Pandora Long, one of the intrepid ‘river walkers’ tackling the 265km uMngeni in May recalls an interesting interlude:
I invited Gordon Lewis Pugh to swim the DUZI (Campsdrift) when he was in PMB last year. He looked at me as though it was an impossible achievement. “But isn’t it very dirty!” he said. An unspoken thought hung for a moment between us. “But that’s the point!” Here standing before me was undoubtedly one of the fittest men in the world, mentally and physically. A man that swims in sub zero temperatures like a human polar bear! That the idea of swimming in the Duzi’s dirty water was out of the question was, for me, the saddest reflection on how man has denigrated the world that is his home, the world that he is entrusted to love and care for.
My work in environmental education and advocacy has, at heart, one impossible mission. One of restoring the relationship between people and place and of achieving new understandings of healthy rivers and healthy communities. It is a vision of restored respect and reverence for all life and consideration for the effect of our individual and collective actions. It is a vision for rehabilitation and re-inspiration.
In this vision the little tributaries that run through the valley where I live in the Mpushini Valley and near the schools where I teach environmental education, all around Pietermaritzburg, run clean again to join the Msunduzi and uMngeni to wind their way with renewed life and vigour over rapids and gorges through the Valley of a Thousand Hills to meet the sea at Blue Lagoon. In this vision our children have opportunities to play in clean and safe rivers and get to know, love and protect the plants and animals and cycles that maintain the lifeblood of our planet.
Achieving the impossible is what inspires me every day. It is for this reality that I would swim the dirtiest river.
‘Achieving the Impossible’ by Gordon Lewis Pugh ISBN 978-1-86842-340-8