A mountain biking former rugby player on a Rhino mission
10 March 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Hello and welcome and thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. It’s obviously where you come to find out about mountain biking, any type of angle that the sport offers.
We always talk to people who have a passion for mountain biking, be it riders, be it race organisers, trail builders, any sphere of the sport that comes to mind. Today we’re talking to one of many people from the world of sport who have turned their physical exercise from, in this case a rugby ball to a bicycle. Deon Strydom played rugby for the Blue Bulls. when was that Deon?
Deon Strydom: Morning Gerald, I joined the Bulls in 2003, before that I was at the Old Transvaal for a couple of seasons. So basically from 2003 until 2006.
GDK: It’s quite a big step from a rugby field to a mountain bike, how much mountain biking do you do now?
DS: At the moment I’m a little bit lazy, but the last couple of years I’ve done quite a few races. Last year Sani and Wine2Whales, done that a couple of times. Then 2-3 years ago the Epic, I must say I only got halfway, but still got a date finishing that one.
Why rugby players love mountain biking
GDK: What is it about the sport, because you’re not the only one. You could field two rugby teams of mountain biking rugby players. What is it about the sport that attracts you guys?
DS: I think the camaraderie and that whole team feeling. Although it’s just two guys in a team, it’s one of the very few sports that you actually do get that team feeling. There’s a lot of similarities between rugby guys. When it gets tough, you need your team member to pull you through and vice versa.
GDK: I think that’s one of the themes, I’ve spoken to rugby players, the suffering. You guys go through some fairly serious pain on the rugby field. So anything you do on a mountain bike is not quite the same.
DS: I must say, the occasional fall is actually quite nice, just to remind you a bit of the contact. I think when we were born we were actually born to make contact. So I must say, the occasional fall, if you don’t break anything, it’s actually quite nice getting up and going on again.
GDK: Now you’re not playing rugby for a living and you’re riding your bike for fun. But obviously you do other things and you’ve got the Pilanesberg Private Lodge, tell us about that.
DS: Yes Gerald, about eight years ago, I always had a dream of developing a Game Lodge and sitting on a patio watching a lion or a leopard, having a drink at a waterhole in front of a lodge. There’s only a few places where you can actually do that. I love the Lowveld, love the Kruger and we grew up going to Kruger as a family.
The Pilanesberg, an amazing area, also a Big Five area. Just actually on my way to the park one day, I stopped, bought a caravan and we started developing a lodge there. It was a massive adventure, no roads or fences up in the wilderness and amazing time of being in between the big animals and close to nature, it was all good.
The allure of being out there
GDK: Which all ties in a bit with mountain biking because that’s one of the underlying themes of mountain biking that gets people out into sometimes the wilderness areas. But out into the country doesn’t it? That’s one of the attractions.
DS: For sure, I think there’s places that you only can get with a bike. Some of these races, I did a couple of stages of the joBerg2c two years ago. There’s some places there on the escarpment where there were literally no vehicles.
The guys who went up there, it was either walking or with the mountain bike. I think in the wilderness areas guys are always curious about getting into areas where there’s lion and elephant and leopard. It’s obviously not ideal to go on a game drive with a bike. But I think it’s always a nice area to be able to go on your bike.
GDK: Do you ride your bikes in your park?
DS: No, not formally.
GDK: Take that as you wish! So, the germination of possibly putting an event on around the Pilanesberg Game Lodge, tell us about that.
Starting an event in support of Black Rhino Reserve Wildlife Trust
DS: Yes, Gerald. I think a lot of guys, being involved with lodges, they market as Big Five destinations. With the current poaching spree that’s going on, I think you’re a bit of a hypocrite if you carry on marketing your lodge to the world and not doing anything to preserve the rhinos.
What we’ve done, we came up with the idea to do a race in the wilderness area and Parks Board were very favourable of the idea. To raise funds for stopping poaching and also for conservation. A couple of years ago myself and a mate of mine, Warren Joffe, we set up a trust with the help of Investec. it’s called the Black Rhino Reserve Wildlife Trust. So we want to use this as a vehicle to do certain anti-poaching projects.
