The use of small, rugged and portable video cameras has taken off in recent years. They can capture those exciting adventures you plan as well as unintended events. South African F800GS rider Johan Gray was wearing one recently to film a ride report while participating in an off-road qualifier event. Johan came across a little calf in a drainage canal about 110 miles (180km) from his starting point. When he turned around and rescued the struggling calf from the water, little did he know that the video he published would become a viral sensation, touching the hearts of motorcyclists, animal lovers and just about anyone who viewed it.
When not working his ‘day job’ as a consultant, the 46-year-old from Pretoria enjoys competing in various off-road races as well as working weekends as an off-road motorcycling instructor, helping people to master essential riding skills. It was while participating and filming he came across the little calf in the water. “Luckily as a kid I grew up in a small community where these canals also existed,” says Johan. “I knew the difficulties of getting in and out and all I needed was an anchor point. I had a rope and I used the bike for this, tying the strap quite low. I thought it was going to be a quick ‘grab and get the calf out’ but that wasn’t the case…”
In fact, although the video is heavily edited, the actual rescue took about 20 minutes. His first attempt at lifting the calf out failed, as did numerous other attempts at rescuing it, including pulling himself up with one hand while supporting the calf in the other, or carrying it on his back over his shoulders. In the end, with weakened muscles and a tiring calf, he eventually tied its legs together, tied the rope to the straps attached to his GS, then climbed out himself to haul the calf up with his bare hands.
Then it was a case of draping the calf over the GS’s saddle and finding the calf’s owner. Suffice to say that the young calf was eventually reunited with its mother and Johan was able to continue on his way, albeit tired and wet. When the video of his endevours was edited and posted online, he couldn’t believe how quickly the viral effect worked and in no time at all, he was receiving comments from all over the world.
“I did not expect this kind of reaction when it was published,” said the off-road instructor who still dreams of making the journey to the Enduro Park Hechlingen in Germany to improve his riding skills. “I’ve been humbled by the responses that I have received through comments, personal messages and emails. There is such a need in the world to believe that good exists, and that there is more than just the ‘bad news’ we see in the news. We can be so grateful for what we have and it makes me humble to think that I can make a difference in people’s lives.”
Check out the video for yourself below: