Ottawa dirt biker to ride across Patagonia, raise funds for park rangers

Ottawa dirt biker Mike Cox is one of 15 riders taking part in an epic rally in Patagonia, helping to deliver gear to natural park rangers.

Mike Cox is one of 15 riders taking part in epic South American rally

Fifteen Rally for Rangers riders will take part in a dirt bike rally in Patagonia, delivering the bikes to natural park rangers. (Courtesy of Rally for Rangers)

Protecting the world's special places — one motorcycle at a time.

That's how Rally for Rangers states its purpose: the foundation raises funds to purchase new motorbikes and gear for rangers in some of the world's most remote natural parks.

Later this year, some 15 riders will be heading to South America's sparsely-populated Patagonia region to take part in a gruelling 1,500-kilometre rally — and Ottawa dirt biker Mike Cox is one of them.

Cox told CBC Radio's In Town and Out that he first heard about the rally through a friend and decided to sign up.

"My initial reaction was, yeah, OK, whatever! And then I'm sitting in my office, and it's late at night, and I thought, well, what the heck."

Cox said he's raised about a third of his $11,000 fundraising goal, which included a donation from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.

He added that he's not fazed by the danger and challenges inherent in the rally.

"I've broken the odd bone, but you know, they heal," he said. "Maybe a little slower at my age, but it doesn't scare me off."

Ottawa's Mike Cox is one of 15 dirt bikers taking part in this year's Rally for Rangers trek through the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile. (Courtesy of Mike Cox)

Rally for Rangers first took shape in 2013, when former U.S. park ranger Robert McIntosh was working in Mongolia to help strengthen the country's national park system.

After seeing that park rangers were in dire need of equipment, McIntosh pledged to return the following year to deliver a new dirt bike.

Once back home in the U.S., he soon enlisted dirt bike riders to take part in what became the group's first rally in Mongolia.

Adventure — but also advocacy

While the thrill of the adventure is part of the attraction, Rally for Rangers co-founder Tom Medema told In Town and Out the goal is above all to help the rangers do their job.

When you combine that environmental protection and helping these rangers with the adventure of a lifetime, it's hard to pass that up.- Rally for Rangers co-founder Tom Medema

"They're trying to protect some of the last pristine resources on earth," Medema said.

"And they just don't have the resources that they need."

Medema says the rangers have to deal not only with well-equipped poachers, but also with illegal mining and other harmful development.

"When you combine that environmental protection and helping these rangers with the adventure of a lifetime, it's hard to pass that up," he said.

'Not for the faint of heart'

Besides new dirt bikes, rally participants have also delivered other gear to the rangers, including new tents and sleeping bags, GPS units and binoculars.

After three rallies in Mongolia, this December's Patagonia ride marks the first time they've branched out of Asia.

"It's not for the faint of heart," Medema said of the trek, which includes vast stretches of roadless areas, dirt trails and river crossings.

"It's rough. It's rugged. It takes a lot of stamina," 

Besides the rally in Patagonia, the group will also be hosting another rally in the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park of Mongolia.