N3TC Drak Challenge
Drak entries match rising water levels
Underberg – Buoyed by a month of exhilarating paddling on the full
uMzimkhulu River, entries are pouring in for this weekend's N3TC Drak
Challenge canoe marathon in the Southern Drakensberg.
The steady rainfall since the New Year seems to confirm predictions that the
lean two year La Niña drought have been broken, certainly in the mountainous
Eastern portion of KwaZulu-Natal, and the paddlers have responded
enthusiastically with regular training sessions on the upper uMzimkhulu, and
an entry for the popular two-day event that is significantly up on last
Late entries for the event close at midnight on Wednesday 18 January.
Race officials, most of whom are farmers in the Underberg/Himeville area,
feel that the return to "normal" rainfall patterns has rekindled a passion
for paddling that understandably dwindled during the drought years.
"With the race social media platforms providing daily updates on the river
levels, word has spread around the country that the uMzimkhulu is back to
it's best," said race committee chair Andrew Barnett.
"During the latter part of the holidays there were big numbers of paddlers
enjoying themselves on the river, especially on the top section from
Castleburn through the Valley of a Thousand Rapids," he added.
"The water table seems to be very high and the river is holding beautifully,
so every sign points to a really memorable race weekend," he said.
With the Drak Challenge coming less than a month before the FNB Dusi, the
resurgence of interest in river racing is sure to have a knock on effect for
the Dusi, which has similarly suffered in the drought years.
The appeal of the N3TC Drak spans a wide range of ages and abilities. At 26
kilometres, the first day is not long but technically demanding as it
includes ten kilometres of relentless rocky rapids.
The second stage is longer at 39 kilometres and includes numerous long flat
pools and the popular rapid-laced section through the Underberg Gorge.
The race attracts many novice paddlers and school pupils, as well as
recreational paddlers who might not be attracted to more endurance based
"It is key that the paddlers who visit us for the race have time to enjoy
the greater Underberg region as well," said Barnett.
"We share the weekend with the EuroSteel Drak Descent MTB race, which
follows the river closely, and allows for fun interaction between the
paddlers and the mountain bikers.
"There is also a fun ride and trail run for the seconders of the paddlers,
so that they can get involved as well.
With the majority of the paddlers completing the first stage before lunch on
the Saturday, the social nine-hole golf day at the Underberg Country Club is
also well supported.
He added that the local community was heavily committed to the event, and
earned income by providing services such as catering, car shuttle services,
camping, boat repairs and running the very popular Saturday night party.
The 2017 N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon takes place in the Southern
Drakensberg on 21 and 22 January 2017.
More information can be found at
Click to download the hi-res
The N3TC Drak Challenge 2017 Logo - JPeg
A summer of steady rain has left
the uMzinkhulu River flowing fast and full, and may lead to a repeat of the
very full river that was experienced in the 2013 edition of the N3TC Drak
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