The heavy early summer rains may have caused headaches in some parts of KwaZulu-Natal but for the paddlers and farmers in the Southern Drakensberg all signs point to more steady rains that will leave the farmers happy and the canoeists heading for the N3TC Drak Challenge on 28 and 29 January enthusing about another race on a full uMzimkhulu River.
December traditionally marks the start of what has become known as ‘Drak Season’ in the paddling community, as this signals the onset of regular storms in the Southern Berg that leaves the uMzimkhulu and its many tributaries flowing strongly.
The uMzimkhulu River came down in spate in early November and since then regular rains have kept the river level high and boosted the vital level of the ground water table.
“We had 120mm of rain in October, and November to date is 113mm” said N3TC Drak chair Andrew Barnett. “That’s on the high side of what we normally get.
“The farmers watch the long term weather models closely, and they expect around 180mm in December, which will set us up nicely for the summer paddling season,” he said from his base at Castleburn, where the two day race starts.
“The water table is high, which is so important to maintaining water levels in the river for the canoeing races that will be happening here this summer,” he added.
Barnett said that he had been releasing water from his dam at Castleburn as it was much fuller than it normally is at this time of year.
Many paddlers opt to spend a lot of their end-of-year holidays on the uMzimkhulu River, which has become popular for its clean water for training and its unique blend of exciting technical rapids interspersed with scenic flatwater sections.
The first major race of the ‘Drak Season’ is the KZN Canoe Union Mixed Doubles Championships on Sunday 18 December that spans the first half of the final day of the N3TC Drak Challenge, from Sinister Pool at the Swartberg Road bridge to Glenhaven resort.