Gran learns to ride a bike for Africa trek

Barbara Gillies

Barbara Gillies

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‘When you think you’re getting too old to do something, think again!’

‘When you think you’re getting too old to do something, think again!’

“At first I thought ‘you’re having a laugh, you know I can’t ride a bike!’”

Barbara Gillies

A Preston grandma is back home after completing a five-day cycle trek in Tanzania – after learning to ride a bike especially for the mammoth charity ride.

Barbara Gillies, from Ashton-on-Ribble, was encouraged to sign up for the 350-kilometre challenge by a friend.

The 64-year-old said: “At first I thought ‘you’re having a laugh, you know I can’t ride a bike’.

“But I did it, and now I can say I can definitely ride a bike!”

The former care home boss bought her first bike and started training for the epic African ride in the summer of last year, and set off with friends Debbie Hamriding, from Longridge, and Anne Gelderd, from Clitheroe, on October 9.

The trio were part of a large group of women fund-raising for three cancer charities, tackling tough terrain and coming face-to-face with African wildlife.

“On the first night, our camp was at Olpopongi Maasai Village, with a barbeque dinner around the camp fire, Maasai singing and dancing, and accommodation in two-man tents; another first for me,” Barbara said.

They had lunch at a primary school on one occasion, and slept in tents and basic hotels.

The group was accompanied by doctors, mechanics and a ground crew who provided water and refreshments.

Barbara described one section of the trek as being so sandy, “it was like cycling through treacle”.

“It feels like an ‘out of body’ experience really, I can’t believe I did it. Although I’ve got the bruises to prove it!

“There were ladies of all ages and abilities and there were tears and laughter along the way, and aching muscles.”

The group was rewarded on their sixth and final day in Tanzania with a safari trip into the Ngorongoro Crater.

Barbara said: “Everywhere we looked there were herds of wildebeests, zebras – referred to by our driver as ‘disco donkeys’ – lions, monkeys, all kinds of birds and even a couple of elephants.

“We had a picnic lunch sitting on the grass at the side of a wide lake, where hippos were bobbing about in the water.”

Each rider had to raise £3,000 to take part, for Breast Cancer Care, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust and Ovarian Cancer Action.

Barbara, who lives with husband Roy and has two daughters, managed to raise £3,400 from sponsorship, car boot sales and other fund-raising.

She said: “We all take with us our own special memories of this trip and our reasons for doing it in the first place.

“We are all touched in some way by cancer; I personally lost a very special mum and mum-in-law.”