FOUNDER’S STATEMENT: DEON DE WET
Looking back on a lifetime of worldwide backcountry adventure travel and almost two decades of practicing and teaching Yoga & Mindfulness, I feel truly blessed to have so many fond memories. A native of South Africa who has lived in California for 30+ years, I have come to understand that spending time off the beaten track is a spiritual experience that brings us in harmony with nature and allows us to interact with a region’s particular animal and plant life. For myself, as for many others, there is added meaning in giving back, by making a positive contribution to the health and vitality of the habitats we interact with.
I still find it fascinating that a mechanical device such as a motorcycle can be an effective vehicle for accessing states of enlightenment so similar to those that one might strive for on a more formal spiritual path such as meditation or yoga.
Responsibly riding a motorcycle or a 4-wheel vehicle both off-road and on – in a way that respects and preserves the fauna, flora & indigenous culture of the natural environment – can be a wonderful way to explore one’s personal ideas of both inner and outer mobility.
I have found my journeys into the wilderness to be incredibly helpful in pursuit of the core values that I hold most dear: the cultivation of compassion, the clarification of consciousness, and the generation of goodwill.
My motivation for creating this organization comes from a longstanding concern for wildlife conservation and habitat restoration that began during my military service in and around the Etosha National Park in Namibia during the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was involved in an effort to foster cooperation and mutual support among the indigenous population of Northern Namibia, including the Ovambo, Himba and Khoi-San peoples. The approaches we used to maintain good relationships with various stakeholders in the region promoted wildlife welfare as well as harmony among the different tribes and military personnel in the areas where I was stationed.
Fast forward several decades to when I relocated to the Upper Ojai Valley in southern California and began to enjoy my new surroundings by accessing them on foot, horseback, by motorcycle, and by 4-wheel drive vehicle. I soon saw the need for care and compassion in the same 3 spheres: wildlife, habitat and indigenous culture.
I started to supplement my livelihood as a yoga teacher, bodywork practitioner and instructor by introducing and guiding others through the areas I had been frequenting most often: The Los Padres National Forest, the Carrizo Plain, the Sespe Wilderness and the Southern Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Since the wildlife and habitat of these geographic areas formed the key asset to my fledgling outdoor travel and recreation business, I developed a real desire to create a synergistic, symbiotic relationship with these natural resources; we would enjoy them one hand and give back on the other by caring for, maintaining and protecting them. So I founded the Ojai Motorcycle Club with a clear social purpose to promote conservation in the areas we visit.
Just when I was moving our activities into higher gear, I experienced a serious injury, breaking my leg at a desert motorcycle desert rally.
A week later I found myself struggling to protect our Upper Ojai property from the ferocious Dec. 2017 Thomas Fire, which took the house, garage/barn and several pets. Fortunately, I managed to save our guesthouse, a couple of valuable out-buildings and thankfully, most of our assortment of farm animals. Read The Guardian article here…
In the days after the fire came through, I initiated and coordinated the rescue of a seriously injured black bear that turned out to be pregnant. An experimental treatment was successfully applied to her badly burned paws and she was healed and returned to the wild with her cub, where she has been monitored ever since by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. Watch the National Geographic video here…
This profound experience helped me to overcome my own trauma and the healing continued as I spent more and more time in the backcountry, exploring all the burned areas and then reveling in the recovery of the land and appreciating the stunning beauty of the ‘fire follower’ wildflowers and other dramatic ways in which our ecosystem regenerates.
I now felt so strongly about promoting and protecting these areas and their inhabitants that I wanted to intensify my efforts so I founded the Ojai Adventure Club, a non-profit group which features local charitable events and activities as well as organized tours on foot, horseback, motorcycle, or 4WD, vehicle. I intend to spend the rest of my life working to support the welfare of wildlife through conservation and habitat restoration both in California and abroad. We have recently added South Africa, Thailand and Mexico to the locations where we are active.
The charitable contributions we receive are used to operate a viable eco-adventure touring organization that is completely dedicated to living in harmony with and protecting the areas we explore, based on four pillars: wildlife conservation, habitat preservation, access maintenance, eco adventures.