experience that again, but the bonus of getting the Gold medal, is that a Movie ticket for each kid is added to the mix.

Senior Schools:

1st – Nhlanhlayayebuze High School

2nd- Masijabule High School

3rd – Sansikane High School

Junior Schools:

1stNgabanyena Junior School

2nd – Phangindawo Junior School

3rd – Maqonqo Junior School


Shongweni Dam Nature Reserve, nestled in a hidden valley close to Hillcrest, was a fitting venue for the showndown of the second TimeFreight Multisport Race. Not only did the up and down technical course keep the Heart Rate sky high but so too did the potential to ride straight into ‘a wildlife’ of sorts, including Rhino or Buffalo!
For the first time since I have been managing my Zulu athletes, all were on the start line to hear the briefing and no one had to make a mad dash back to the car during the race to collect forgotten important blow up jumpers gear [ In 2010, Nhlanhla had to return to our vehicle to retrieve his life-jacket for the canoe section - car was locked - come and find me to get keys.... & still managed to make a top 10]
I caught a quadbike ride out onto the route to see how the Zulu magic unfolded.
My ‘Change a life’ boys belted off the line along with the top competitors in both the MultiX (run/bike/run) and Multisport (run/bike/paddle) events.
Eric Zondi, running like a gazelle ahead of the pack, didn’t seem to notice the incredibly steep and winding trail underfoot that snaked high above the Dam and which slowed many to a walking pace.
Following hot on his heels were Kwanda, John, Richard and Lucas and just behind was Michael (my 2008 Dusi partner- pleased he’s taking part - excellent cross-training).
It is always wise to keep a little bit in the tank for the bike course at Shongweni, as there is no place to recover while you ride here. The climb straight out of the transition reminds you that you have to pace the first bike lap well otherwise you may just have to surrender to pushing your bike up second time around. I watched as my boys descended with skill down a tricky piece of the course and carry their bikes over a stream which had been barred from riding across.
SIZWE – NEW TO THE GAME – note cycling in his Infinities….
I then met up withthe race again at a floating bridge and a very long stretch of sandy track that required easy gear pedalling and lots of momentum, causing havoc with many participants.
Having survived the 20km bike leg, the multisporters would usually be relieved as they launched their boats onto the water for a 5km paddle, but the wind that had been blowing since early morning and creating waves on the water, had even the top end paddlers nervous.
Eric’s first Multisport win was incredibly exciting and even more so being on his home turf.

Eric 1st,
Kwanda 4th, Lucas 6th, Michael 11th,
Richard & Nhlanhla Cele – 1st
John Ntuli 3rd
Sizwe 1st [short course]

Go Big or Go Home….


Tomorrow sees the junior ‘Change a Life’ K2 combination of Paulos Shozi & Mmeli Cele take on our Country’s best youngsters in the fiercely contested South African Marathon Champs at Shongweni Dam – KZN. Placing in the top two positions, will ensure selection into the South African Team, to compete internationally in the World Championships in Singapore come October.
Last week, the young ‘Change a Life’ duo, dominated the u/18 KZN Championship, winning comfortably, but SA Champs is another story. Here you will be racing the cream of SA’s paddlers, where there is no room for error – a simple stumble on a portage could see your chances disappear out the back door.


The u/16 ‘Change a Life’ crew of Mthobisi and Nqobile were out in front, however a costly mistake of knocking their rudder off(steering system) on the put-in of a portage, caused these youngsters to lose their ability to steer their kayak and ended their race right there. Distraught, they stared at the rudder in disbelief, trying to take in the fact that they had just thrown away the opportunity to be the Kzn u/16 Champions. I felt terrible for them. Later, ‘CAL’ coach Lucas reassuringly told them – “….at least  this is not SA Champs, next week show them what you can do!”


Although Eric comically fell into the water on the take-out of a portage midway in the race, Bungi & himself hung in for a well deserved 3rd place finish in the Senior Men.


This week the top performing Schools from the CAL Inter-Schools X-Country Race, enjoyed their ‘eat as much as you can’ prizes at the Spur. The first placed Junior School – Phangindawo and High School – Nhlanhlayeyabuse had the added bonus of watching a movie as well. Especially the youngsters, many haven’t been out of the Valley, so eating out at the Spur is a huge occasion. On goes that colourful paper crown – I get such pleasure watching them enjoy themselves, but do worry a little that those little bellies might explode.


