Following our article published in the May edition (‘A Rhino Knight’s Tale’), Isabel Wolf-Gillespie reports on her progress since departing on her arduous 10,000km journey to raise awareness of the plight of Africa’s dwindling rhino population.
Wow, what an amazing time we have had since leaving Durban on May 01.
Heading out from Kainon School in Westville with a huge crowd gathered to wish us well was overwhelming to say the least. The last six months of preparation have been hectic and when the day of departure finally came, emotions were flooding over. Happiness, relief and a fair dose of some anxiety!
The route over the first week has taken us from Durban to Richmond, through the Coleford Reserve and to Underberg where we spent a wonderful time with great friends!
In Underberg the freezing cold arrived and did not abate until we reached Cradock. Waking up after a night in the tent with frost all around makes getting changed a rather challenging and funny undertaking… Whilst trying to put my one foot through tight leggings, balancing on the other foot to avoid the freezing ground with my bare toes was reason for hysterical laughter more than once. To cycle in cold conditions is difficult, my chest gets tight and muscles become cold very quickly. It is hard to decide whether to wear another layer or not, when pedaling uphill you start to sweat but going downhill the extra layer is more than welcome and needed! I have never been one for the cold and this has been the biggest challenge for me on this stretch. The physical exercise and demand on my body has been manageable, and so far I am coping well.
Travelling through Matatiele and Mount Fletcher along portions of the mountainous Freedom Challenge route we reached Rhodes over the highest pass in South Africa! Naudés Pass measures 2500m above sea level and at the top the wind nearly blew me off my bike. After the climb we dropped down for about 25km into Rhodes and from there, proceeded through Barkly East, Sterkstroom, Tarkastad and the beginning of the Karoo to Cradock, Willowmore, Outdshoorn and Calitzdorp.
Arriving in the Cape Wine region we travelled through the stunning areas of Montagu, Villiersdorp, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. We have travelled through some very remote areas without reception for many days and I am writing this from Durbanville / Cape Town having covered almost 2000kms so far. Today is a physical rest day to recuperate strength and energy, and to catch up on all media and communication.
As part of the awareness campaign we have been conducting a research questionnaire asking conservation organizations, individuals, reserves, environmental science students, etc what they believe are the problems with the poaching crisis and what possible solutions are. This has been a complete eye opener for all of us and the more questionnaires are being filled out, the more we realize the value of it. After the completion of the campaign we will evaluate this and get involved in active anti-poaching measures.
Self-funding this campaign has been very challenging and Lloyd has flown back to Durban for a few days to sell our car to keep us on the road! In George, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay we had some fantastic events organized (A trail run by Nature Sport Company, a visit and presentation to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Saasveld campus and a fund raiser dinner at the Grand Café & Rooms) and we are very grateful for the support we received. A heartfelt thank you to the organizers!
Tomorrow (Tuesday, 04 June, 7pm for 7:30pm) we are holding a talk at the Atlantic Imbizo Conference Centre in Cape Town and will move on up the West Coast towards Namibia the day after.
Thank you to everyone that has helped us so far! As always without the generosity and kindness of the South African people this would not be possible!
Stay well and be Happy!
Information on dates for fun runs and the proposed route can be found on our website www.earthawareness.co.za. If you would like to get involved in the campaign, become a sponsor, or to show your support email us on [email protected]
Or follow us on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/RhinoKnights
Donations for as little as R10 ($1.13USD) can be sent via SMS to 48716 with the words RHINOKNIGHTS in the text field.