Duzi Days

Time has flown and I have not let you all know that Mayday for Rivers – uMsunduzi River is taking shape. Much more low key than our last walk, but with the same objectives – to see first hand what is happening to the uMsunduzi River – fondly known by many as the Duzi.

Duzi Day One

Duzi Day One happened a few weeks ago, when I (Penny Rees) was summoned to ‘Maritzburg by Doug Burden, our DUCT manager. As my son Breandan was visiting me at the time, the two of us reported early one Saturday morning to the river bank at the YMCA in Pietermaritzburg. As I am not a canoeist, the word trepidation defined my feelings – we were to paddle this stretch. I need not have worried, our trusty mode of transport turned out to be two 3 man inflatables. Breandan and Dave Still, (DUCT Chairman) accompanied me in one canoe, whilst Doug, Stembiso & Nicholas (River Care Teams) paddled the other canoe.

The steep, high river banks and muddy water carried us down over still pools and over rapids. We saw plenty of pipes – presumably storm water drains – leading to the river.

One construction site had crept far too close to the river bank causing a slip where the bank had collapsed into the river. 

Areas where the river care teams have worked were beautiful – no invasives at all.

These were interspersed with areas so choked with invasive plants that they are impenetrable, and no sign can be seen of whatever indigenous vegetation is underneath! Dave kept telling me to slow down with photos, as I was shooting away madly. He was worried I wouldn’t have any space left on my camera for what he described as the best photos.

A tributary coming straight from Maritzburg brought a ribbon of plastic rubbish floating down the river.

We stopped at an area that DUCT helping to rehabilitate – The Mussons Rehabilitation Project. 

– beautiful veld grass, wild flowers and Acacia trees – what a wonderful green belt this will make.

On a steep slope with thick indigenous bush. we spotted 4 young puppies, with their mother not far away – they seemed to have come down the steep slope from houses above, and we passed quite a few fishermen on the banks.

Approaching a weir, Doug, in the lead boat, pulled up on the banks and got out to have a look at conditions – a sensible idea seeing as only 2 of our group of 6 are paddlers.

Dave decided  that our boat would shoot the weir, and as we shot over the top we heard Doug shouting and looked back to see Stembiso and Nicholas hot on our trail, shooting the weir whilst Doug still stood on the bank.  The huge smiles on their faces were uplifting to see – and probably mirrored mine.

And then we sobered up very fast. The river is overhung by bush and many trees, each of which is bedecked with thousands of scraps that have tangled on the branches during floods. Plastic rubbish, material – old clothes and rags, the odd plastic chair and crate, it was an unbelievable scene.

As we drifted past in stunned silence, it was like being in science fiction movie – a movie where  man has messed up the planet, everythings gone pear shaped and everything is in disastrous limbo.

We floated past this colourful carnage that flapped slowly in the breeze, like so many bizarrely decorated Christmas trees.

The mixed blessing is that once all the invasive trees are cleared there will be nothing for the rubbish to hook on – that’s the plus side. On the negative side, all that rubbish will then just keep on a floating down the river. Maybe a place somewhere where a trash boom could be erected to catch it?

It was an eye opener to see the (in)famous Darvill Waste Water Works, with a different system of releasing water into the river to what I am used to in Howick. A series of what can only be described as wide concrete steps leads down to the river, with the water tumbling over them – presumably to oxygenate the water. 

The water was covered in white foam which formed a long ribbon as it washed down in the river– cause unknown.

Then we seemed to be leaving Pietermaritzburg. The number of storm water drains decreased and we paddled through indigenous bush,  this time draped with weaver bird nests.

A pair of Egyptian Geese accompanied us for a long way, swimming always a few metres in front of the lead canoe. Our end point was in stunning Bushveld, the river water seemed to be clearer and it was hard to believe how the river had changed as we came down.

Duzi One done and dusted!



About Nikki Brighton

I live in Howick, between the river and the hills. I enjoy pre-dawn walks in the streets with my dog, sitting on the veranda with crochet and tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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4 Responses to Duzi Days

  1. Rob Karssing says:

    Hi Penny,

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Sadly there is a cost to our modern lifestyle which is shared with many third woorld countries with a growing population with less resources available for clean up. Thank you for DUCT for taking remial action to mitigate against the social evils of primarily pollution and habitat change. The Duzi is ranked as one of our most abused systems and is the recipient of the Baynespruit ranked as one of the worst rivers in SA. I know that you have a reasonable handle in monitoring the pollutants releassed into this system and I applaud you for your inputs and hard work in this regard.

    Keep up the sterling work,
    Rob Karssing

  2. Jan Phelan says:

    Jan Phelan


    P.O. Box 25, Howick 3290 KZN

    Landline:033 330 2948

    Cell:082 876 0003

  3. Penny Rees says:

    He he – getting there! Watch this space

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