Only once the last hardy soul had drifted off to their tent, Tommy leapt up and into his Land Cruiser to begin a 3-hour drive back to home in Palmwag. His is an unrelenting job. But this is his passion, and around the fire that night he inspired others.
As the cyclists emerged from their tents the following morning, several said they had lain awake in their sleeping bags, listening to Tommy’s stories, and at midnight they were sorry to hear Tommy say he had to leave.
Tommy was not the only new face on this year’s ride. With support from Piper & Heath, a San Diego-based travel firm founded by Namibian-born Chris Liebenberg, the Ride welcomed Matt Meyer. Durban-born Matt is a professional safari guide and no stranger to the bush or to the bike saddle.
Matt’s journey to Wêreldsend began some 15 000 km away in the American state of Oregon. His bold plan was to cycle approximately 3 200 km down the west coast of America, but he would not be doing it alone. Accompanying him for every painstaking pedal of his journey would be Luna, a life-size fibreglass replica of a black rhino. She weighed 200 kg. Matt’s ride would not be easy. Yet, with calves of steel and spurred on by a succession of super-hero movie soundtracks, Matt finished the ride all along the west coast in only 63 days. The donations received throughout his ride were sent to three rhino conservation organisations across Africa, including SRT.
Matt shared his story with guests at RMB Namibia in Windhoek and again, around the fire, during the Ride for Rhinos. He described himself as little more than a dude, on his bike, doing something that he is passionate about, and in his simple and modest explanation, a revelation was laid bare.
At times it is easy to think that we are in this fight alone, that the battle to save the future of the Namibian rhino begins and ends at the rocky border of Damaraland. As I have learnt, and as every single cyclist on the RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos has learnt, that is simply not the case.
If Namibia is to feel the full brunt of organised rhino poaching syndicates, then we must know that for every one of them there is a Matt. Someone willing to go above and beyond what is asked of them to try and make a positive difference. Someone who is willing to give: not just money, but time, blood and sweat to protect the rhino. From Windhoek to Los Angeles there are people who understand the magnitude of the struggle we are facing and will do everything in their power to help turn the tide in our favour. And should we find that some desperate Namibians turn to poaching we must not forget that for every one of them, there is a tracker out in the field risking his life to protect a species that means the world to them.
As Tommy drove away into the thick darkness of the Damaraland night and the last of the embers flicked out I knew that the fire burning in all our hearts to save the rhino would not be extinguished anytime soon. The poachers may be fuelled by greed, but us, no, we are fuelled by passion.