A bike trip to Ladakh is a dream for many of us. With the hope of travel restrictions lifting soon, we caught up with Tarique Afaque, who runs the largest Royal Enfield community in India, Royal Mavericks, to learn how to plan for such a trip.
You undertake a lot of motorcycling trips to Ladakh. What does this typically entail?
Royal Mavericks started out as just a few friends riding together and a Facebook page. It now has 3,000+ members, a 14,000+ fan community and 3 international chapters. As a group, we always strive to keep it pocket-friendly, so it’s more accessible to young group members like students and high fliers alike. But we do not compromise on route plans, special permits, stays/halts along the way, mechanical assistance in case of a breakdown and first aid. Every aspect is important and takes many hours of brainstorming within the core team. Stay options have special focus as we have to keep in mind the safety of women motorcyclicts, which involves proper washrooms too.
How much money does a group trip cost?
This would depend on the travel experience the group is aiming for. We personally try and go as local as possible, without putting the riders at discomfort. We prefer homestays to hotels or resorts. It gives us a fantastic opportunity to connect with the local community and adds so much more flavour to the ride. Typically we’re able to do a 10-day long-distance ride between Rs 16,000 and 20,000 per person, starting from Delhi. This also includes full mechanical assistance and a back-up truck for a medical emergency or vehicle breakdowns.
How about if one wants to travel on their own?
I think the trip shouldn’t cost more than Rs 20,000, for a person, including fuel and decent stay options. For those willing to camp along the way, this figure would be even lower. Travel has different definitions for people. Some prefer the comfort and camaraderie of a group, while others prefer going solo or travelling the vagabond way. Both styles have their own flavour and add experience to life. If you are going solo, I recommend doing thorough research, consulting with other travellers, watching videos of solo travellers, and preparing oneself well for any exigency.
How should one be prepared financially during the trip?
It is always better to carry hard cash on these trips, rather than digital money. Several high altitude places do not support internet connectivity, and travelling with cash (sometimes extra) could be a saving grace.
Should one save up for motorcycle gear?
Most adventure-hungry youngsters are working on handsome packages, making it easier for them to plan such trips. Nonetheless, the motorcycle itself and accompanying riding gears are an expensive affair, so ideally saving up for that would be wise. Hence planning should also begin early, depending on one’s expenditure and lifestyle. Once the motorcycle and gears are in place, future trips should just depend on maintenance and the kind of traveller one is.
Would you advise renting a motorcycle?
We as a group do not encourage renting or flying half way, and almost everyone in our group prefers to ride their own motorcycles. One, because there is a certain connect with the machine. Two, long-distance rides through tough terrains can throw up surprises, and being able to manoeuvre the machine becomes important. Hence owing one makes more sense. However, if one want to, renting a Royal Enfield is possible and is generally available in Chandigarh or Manali. It costs about Rs 1,500-Rs 2,000 per day, with a refundable deposit of Rs 5,000-Rs 10,000. The rental services allow you to drop it off on the way back or at Leh. If you are on a tight timeline but there is leeway in budget, you can choose to fly back from Leh to Delhi [priced between Rs 3,000 and Rs 5,000, currently].
When did you buy your first motorcycle, and how did you buy it?
It’s been nine years since I bought my first Royal Enfield. I’ve bought two more along the way. Initially, I bought them on EMIs as I wasn’t really a saver. But I’m happy to say that my most recent purchase of the Interceptor in 2018 [ex-showroom price of Rs 2.5 lakh-Rs 2.86 lakh, depending on specifications], was on a full cash payment after I saved up. By then, I had decided to try and step out of the EMI zone.
How important is financial planning to travel?
I think the biggest beauty of travel is nature’s bounty, which remains the same for every individual, regardless of how exotic or luxurious one might want to make their travel experience. I prefer my travel to be more connected to the earth and raw in format, and luckily this can always be accomplished on a tighter budget. But if luxury travel is your goal, then the right planning and savings will go a long way to achieve these travel goals.
All images: Royal Mavericks/Brand