HEARD OF BIKING WITH A CONSCIENCE? MEET ANIL NAIR
(In the words of Sandhya, courtesy - http://www.pebblewalks.com/)
That quite stitches together what the maiden biking trip to Spiti Valley was for Anil Nair, traveler & creator of Goodwind Riding. I was always intrigued by his desire to hit the tougher, more difficult stretches on his bike. Given an early memory of a serious biking accident, this seemed treacherous. But like Anil says, “It’s in everyone else’s mind except mine”.
Maps just show the way. The road is for you to discover, be it rough or smooth.
As they say for every traveler, there is an abundance of emotions from the very first day you hit the road. As a biker, the fact that you have all senses on that road & your bike is truly your only best mate, makes that a glaring reality. But as a Goodwind Rider I have to say there was one feeling that dominated throughout. That of ‘BEING HUMBLED’.
I felt very very small. Both the terrain and the unexpectedness took me by surprise many times. I often thought of the children who this ride was dedicated to and the challenges they faced. In a sense, it kept me grounded and even more dedicated to completing every mile of it.
The journey to Spiti & the valley itself is stunning, if you are simply capturing it through your eyes & interactions. When on a bike though, every bump especially post the second day of the ride in my case, reminds you of how resilient you need to be.
I did choose Spiti for the fact that it was tougher and for the challenge it offered me.
What I didn’t know though, was the feeling I’d experience and how inspired I’d be by the folks who I met along the way.
(A rough route map. Chandigarh – Narkanda – Kalpa – Chitkul – Kalpa – Kaza – Manali – Chandigarh.)
I work in marketing and have been inspired by many life stories I’ve heard in the course of my people conversations. Partly that & something we put together at my agency a few years back called ‘life changers’ for brands, propelled me to think of the same in my own journey. It seemed like an inevitable outcome. And Goodwind Riding was born.
You can bike or take a back-breaking road trip and feel the thrill of having conquered something. That’s pure pleasure. But the tremendous peace & satisfaction you get, by knowing that this was done to monetarily help put two children with cancer on a path to recovery, is very different. That made my ride meaningful.
It is wishing everyone who chooses to take journeys as a part of this initiative & the fighters who are trying to overcome their daunting challenges, the blessing of good winds. May they always blow their way.
Which is why the first Spiti Valley ride was done through an association with Children’s Cancer Care currently associated with Tata Memorial Hospital. And the bike & all logistics were impeccably managed by Beaux Adventures (they will be a part of this initiative here on) and a tireless, effervescent biker buddy Vivek Sundaram. So grateful to all of them. I’d like to say Goodwind Riding offers all, the pleasure of biking with a purpose.
I was familiar with the road from Chandigarh to Kalpa. Most of it. But I always welcome the beauty that hits me when I travel from Kufri to Narkanda & thereafter the entire journey to the apple orchards of Kalpa. The onward trip to Chitkul and finally to Spiti Valley was totally new and the most taxing, that too for hours. There were times I felt I’d lose my balance. And the deepest drop was 10,000 ft. The roads were truly a test on your fitness & emotional readiness.
And I was lucky, I was on a Triumph Tiger XRX that kept me steady for over 8 days.
But the many many hours of just you, the bike, nature and the winds are inexplicable. The landscape gave me so many reasons to stop & stare wide-eyed. But the stretches of open roads with just some brave travelers sometimes on a bicycle too, were much too tempting. I had to keep going.
A pity, I missed going to Chandra Taal. But I was thrilled to be on the world’s highest village connected by a motorable road, called Komic village (4587 metres). At Kaza, the Kye Gompa, sacred to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism and perched atop a hill looked magical, from a distance & up close. On my return, Manali as I discovered was totally alive with a flourishing art & music scene. Felt hippie & happy.
My one big escape moment though was when a landslide, sudden as it always is, brought boulders down as I was riding. And I had just a few minutes to clip through and out of danger. That was the craziest.
I feel so blessed and inspired to have met some fabulous travelers and locals.
I was thrilled to meet the Bicycle Marathoners from the Indian Army on their training sessions. The fact that they brave such a terrain to protect our land is huge enough. That they bicycle so effortlessly got me feeling quite silly about my many, ‘are these even roads’ kind of thoughts.
Another was meeting a bunch of young boys who were from my faraway home state of Kerala. With little or no planning done except with a resolve to ride as much as was possible, they reminded me of the time I started biking and it was my only love.
An unexpected chai catch up with an Australian couple who wanted to travel through many continents was an absolute joy. They had wanted to finish the entire trip in 4 months ending in the US, but found themselves still in India after 3 months. I want to be like them when I grow up.
At beautiful Kaza, meeting Karan Bedi & Skalzang Dorji the many times archery champion, who has represented India in the Olympics. They told me tales of locals who brave temperatures as low as -35°C (-31°F) in winters. They go about their daily chores as if this is the only way they know. I love cold, but at this temp. for months….madness
And of course finally, meeting my brother and an amazing human being Prithvi at the spiritual abode he has created right in front of the Kinnaur Kailash mountains. Well the mountains appear closer than they actually are, but the view from the library of his homestay kind of hotel, The Grand Shamba-la, is to be seen to be believed. I met Prithvi on one such soul searching trip 3 years ago, when I stayed at the very same hotel in Kalpa and I don’t miss any chance to do a repeat. I always meet very interesting people when I stay over. And the Kinnaur Kailash sunrise is always divine.
Am going through withdrawal symptoms. What a land, what a ride.
But more than anything, a tremendous feeling of being rewarded. Because just a few days back we managed to meet most of the expenses needed for the children's treatment. It’s overwhelming. I am so very grateful. Grateful that I came back in one piece, to all the benefactors and so grateful that now the children are on the path to recovery.
I wish many more riders would join as Goodwind Riders. So many amazing journeys to do. So many maps to collect. And so many more people to make a difference to, along the way.
May the good winds blow your way, always.