Nathan Scard: Adventure Story
I admit that this paragraph is cliched. I was heading for my 35th birthday and decided I wanted to have a mini adventure - but one with purpose so that I could give back a little. I have ridden motorcycles since I was 14, taking on my Dad's love of all things on two wheels and so a motorbike trek seemed the obvious solution.
I remembered that someone recommended a motorcycle tour company some years back who organised trips for charity, so I looked them up. I convinced a Dutch friend of mine to come along with me and we set about planning a trip. We had decided not to join an organised tour as we wanted the freedom to pick our own charities and route, so the tour company recommended we speak to Fritha; and that's where the magic for me started.
Fritha totally inspired us (as she does everyone) and in particular, the Odanadi project really clicked with what I wanted to be a part of.
All of a sudden, our mini adventure turned into a month long route, stopping off at various charities on the way and we had the good fortune to have timed it with when other Adventure Ashram supporters were out there.
And then it all started to go wrong. Two months before kick off, my friend got posted to New York and couldn't come with me. But I couldn't give up, everyone was counting on me and I didn't want to let Fritha down.
So I told my wife I was going it alone and would be fine solo. Understandably she was a little worried but my 70 year old Dad had also retired the previous year, so a brainwave formed. She told me to ask him and although we have always been close, I didn't think it was the best idea if I'm honest - he'd never left Europe and the route was a gruelling 2500km through a country he could have never envisioned.
My wife said to call him anyway - after all, what did I have to lose. So after asking him the question and telling him to think about it for a few days before agreeing; he rang me back within 10 minutes and we were on. Little did I know that that was the start of what would turn out be the best father and son trip I could have ever imagined.
We started fundraising, rallied local support, held a gala dinner in my home village and had raised an amazing £5000. We also got Royal Enfield on side to donate the bikes, which we would then leave with the charities.
Then, in a further twist of fate (which in hindsight turned out to be our saviour), Royal Enfield emailed me the week before departure to say that their charity budget had been slashed and they were withdrawing the two Bullets they had promised us.
So, Dad and I boarded the plane without any mode of transport but naively thought we could just buy / rent two old bikes out there. How hard could it be? As it turns out, extremely hard; so after two days of traipsing around motorbike markets we settled for renting a bumpy old jeep with no air conditioning and a roof that didn't quite fit but at least it had a radio.
We set off, quickly acclimatising to Indian driving (it needs to be seen to be believed, fellow Adventurers will know what I'm talking about) and then two days later, we broke the first Jeep. We managed to find a second one but now we didn't even have a radio and quite frankly, my Dad's singing is not great.
Over the next four weeks we bumped and potholed our way through beautiful and extreme countryside; sleeping wherever we could - from old wooden packing cases on the beach to little wooden houses full of spiders the size of your hand. And I'm an arachnophobe.
We somehow made it to Mysore and met the heroic Stanley and Parashu, who took us to the boys' house. Despite the awful start that these kids have had, all we saw were huge smiles and playfulness; clearly wholly due to the love and support that Stanley, Parashu and Adventure Ashram have given them. They feel safe at last. To see where the money we raised would go, gave me a feeling of immense gratefulness and me and my Dad were very moved by the whole experience. I will never forget playing with the kids and planting fruit trees with them and we can't wait to go back and see them all again.
We then headed off to Masinagudi to meet up with Solomon and the Grace Charitable Trust and unbeknownst to us, were we in for a surprise. They put on a night to remember, with a stage performance by the children to show off their amazing Bollywood dancing skills and we were fed like Kings with locally cooked, delicious food. Another truly inspiring experience.
Looking back now, four years later, there was a lot to take away from this trip that I hadn't prepared myself for. The driving through rural India avoiding bull elephants along the way, dodging landslides on the mountainous roads and skirting past terrifying drops around the hairpins, will all stay with me for a long time. The kindness of the villagers we met who helped us fix our flat tyre, the street food that everyone tells you not to eat and the ingenious bicycle wheel that the Odanadi boys used as a BBQ rack. I had had the adventure that I wanted and it has given me amazing memories and a passion to support Adventure Ashram and the wonderful Fritha for many years to come. We have made good friends whilst gathering every year for the Adventure Ashram rally and we are all united in our love for the charity and the family you feel a part of, as a result.
However, the opportunity to spend a nerve wracking, sleepless and energetic month on the road with my Dad tops it all. We had the rare opportunity to build memories that I'm sure others can only dream of and for that, I owe a lot to Adventure Ashram.
So if you're doing what I did and thinking about doing something meaningful - stop thinking and just do it. And please support Fritha and the amazing work she does. I promise you will be rewarded in ways you are least expecting.
Nathan Scard Adventure Ashram Supporter