Lucas & Kwanda’s cycling has improved exponentially since riding in the CAL Cycle Tour in Malawi last year. Mostly because their barriers of distance were redefined when on one of the days we all cycled 192km (their furtherest had been 60km) - so now they know in training how far a long ride should really be. To challenge their fitness, the other day I took them on a long Mtb ride in their backyard - Valley of a Thousand Hills. For the first few hours I found myself ascending the top of the climbs in third position - thoroughly impressed by their power output. So I added in a detour to our ride and took them where they had never been before. With the ride suddenly longer than they had planned, the ‘showing off’ soon caught up with them, and we ascended a mountain so high that at the top, we could see Nagle & Inanda Dam simultaneously. After this monumental effort, they gritted their teeth in survival mode, with no USN left to fuel their muscles, cramps got the better of them as we neared home and so I sneaked into the top dog position as I supposedly should.


Last week saw the Expresso TV crew come to my home to film Jeannie and I doing this and that…. it was televised this week in a 7min slot Monday to Friday on SABC 3 at 6:30am. If you would like to view these 5 clips, here are the You-Tube links:

8th of August – www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tOgHzqKT2Q

9th of August – www.youtube.com/watch?v=Co1ms2RLq9U

10th of August – www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA3bQpyBJ00

11th of August – www.youtube.com/watch?v=wI-UpgB_vOo

12th August     -  www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDVzJumlA3o



The Berg is a mighty race, with no-where to hide, paddling 240km from the vineyards of Paarl to the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast at Velddrift. For my Zulus, this trip went beyond just racing down a river, but was more of a life enriching experience where they got to travel across SA, learnt that the Afrikaners of the Cape are a warm and friendly nation, wine comes from a leafless (currently winter) dry little twiggy bush called a vine, and that the coloured woman make themselves ‘pretty’ by pulling out their front teeth.


The Change a Lifers caught the bus Sunday, arriving Monday – checked into the Lemoenkloof B&B for Mon & Tues night, which was a real treat. They sat stiffly upright, whilst the waitresses served them delicious meals, then awkwardly used their knife & fork – the spoon is the choice of eating utensil/tool down in the Valley.
I had to hesitate in Pmb till Tuesday afternoon, so I could hand over the Callum baton to Jeannie upon her return from competing in the World Trail running Champs in Ireland.


Day 1 – Driving to the start, we passed Stefan Hugo (5 x times winner in the ‘80s). I quickly stopped and asked, “Stefan, what advice can you give my novice Zulus, novice Berg Paddlers?”. His reply was simple, “NEVER GIVE UP, if you damage your canoe – fix it, if your body is blown, find the answer but never give up.”


The trees galore became their nemesis, snagging their lifejackets and catching them unaware when their paddle blade would strike an invisible branch just below the surface, throwing them off balance and into the drink. With the Dusi having not one tree on its banks, if you take a bad line, you can correct it as the water flows around a rock and so you can deflect off it and continue on your merry way, whereas on the Berg, rocks are replaced by trees. A gnarly situation arises as water flows through a tree and so the unwary paddler can easily get trapped against it (like a tea strainer), as you don’t deflect off a tree like you would a rock. But this is all part of the initiation/learning curve of being a first time Berg Paddler.


Zonele and John retired to their sleeping bags at 3pm already, shattered from the Days exploits, rose briefly to eat supper and then crashed again.


We stayed in the Barn accommodation at the end of each Day, where mattresses lined the floor – wall to wall. The vibe was lekker with a central massive fire to congregate around, where tales of the days endeavour was the main topic of conversation. At the fireside in Bridgetown, I heard Thomas saying to a fellow paddler, “those last two tree block portages today were a great relief as it was good to stretch my legs”. “What, you portaged today – I never got out my kayak at all,” was the response of a top twenty placed paddler. Such is the advantage of ‘local knowledge’ at obstacles, where your approach of attack is precise. If this conversation was at Dusi, the roles would have been reversed.
Riaan Manser enlightened my Zulus with tales of his Madagascan sea kayaking journey, where he circumnavigated the Island, paddling 5000km over 11 months. Even Riaan struggled, swimming 27 times on Day 2 alone….



Day 2 – The boys settled into a smooth rhythem, although a shorter, still longer than they had ever paddled in a race – all the ‘Change a Lifers caught up positions. Kwanda was telling me of Richard getting this special ‘blown kiss’ by a most beautiful young coloured girl, walking past. He gasped in disebelief…. Seconds later, she gave her biggest toothless smile – Richard couldn’t contain himself & packed up laughing – thinking this is some sort of a joke or something. The next day I got a different Coloured woman to explain to them that it is a cultural phenomenon – “Us woman do it to look pretty for our men” was her explanation.
I added, “a cultural thing, similar to Lucas (Mthalane family) having cuts (later forming scars) made on his forehead when he was a baby. Like you John, you have many black needle holes below your eyes.”
Then Thomas added, “one of the families in the valley, cut off the top of the little finger on the left hand at birth….”


