Hilltop rest camp certainly lives up to its name. The pinnacle of the 96,000 hectare joint reserves of Hluhluwe and iMfolozi was the finish line for the 48 brave riders who took on the 3rd annual uBejaneX (extreme)MTB (mountain bike)challenge of 320 or 240 kms.
The ride traversed plenty of varied off-road terrain, challenging riding indeed - all in aid of rhino conservation. Group one left Hilltop, Durban at 02.00am and the second an hour later 80kms nearer to the rendezvous point – 15 tough hours in the saddle awaited an - exceptionally tough challenge. Relieved faces greeted each other at the meet point point just 2kms inside the Reserve at the magnificent
bronze rhino statue that dominates the Centenary Centre.
The final 34kms ascent to Hilltop (500m above sea level) proved to be the toughest of the day, tired legs fought their way up the steep inclines and sharp descents, andin a steady cooling drizzle, climbing ever higher into the mist, finally arriving at the summit at 18.10.
Tired but satisfied that they had beaten the odds and well aware that the fight to save the rhino would be equally challenging, all riders agreed that it was a brilliant, if very long, day.
The event organized by Grant Fowlds and Sheila Kingsley (Head of Project Rhino KZN) and Mark Carrol, (Cadence Cycles) continues to raise
awareness and funds for rhino conservation in South Africa. It has gradually grown over the 3 years.
Speaking at the end of ride braii (held inside because of the rain) were organizing partner, Kingsley Holgate, the intrepid African explorer, and founder of the Rhino Art project (a programme we at Helping Rhinos are proud to running in the UK), Zulu born Richard Magamba, Community Conservation, working closely with Kingsley on Rhino Art, and ‘adopted’ by Project Rhino KZN – a truly inspirational man Springbok rugby captain and captain of the world cup winning team of 2007, John Smit; our own Patron Phil Liggett, who had ridden the last 34kms with the group; Sibu Siso, who rode the 240kms, Head of Scouting SA, and the first black South African to summit Everest. All spoke passionatelyabout the continued need to stop the poaching and slaughter of rhino.
We, Phil and I, were very fortunate to spend the weekend with such motivational and passionate people. On Sunday, we were able to visit the orphaned rhino boma at the Centenary Centre which houses rhinos whose mothers had been slaughtered for their horn. Over 100 have been lost in this reserve alone this year.
There is still plenty to be done.
Increasing awareness, is still key in the fight against poaching and trafficking, and the more we can spread the word and help financially to secure these wilderness areas where rhino still have their freedom, the more likely we are to win this tragic war.
Why not think about training hard to join the event next year, when it will be a joint venture with Helping Rhinos.
Details of how to take part in 2017 will be available shortly.
Trustee of Helping Rhinos
Check out the following websites to see who else was involved with the event: