A group of courageous mountain bikers are set to make a powerful contribution to the fight against rhino poaching in KwaZulu-Natal when they tackle the daunting task of cycling 340km from Hillcrest to Hilltop Camp in Hluhluwe Game Reserve during the 2016 uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge on Saturday 10 December.
The event is a combination of endurance, camaraderie and a unique bushveld cycling experience, all the while keeping the underlying purpose of helping protect the endangered species for generations to come top of mind.
“Two years ago a small group of us were looking to test ourselves with a really tough mountain biking endurance challenge and so the uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge was born,” explains event organiser, Mark Carroll.
“The uBhejane Xtreme is all about the journey and is a gruelling but social ride rather than a race.
“There is no entry fee – instead we ask for participants to collect and make a minimum R5000 donation to Project Rhino KZN – and participants are responsible for all their own expenses along the way.
“There’s no doubting just how far 340km on a bicycle really is and the speed required to get to the finish before sunset means we travel at a blistering pace throughout, however we also get to explore some of the province’s finest sights and scenery along the way,” he adds.
While taking in the views and digging deep to overcome the event’s challenge, riders also remain focused on the key task at hand – helping the rhino’s cause.
“Rhino conservation is something we are all passionate about and so from the get-go we aligned ourselves with Project Rhino KZN and the fantastic work they are doing to protect our rhinos throughout KwaZulu-Natal,” says Carroll.
“Over the past two years we’ve raised over a quarter of a million Rand that has been put to great use across Project Rhino KZN’s various projects and programmes, and we hope to raise well beyond that figure during this year’s third edition.”
Starting at Cadence Cycling Performance Centre in Hillcrest in the early hours of the morning, cyclists head for the Dolphin Coastal town of Ballito by sunrise before starting their trek towards Zululand’s great focal point – Hluhluwe Game Reserve.
“After a tough day’s slog, the unique opportunity to immerse one’s self in the African bush and it’s wildlife during those magical final 35km through Hluhluwe Game Reserve is just indescribable.
“Accompanied by trackers on vehicles, participants cycle their way through Big 5 country and we regularly see rhino, elephant and other wildlife along the way.
“It really is a special experience for all.”
Further highlighting the event’s growing stature on the South African cycling scene, 2007 Rugby World Cup winning duo, John Smit and Butch James together with their fellow former Sharks stalwarts, Jeremy Thomson and John Slade have confirmed their participation in 2016.
Global explorer and humanitarian Kingsley Holgate, world renowned mountain adventurer Sibusiso Vilane and ‘the voice of cycling’ Phil Liggett have also confirmed their involvement in this year’s event.
Vilane will complete the event’s 240km Short Horn option, Liggett joining participants for the final stretch through Hluhluwe Game Reserve and Holgate is set to welcome participants home at the completion of their gruelling challenge.
The evening then sees participants spend the night at the spectacular Hilltop Camp where they will be treated to the to the opportunity to listen to some of Holgate, Vilane and Liggett’s wealth of fascinating tales and while enjoying a hearty potjie supper around the camp fire.
The 2016 uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge takes place from Hillcrest to Hluhluwe Game Reserve on Saturday 10 December.