We’ve put up some watch towers. We’ve got a vehicle and we got a guy, Andrew Jackson, he’s quite well known in the guarding fraternity. He’s actually heading up our anti-poaching unit. Through this trust we thought of raising some funds through mountain biking, what we all love. I’m sure there’s some people who would love to get out and ride where an elephant walked the previous morning or whatever.
GDK: It sounds a fantastic initiative from two aspects, obviously the fundraising and also from the riding. What sort of riding would one get there?
DS: Look Gerald, I think the main thing, and that’s one thing that everybody must know. You can’t go, the racing snakes will have to tighten their brakes just because of the nature of animals. If you go past a pride of lion, they’re chasing animals.
So if they’re going to see a guy on his bike going there, they’re definitely going to take the opportunity for a little takeaway. It will be a ride, I think the main focus will be conservation. Obviously getting to areas where you will cross where lions walked that morning and you probably would see, hopefully, some rhino and some elephant. Maybe some buffalo on the route. But it won’t be a race, it will definitely be a ride.
When it is and what to expect
GDK: When are we talking about?
DS: We fixed a date for the 3rd of December. I think for the last 25 odd years, the Sun City Golf Challenge was the first week of December. This year we all know that it changed to earlier in November, being part of that road to Dubai. We just thought that maybe that weekend, I think a lot of people are going to pitch up at their hotel and their timeshare thinking they’re going to watch golf. So maybe that’s a good date.
As I said, Parks Board are very keen, they gave us permission to go through the park. There is one silver lining for the racing snakes, is on the adjacent property, the reserve is in the Black Rhino Reserve. Which is the north western side of the Pilanesberg. There’s a property there that we will have like a 20km and we thought that would be a strava route. So the guys can do round about 40km in the wilderness area and then there’ll be 20km strava where the guys can race a bit.
GDK: Lion free?
DS: That’s lion free!
GDK: Again, it’s another offer for people to get out and ride. To be fair, it’s about 2 hours from Pretoria/Jo’burg area, so accommodation, realistically you’d want to spend a night there?
DS: I think the best would be, if people will make a weekend of it, which is ideal. There’s a lot of accommodation on Black Rhino Reserve itself, there’s quite a few private lodges there. Then obviously Sun City. I think that weekend, not having the golf is actually going to be quite an interesting week.
The schools have probably closed, guys have finished with exams and also having it like a family affair. In that I believe the change must come from the youth as well. Kids must see, we’re going to have our protection unit there. The guys actually doing work and some of the pictures that happens to rhinos.
We always see the nice things, nice on a game drive, taking a picture of a massive white rhino or a black rhino running through the bush. To see them lying there without their horns, that’s actually what this is about and we need to act on it. There are a lot of people that do great jobs or great work in preserving it, but everybody needs to buy into stopping this spree.
GDK: Let’s get to the details of the ride, the distances and are there are variety of distances on offer?
DS: So, we’ve got the 40km and as I said, it’ll be a casual ride. I think a lot of people will probably just do the 40km. Then for the guys that feel they’re all dressed up and they want to race a bit, we actually did the route on the adjacent property, it’s literally on the perimeter of the fence. There’s some general game there on that area and I think that will be, just to get the adrenalin worked out a little bit. So I think the option of those two, but if people can do the 40km, that would be great.
GDK: Where can we find out more details?
DS: We’ve got a Facebook page, it’s called The Black Rhino Reserve Wildlife Trust Facebook page. We’re going to start posting some information on the race on that.
GDK: The date?
DS: 3 December 2016.
GDK: Great way to start your holiday. Deon Strydom, thanks very much for chatting to us, keep us safe out there on the ride. Although it would be quite nice to see the odd lion chasing a racing snake upfront.
DS: I think that’s one race or ride where the marshals will be very quiet. Because we’ve got some four legged marshals that might do the job.
GDK: Deon, thanks very much for chatting to us about a new ride and therein is perhaps another little twist. It’s not a race, although there is a little bit of a twist, you can have a race if you want to. But it’s essentially a ride to raise funds for the protection of the rhino. That is a very good cause, so go and check it out on that Facebook page.
Thanks for downloading our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast once more. Let’s hope you do so again. If you’re out on your bike, do so safely. Think about making a contribution to the saving of our wildlife in this country and taking part in events such as this, until next time, cheers.