The uneven rocky terrain and the chilly weather at Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh makes you tremble even in the afternoon as you ride along. The narrow roads, steep curves and no sign of another soul in sight makes the place totally desolate. Unforeseen landslides on the way are often looked upon as a challenge by the riders, and not as a deterrent.
While oxygen masks help you breathe easy as you go higher, the endless stretch of mountains along the path brings a sense of accomplishment after riding on what is known as the world’s most treacherous road. The path is especially challenging after the rains. Thunderstorm and adverse weather conditions can make the roads impassable, sometimes even leading to closure of the road.
The highest point of the terrain is Kunzum Pass, which is at an elevation of 14,931 feet above sea level. The valley stands witness to numerous stories of adventure bikers in its bosom. And one of them is that of Law and Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi CEO, Anil Nair.
Transforming passion into purpose was a thought that led Nair to form Goodwind Riding in 2016. The initiative was started for bikers who, along with pursuing their passion for riding, have to create awareness for underprivileged children suffering from cancer in suburban orphanages and cancer-care centers in Mumbai. The funds raised during the trip are donated for the children's treatment. Nair himself being a passionate rider chose the toughest path in India - Spiti Valley - to raise money for the children.
Although he had biked along Kalpa Valley and Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh, Spiti Valley as he himself says, “It is a totally different ball-game.” He started his ride from Chandigarh in October last year. Armed with his Triumph Tiger XRX, he would start his journey at 8.30 in the morning. “The path was truly a test of one’s physical and emotional readiness,” he says. Due to the narrow roads and sudden landslides, it takes more time to cover short distances.
On the second day, a sudden landslide made him skid at a steep curve and he just had enough time to jump off the bike. “From then on, each bump made me realise how resilient I need to be when I am on this track," he adds. He also reminisces various enthusiasts that he met along the way. “I met an Australian rider at one of the tea stalls and talking with him was really inspiring. He has been riding since 20 years and I felt like a school kid in front of him. He was surprised that I was doing this alone the first time,” he says.
Nair further describes the most defining journey he's undertaken so far, “There were times I thought I lost my balance. You cannot afford to lose your concentration even for a second. If you do, you will be thousands of feet down.” It took Nair eight days to complete the ride along the Valley. “It was a humbling experience,” he admits. Among the things he couldn't cover in this trip, Nair says, “I missed going to Chandra Taal. But I was thrilled to be on the world’s highest village connected by a road, called Komic village.”
Fascination for bikes and adventure rides began quite early for Nair, whose father was also a rider. His father had fuelled his desire by gifting him a Suzuki when he was eligible to apply for a licence. He always wanted to buy a bike from a Parsi because he claims that Parsis would take care of their bikes more than anything else in the world. He recites an often-repeated phrase, "Parsis love their bikes more than their wives".
And when Nair received his first pay cheque, he found one such Parsi gentleman in Mumbai and bought a Yezdi. With a powerful Triumph now, Nair sets out on a short ride every Sunday at 4.30 am for about 150 km . It's a weekly ritual he swears by. One can find this ad agency man cruising along the Gujarat-Maharashtra border or the Lonavala-Pune stretch on a holiday. Nair has now set his sights on a longer and distant route — from Nagaland to Gujarat. “I want Goodwind Riding to be a global initiative so that we can change as many lives as possible,” he rides off.