For a great many years I have dreamt of riding the old silk roads to Kashmir, the rooftop of the world. After much deliberation, I have finally bitten the bullet and said enough with the dreams of adventure, and on with the adventure itself. In May, I fly to Mumbai and my journey will begin.
When I say that I have bitten the bullet I truly mean that, for my trusty steed for this adventure will be a 1965 Royal Enfield Bullet. The Bullet is unique among motorcycles, for it holds the distinction of having the longest production run of any motorcycle – it has been in continuous production since 1948. I found her through a restoration company in Delhi, India, where she was in a bad way and in need of a full restoration. Stripped down and rebuilt, now she waits only for a few licks of paint and some finishing touches and we will be ready to set off on an epic adventure that I hope will change many lives.
As I planned my route and worked out my budget, I realized that what I would spend was enough to support 25 to 30 families in India for a year. India is a land of great diversity and incredible beauty, but it is also a country where over three hundred million people live on less than one dollar a day and in many cases, much less than this.
I’ve partnered with EndPoverty.org to make my adventure more than just a ride through an amazing place, but an adventure that will not only be memorable for me, but that will actually make a tangible difference in the lives of others. While many charities simply collect money and distribute it in the form of traditional aid, this does little to address the underlying causes of poverty. EndPoverty uses microfinance as a platform for permanently improving the situation of entire communities. Poor entrepreneurs are given either cash loans or loans in the form of assets like sewing machines or income producing animals like cows, goats, and chickens. These entrepreneurs, who would otherwise never have access to loans from traditional financial institutions are able to start their own businesses and learn about how to manage the money, building community leadership. This concept of, “give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a life time,” makes a lot of sense to me, and with a very proven track record improving the lives of people around the world and allowing them to earn their own independent living, EndPoverty seemed like the ideal choice of non-profit to partner with.
In May, I fly into Mumbai, India’s largest city with over twenty million living in the metropolitan area, to begin my ride. From there, it’s on to beautiful Goa, India’s smallest state. I can’t wait to ride the long beaches of Goa and watch a lazy sunset over the Arabian Sea. While most people know that India gained its independence from Britain in 1947, those born in the more recent decades may not know that Goa was actually a Portugese territory until 1961. Portugal refused to transfer sovereignty or to even consider it as an option and on December 19th, 1961 the Indian Army launched Operation Vijay to force the Portugese to give up control of their Indian enclaves. After 36 hours of air, land, and sea strikes, 451 years of Portugese colonial rule came to an end in Goa.
From Goa I’ll be riding back north to the hot desert sands of Rajasthan. The contrast between the two states could not be more extreme; from the beautiful seaside state of Goa to the ancient deserts and cities of Rajasthan, my camera will be working overtime.
After Rajasthan, things will really begin to get challenging as I ride to the bottom of the Himilayas and start making my way up the dangerous Rohtang Pass, which literally means “pile of corpses” in Tibetan, due to the great number of people who have perished trying to cross the pass in bad weather. At over two miles in altitude, the Rohtang Pass is a good deal higher than I am accustomed to. Having worked on a yacht for the past ten years, I have seldom been more than a few feet above sea level with the exception of occasional airplane flights. With the highest point of the pass at 18,563 feet, both I and my bike will be challenged and indeed by the end of the ride, the carburetor and I will be equally exhausted.
From Kashmir I will ride back down the Himalayas and into Delhi, for the obligatory photo-op at the Taj Mahal and a bite to eat in the old city. After that, it’s over the holiest river in India, the Ganges, and up to Kathmandu in Nepal. Not far from Mount Everest, Kathmandu has been a place I’ve dreamed of visiting for many years.
After I explore the old street markets of Kathmandu, I ride down the Himalayas for the final time, headed on to Kolkata where my journey comes to a close.
Many of us visit unique and incredible places around the world and what a difference it would make if we all paused for just one day and made an effort to help the people of each place we visited. Inch by inch, I believe that anything is possible and if we all work together, we can truly make a difference and bring lasting change to the world.