N3TC Drak Challenge
Rains arrive to ease pressure on drought struck Drak
Underberg – A perfectly placed Drakensberg downpour has dramatically eased
the pressure on the organisers of the N3TC Drak Challenge on 23 and 24
January after months of dismally low water levels in the uMzimkhulu due to
the ravages of the El Niño fueled drought that is gripping the country.
With ten days to go to the 2016 race, the popular two-day event – which
usually attracts a field of close on 1000 paddlers – had a dismal entry as
canoeists watched the daily river reports in disbelief.
On Tuesday night a thunderstorm close to the Lesotho border above the
Drakensberg Gardens hotel brought the level of the river up half a metre
though, news of which has triggered a deluge of entries.
“Three days ago the race committee met to agonise over options if the river
remained at the desperately low level that it has run at throughout the
summer,” said race committee chairman Barry Cole. “Lately we had consistent
rains but with the water table having been so low, they have had no impact
at all on the river until now.”
Cole recently even sent out a cautionary email to paddlers countrywide
advising them that the race was considering a wide range of options, even
possibly postponing the event.
“Then we got this Perfect Storm!” said Cole.
“We hardly had any rain in Underberg itself but it all fell in that exact
catchment area high in the mountains and, for the first time this summer,
the whole river has come up!” he added excitedly.
Cole stressed that there were still ten days before the race, during which
time the river levels could change significantly. “At least we feel now that
postponing or cancelling the race is off the table!” explained Cole.
In 2013 the race was gearing up for a shortened format from the low level
start at the Trout Hatcheries when an unnoticed late night thunderstorm high
in the mountains left the river in spate – the highest level ever since its
dramatic flood debut in 1994.
“The weather can change so fast here in the Berg that we have to be prepared
for any possible river level,” said Cole.
Cole added that there was regular rain forecast on an almost daily basis in
the final build-up to the race, which would ideally sustain the excellent
current river levels being experienced on the uMzimkhulu.
“We know how quickly the uMzimkhulu can empty and how fast it comes down in
Cole said that on Monday 21 January the race committee would make a
preliminary call, in all likelihood confirming that the race will be held on
Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 January as planned.
“The final call on the race course will be made on Friday afternoon or, if
it really storms overnight, on Saturday morning,” Cole added.
“This region has been very hard hit by the drought and all the farmers –
livestock, dairy and the wide range of crops – are all struggling in the
“As a region we are all passionate about making sure the paddlers have an
enjoyable weekend in and around Underberg and Himeville during the N3TC Drak
Challenge, and the possibility of having to postpone or even cancel the race
was just adding to the gloom in the area,” he said.
“While this rain hasn’t broken the drought, it has definitely improved the
mood in the Underberg and Himeville community.”
The race also doubles as the first leg of the International Canoe
Federations Classic Series, which combines the world’s most popular river
marathons under a single global umbrella.
The N3TC Drak Challenge takes place on Saturday 23 and
Sunday 24 January 2016.
information can be found at www.drak.co.za
Click to download the hi-res
The N3TC Drak Challenge 2016 Logo - JPeg
After a summer-long drought that
has left the Mzimkhulu River running pitifully low, a perfectly placed
thunderstorm has filled the river ten days before the popular N3TC Drak
Challenge Canoe Marathon, rekindling the possibility of the high waters
experienced on the race in 2013.
A big field thrived on the
medium to low conditions of the Mzimklhulu River at last years N3TC Drak
Challenge. Entries for this years event have started pouring in following
news of a well-placed cloudburst that has seen the river level rise
significantly for the first time this summer, ten days before the popular
two-day race in the Southern Drakensberg.
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