Riding by optimism, curiosity and a desire to show that age is no barrier to adventure, Simon Gandolfi,an 81-year-old Englishman set off to ride around India on TVS Phoenix.

Kashmir’s beauty attracted Gandolfi and he visited Valley after a gap of 43 years.

The well-known bike enthusiast, adventurer and the author of many books had a brief word with Discover Kashmir correspondent Junaid Kathju about his experience in Kashmir.

Why did it take you 43 years to visit Kashmir again?

I had been to Kashmir 43 years ago and was mesmerized by the beauty, so I always wanted to come back again.

The family responsibility, my job and the fact that I was travelling to other countries delayed my visit to Kashmir.

Did you find any change?

Yes, a lot has changed. Then the water used to be so clean, it’s been polluted. Houseboats were alongside the banks of the river but now they are everywhere. Polythene and plastic can be seen everywhere. I cried when I saw the condition of Nigeen Lake. It’s heartbreaking.

Skiers in Gulmarg

Which places did you like most 43 years back?

I visited Gulmarg and did skiing. It was amazing. People across the world should visit Gulmarg at least for skiing.

Why did you choose to stay in a houseboat this time?

It’s beautiful and calm. So I preferred to stay in houseboat.

What motivates you to take the journey in an old age?

I am an explorer and I have always traveled in my life. This is what I do, I travel and then write about it.

What fascinates you most about Kashmir?

The place is beautiful. Kashmir has virgin beauty, which needs to be preserved. The people are very hospitable, which I like the most.

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