Sat, 23 Nov 2019
FOR many 71-year-olds, retirement is a time to put your feet up and relax.
Sandi Smithers, however, is not like most 71-year-olds.
The Silchester woman has recently returned from the Ride the Rift challenge – an eight-day 300km cycle trek across Kenya.
Her journey started near the capital Nairobi, before heading south to Lake Magadi and onwards to the heart of the Great Rift Valley and the dramatic wildlife-rich plains of the Maasai Mara.
She wild-camped at night, setting up tents under the stars, eating around a fire and bathing in the river.
Mrs Smithers raised more than £4,400 for Charity Links and said she would do the challenge again in the blink of an eye.
“It was incredible, quite an eye-opener,” said the mother-of-one.
“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done, especially for my age, and also not being a regular bike rider, but I will be now.
“The early mornings were magic, that wonderful early morning light.
“We were woken up by colobus monkeys screeching in the morning. There were baboons, vervet monkeys and we saw many wildebeest, topi, giraffes and leopards all quite close to where we camped.”
Ride the Rift is organised by Charity Links – a UK charity that acts as an umbrella organisation helping small charities focused on educational projects in East Africa to raise funds.
On her first day in Kenya, Mrs Smithers visited Olloseos Girls School – a boarding school for Maasai girls.
The school is aided by Sevenoak Kenya Education Trust, one of the education charities supported by Charity Links.
Mrs Smithers said: “Lots of small charities are given grants by Charity Links, and it was good to see it first-hand.
“I saw the school and how the lives of the girls have changed – they’re keeping in touch with their Maasai roots, but they’re learning and going back and teaching other people in the village.
“Education is very important and enables them to do other things rather than just be a wife and have hundreds of children.
“All in all it was a very enlightening experience.”
Mrs Smithers was cheered on from home by her husband Neil, who said he was immensely proud of his wife.
He said: “I’m very impressed – given the fact that she’s over 40 by quite some margin, there’s not a lot of people her age who would do something like that.
“I’m immensely proud of her and glad she’s got through it in one piece because in practising three weeks before she went, she had an accident going round a mountain bike course and ended up with stitches in her leg.
“We can now sit back and look forward to the run up towards Christmas and think about what we’re going to do next year.”
To donate to Mrs Smithers’ cause, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=SandiSmithers&pageUrl=1