Day 3 – monster day
If there was to be any physical benefit from paddling the Berg (excluding the overall experience), it would be that this long, hard , absolutely flat 74km grind, would redefine their limits of what is possible – from aching muscles to the discomfort of sitting in one position continuously. Because now in the Valley, the 3hr weekly long paddle in training, will not seem so long – maybe we should bump it up to 4hrs.


After 5hrs in his kayak, Thomas snapped, his discomfort had become unbearable so he turned 90 degrees to the flow of the river and to the amusement of his fellow paddlers, headed for the bank – running alongside the group whilst they paddled. No way was he getting back into the water, however the bank became unnegotiable and he had no choice but to return to his painful sitting position.


The landscape is so different because there is no scattering of huts, plus its lush green. Driving home to Paarl, staring out the window, Nhlanhla says – “my cattle would like this grass very much”
Day 4 – Windhoek’s slogan – ‘Keep it real’ was made even more so, by the nasty ocean head wind that developed as the day wore on, substantially slowing down forward progress. Asked “why there foreigners working in SA”, referring to the Farm Labourers who were speaking Afrikaans, working in the vineyards.
The finish was spectacular, a massive marquee tent that housed 400 plus people and a band to entertain….

This race is not possible for just anyone, a certain ability to suffer is an important ingredient for success. Thank you to Windhoek for the invitation to my ‘Change a Life’ Zulus, to paddle in the Berg’s 50th Anniversary, the greatest Berg to date, with a record entry of 365 paddlers (previous record 1986).



100 school children from 5 Valley schools near Nagle Dam came together on Saturday for Martin Dreyers ‘Change a life’ Interschools XC race at the Msinsi resort picnic spot at Nagle Dam. A local DJ had a groove going from the early morning and the energy was electric. Martins Paddling Academy boys had the braais lit to reward the competitors with boerewors rolls (thank you Cameron from Parklane Spar), and a USN Active  Sports drink as they crossed the finish line.  

Kwanda Mhlophe, Martins wingman for helping organiser and run this ‘Change a life’ schools XC running league, had the mornings proceedings under total control. A 4km loop had been marked for the junior school kids and a longer 7-8km course for the seniors.

Martins paddling Academy boys have been holding a trail run every Wednesday lunch time at the participating schools. Any pupil can run, their times taken and from this the top 20 athletes were selected for this Interschools event.

The top 10 pupils from a school then count in ranking for the overall schools winners:

Junior schools: 2 open boys (over 13yrs)

                         5 U/13 boys

                         3 girls

Senior School: 3 Open boys (over 18yrs)

                         4 U/18 boys

                         3 girls

…and to be in contention for the prizes:

1st place- Spur meal and Movie

2nd – Spur meal

3rd – food parcels

The mornings racing was a great success, with the final results being:

Senior School: 1st Nhlanhlayabebhule

                          2nd Masijabhule

                         3rd Banqobile

 Junior School: 1st Phangindawo

                         2nd Maqongqo

 (Photos to be posted later today)


John Ntuli, Martins ‘newest’ addition to the ‘Change a life’ Academy, had a phenomenal race at the SA Duathlon Champs held in CT last weekend where he finished a reputable 3rd Elite overall. John, who’s Zulu name, Zakhele, means ‘build for yourself’, is certainly building himself a list of exceptional race results. He is a humble athlete, super friendly and very approachable



I was excited to be racing with John Ntuli this weekend at the Unlimited Dusi Mfula 2-day MTB race. Having raced as a pair before, I knew my role (to hang on to the back pocket on those looong and steep climbs), but John had never raced with anyone (let alone a girl). The day one start was bitterly cold but the sky was clear, forecasting a gorgeous day in the Valley of a thousand hills. Within moments of the start we were directed onto endless single track rolling over short steep climbs. Breathtaking views of Table Mountain and the surrounds. A truly magical way to experience rural pietermaritzburg and the banks of the Umngeni and Dusi rivers. John and I kept a steady pace from early on. Continually being checked on as to how I was feeling, we wound our way to Inanda dam and the finish, a 68km (plus a few extra) long day. What an awesome surprise to see we had finished 8th overall and 1st mixed.

With the start of day 2 being on the opposite side of Inanda Dam, we had to catch a boat across at 6:30am for the 7:15 start. Luckily the morning was far warmer than the previous day but as we dropped down onto the banks of the dam during the early parts of the race, the frost (and frozen fingers) was a good indication that it was still close to freezing. The morning’s 40km journey took us along some very newly groomed and pristine single track, up and over some very steep climbs and onto Shembe plateau overlooking the 100m Umzinyathi Falls. From here it was steep single track descents and more rolling trails around Inanda to the finish. We were happy to finish and maintain our 8th overall (as I know there were a few males teams who had locked target onto us). John was an incredible team mate and at times hearing the yells of encouragement for us I would get goose bumps, me partnering John through the valley… life is unlimited!