One of my favourite days, of any canoe race, anywhere in the world! The Gariep morphs from sweet and wide flow to rollicking white-water chute, and goes from languishing amidst reed islands to pumping through pot-holed granite chutes and blasting below a multitude of bridges.
Two portage sections are thrown in for good measure, and then the paddlers get to zoom along a 1.8km canal section before bombing back onto the Great River. Two testing rapids await, and this is where Jakub Adam lost the race in an unplanned swim, allowing Thulani Mbanjwa to power into the lead.
If you are here to experience the unmatched beauty of the Northern Cape Province, slow things down to lose yourself within the dramatic splendour that is Neus Gorge. Over untold aeons, the water course has carved its way through the landscape, drilling potholes and carving shapes into the volcanic rock, and in the process sculpting a geological snapshot of breathtaking , primal beauty.
I stepped over a narrow chasm for a momentary glimpse of the mercurial flow of a Cape cobra disappearing into a crevasse, only to be distracted an instant later by a red-tailed rock hare scarpering from a copse of tinder-dry brush to my right. Somewhere close by, the echo of a fish eagle’s call resounded, while far below me the #GKCM paddlers bladed ever onwards, towards the finish, towards glory, towards inner peace, towards whatever personal goal they had set for themselves.
And this to me is the essence of the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon: it is not just about the race, or the podium, or a personal best, but rather about a journey through an incredible landscape.
MEDIA RELEASE, by Lisa De Speville -:
Mbanjwe wins the 2015 Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon
The second and final stage of the two-day Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon offered paddlers variety with weirs, rapids, portages, an irrigation canal and the spectacular Neus Gorge. With paddlers set off at intervals, it was a sure bet that one of the first four – the winning bunch from Day 1 – would claim the stage and overall win. Thulani Mbanjwe was first across the line and overall winner of the fourth edition of this canoe race.
The portage at Die Punt marked the first significant strategic move of the day. Jakub Adam, Stuart Maclaren, Tom Schilperpoort and Mbanjwa exited the river together but, by the end of the portage, Adam and Mbanjwa had dropped the other pair.
“I knew Jakub was strong and I wanted to work with him,” says Mbanjwa. The two stuck together, working hard to gain time on the chasers.
“We got to the gorge together,” says Mbanjwa, “and I went through the entry rapid first. Jakub must have swum because when I looked back I couldn’t see him.”
Adam did swim and by the time he had reached the side, emptied his boat and got back on the water, Simon van Gysen was coming through.
Van Gysen had a magical day. He started in the second batch, but leapfrogged ahead on the first portage to put in with Maclaren and Schilperpoort.
“Going through the Neus Gorge entry rapid I saw that Jakub had fallen out. He came back to join me and Tom,” says van Gysen. “We worked together but they were a bit too strong for me at the finish.” Nonetheless, van Gysen logged the fastest time for Day 2.
A few hundred metres before the end of the day’s section, the river splits into two channels. Van Gysen and Schilperpoort went left; Adam went right.
“The channel made a big difference,” says Adam. “When I came out, I saw Tom ahead of me at the finish.”
In the women’s race, the starting order held with Abby Solms taking the stage and overall win.
Paddlers had been briefed to either paddle the 1.6-kilometre irrigation canal or run the distance. The canal was marked as a non-competitive section where paddlers were restricted from overtaking.
Solms chose to paddle and the two men racing alongside her, Mpilo Zondi and Nkosikayise Cele from the ‘Change A Life’ Academy, chose to run – the only ones to do so. Considering the time it takes to put-in and take-out, the men reckoned that they could run the distance faster.
“I went past them on the canal and it was an easy paddle,” says Solms. “There was no point racing to get ahead because I wanted to work with them on the river. I had to run really hard on the portage because they’re so much faster than me.” Solms finished the stage with Zondi.
The prize allocation for the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon is exceptional. The total prize purse is R300,000 and winners walk away with R20,000 each. Men and women receive equal reward, with overall positions and age categories collecting cash prizes sponsored by Northern Cape Department of Economic Development & Tourism. Most paddlers also return home with treasures from the lucky draw, which are sponsored by Epic Kayaks, ARK Inflatables, Mocke Paddling, Orka Paddles, Second Skins, AQRate, Kalahari Ancient Desert Secrets, Pink Lady, Inova Pharmaceuticals, Lahoud & Nieuwoudt and Northern Cape Tourism.
Photographs from the Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon can be viewed on the event’s Facebook page –https://www.facebook.com/
Information and dates for next year’s event will be published on the event website at www.gkcm.co.za
RESULTS: Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon 2015
Click here to view the pics