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Conquering more than the roads in Safari Rally

Living
 Talanta Hela Ladies Rally Team driver Lisa Christoffersen (left) and her navigator Mitchelle Mtwanguo Chao (far right) with Galana Energies Limited Head of Operations Sandra Oluoch (centre) ahead of the 2024 WRC Safari Rally (Photo: Jonah Onyango/ Standard)

Lisa Christoffersen is best known locally for being the peacemaker on the beloved reality series the Real Housewives of Nairobi. She is a rally driver, a safari expert, author and designer.

Amid heated tea parties and spicy evening events, the calm-spirited Lisa is one to pull cast mates aside for invitations to do yoga at her home. In one of the episodes of season one of the show, we see Lisa call all the ladies to watch the RX Rally in Machakos.

Lisa says she founded the first women-only rally team, The Lionesses, back in 2022.

“We were eight female drivers and eight female navigators. Even all of our officials, marshalls, police, GSU and security were women. It is about breaking barriers, making a difference and empowering young women to take charge of their lives by literally steering in the direction you go,” she says.

Lisa says that today, two years later, she works with four female rally drivers, four women navigators and an all-female team.

“Driving for change is my motto this year. I am a cancer survivor and I want to support children who have cancer.”

During this WRC Safari Rally, Lisa and the ladies are driving under the Ministry of Sports, and her squad is dubbed the Talanta Hela Ladies Safari Rally Team.

“So our cars will look like the Kenyan flag,” Lisa says with a tinge of pride and excitement.

On the preparation, she notes: “Sunday evening we had driver’s briefing in Naivasha. On Monday was a long 12 hours to do Recce, yesterday we’ve driven the whole WRC Rally route, that’s over three days, we have driven in two days.”

Rallying is an intense sport, and as Lisa explains, it also takes lots of fitness training to be able to hack it. She told Capital FM in a previous interview that it takes “a lot of mental and physical preparation.”

“Strength training, stretching, kickboxing, boxing, pilates and yoga as well as some swimming in-between to boot are some of the ways I have been gearing up. Mentally, I get my mind ready every morning, tapping into an alternate reality for the journey I am about to embark on,” she told the radio station.

Her story of being a cancer survivor is an inspiring part of her journey that speaks of her true fighter spirit.

She says: “In 2006 I was diagnosed with stage four cancer, but I said to them eh! Me I have things to do, children to raise, places to go, rallies to drive. I had three months of chemotherapy in South Africa, a haemorrhage in my lungs, I was on life support for five weeks, and here I am today fitter and stronger than ever.”

“I expect that all the Talanta Hela ladies finish and celebrate on the podium at Hell’s Gate. I am excited to meet all the internationals coming in,” she says.

Lisa’s story of survival is reflected in some of the meaningful interactions she is having in the course of the rally.

She says: “I have already met a lot of people, like a lady I met yesterday from Belgium. She has two sons participating in the WRC safari rally, and she told me today that her youngest son is a cancer survivor - he had cancer in his kidneys as a child, and he is going to be driving. It is so good that we are all here together, and for a cause, do you know what I mean?”

Speaking of inspiring women of the rally, Lisa and the other women in the Safari Rally are riding on the shoulders of giants who came before them. Like the late Orie Rogo Manduli, whose name lives on as the first African woman to compete in the Safari Rally.

The Standard reported on Manduli early this week: “The renowned Kenyan activist and fashionista was known to be a person of many firsts in her illustrious life. Other than winning beauty contests, she participated in the 1974 Safari Rally edition alongside Sylvia Omino who was her co-driver.”

The report added: “She was also popular with her African Attire with matching massive gigantic head scarfs which acted as her trademarks. Mrs Manduli was also quick to try out new horizons. For instance, she was an astute farmer and always encouraged her community members to venture into agri-business.”

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