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Riding through the Highlands of India on a Royal Enfield

Sam Chirnside is an Australian designer, artist and creative director who recently set off to travel through the vast, snow capped mountains of northern India on a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

Q: Sam, from what I’ve seen in your updates it’s been an epic adventure so far. Where are you now and what’s next?

It has been indeed. Traveling through India is a trip I will reflect back on for many moons. Since returning from this journey, feeling incredibly inspired, it’s definitely sparked interest to continue ventures like this. I’m unsure where next but I’m sure that will be on the back burner soon.

Q: You’ve recently been travelling through India on a motorcycle - can you tell us about where you travelled and how this trip came about?

I've always been fascinated by India and it’s raw spiritual roots. It had been in the back of my mind to go for quite some time, which slowly crept forward until the opportunity opened up to set off. I had a rough plan of making my way from South to North India up into the himalayas. Due to monsoon season down south, I fast tracked my way up North through the surreal scapes of Hampi, Karnataka to the dusty deserts of Rajasthan into the crisp mountain air of Himachal Pradesh where I spent most of my time on the saddle of an Enfield.

Q: It sounds like you covered a fair bit of ground, what were some of the highlights, spiritual places and landmarks that you managed to tick off along the way?

It’s really hard to say as each state is so culturally rich, diverse and amazing in its own way. Although in particular Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh was super special. There is something truly magical that auras the area of these desolate high altitude landscapes, there’s a feeling of silence in which everything exists. I started to draw parallels between this and my creative practice in which moments of ideas arise. It’s a place that’s so vast and immense in scale, it gives you a humbling feeling of insignificance. Also the reason why many monks live here, practicing meditation within the walls of 1000 year old Buddhist monasteries set into the weathered terrain. 

The Landscape morphed everyday, from the lush green mystical pine forests of Jibhi to high altitude desert villages such as Nako,Tabo & Kaza. There were many spiritual landmarks along the way. From the tomb of Gue which encased a 500 year old mummy to roadside temples and ancient buddhist monasteries. After journeying through Spiti Valley you realise the importance of these himalayan ranges to their people. With their calm & loving presence you can only think that these lands have had an impact on shaping their individual characteristics. 

Q: I’m sure you met some interesting characters on the road, are there any in particular that are memorable?

India has its golden moments everyday, the hilarious encounters you have on a daily basis are infinite. In Pushkar, Rajasthan I stumbled across quite a few interesting characters. One being Aloo Baba, a sadhu who resides in the back hills living on a potato only diet. He sits around his temple that was built by a community for him, meditating and living a life of simplicity with no attachments. He welcomes visitors with a cup of chai to sit down with him and discuss the deeper insights to life. 

You become desensitized to seeing many bizarre and wonderful scenes everyday. From naked Sadhus (Naga Sadhus) riding motorcycles whilst smoking Charas to Holy Cows with additional legs on their hind marching the streets and everything in between. 

Q: You have worked with Nike, Adidas & Red Bull in the past, how are you juggling your work while on the road - are you finding some inspiration along the way?

I’d wrapped up a lot of my projects before leaving, it was a sabbatical period in the sense that I wanted time for new insights and perceptions to arise. It’s been a wildly inspiring trip and I’m excited to see my experiences start reflecting through my work. The dying art of hand painted signage is still very evident throughout india, beautiful hyper coloured letterings exist everywhere. Something that always caught my eye along the trip, also their unique combinations of colour and intricate details. Whether it be the pimped out himalayan courier trucks or dazzled out rickshaws, every element would be decoratively detailed.

Q: What are you listening to or reading while on the road?

I stumbled across a few hidden record stores in Delhi in which I discovered the artist Anandar Shankar. A local Indian artist who blends traditional sitar with western influence of rock and psych. His music set the tone perfectly for the trip.

Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. A manuscript on lucid dreaming and dream states. An area of interest for me in which I’m studying.  


Q: For anyone inspired by this trip, what 3 tips can you recommend before setting out on a similar adventure?

If it’s a trip through India, best advice I can give is to ‘surrender’. Don’t let things get you frustrated as most of the time it’s out of your control. India will teach you this no matter what. Let go and take the paths that unveil in front of you. Whilst saying this you also need to follow your intuition, trust your instincts.

On the bike - Be prepared and pack spares of what you can. I ended up getting 4 punctures along the way in some very remote areas. Bring gear for all weather, the terrain and conditions can be harsh and unpredictable. Roads are constantly changing, there were days where I would be boulder hopping riding through knee deep river streams.

Last but most importantly, have an open heart and mind, the rest will follow.

You can check out Sam's work here and connect on Instagram here

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