HOW TO PLAN YOUR FINANCES FOR THE LADAKH RIDE
Typical pre-ride expenses:
These would include the money you spend:
1) On equipment for yourself which will include
- Personal equipment like riding gear, shoes, extra winter clothing, water bottle, luggage, etc.
- Medical kit
- Medical insurance, journey tickets if not riding out from home itself
- Packaged food, hydration salts, energy drinks etc
2) On your motorcycle
- Pre-ride maintenance and part changes like new tyres, lights, clutch plates, chain-sprocket set, etc.
- Transporting the bike to Delhi/Chandigarh/Jammu etc depending on whether you don’t reside up north and want to begin your ride from as close to Leh as possible.
- Spares to be carried during the ride.
- Bungee cords, elastic nets, tie-down straps, etc.
- Any other specific ancillary equipment like a GPS, camera mounts etc
Daily expenses: These would include money for petrol, food, accommodation and possible unforeseen expenses like motorcycle repairs or a medical emergency/first aid.
Night stay expenses can vary between as low as Rs.100/- for a night to as high as Rs. 10,000/- depending upon your needs and availability of accommodation. But double-bedded rooms at a majority of hotels/guest houses can be had at < Rs. 1000/- per night. Food again is a subjective choice but acceptable stuff is not unusually expensive. Local fare of course is cheaper. Typically, about Rs. 1500/- per day per person should suffice for reasonably comfortable and clean accommodation and good food. (This includes the petrol bill too of course)
Thumb Rule: Estimate your on-road expenses at a minimum of Rs. 1500/- a day, multiply it by the number of days you’ll be on-road and then further multiply by 1.5 if in a group or by 2 when solo and keep that much cash on your person. (Example – 10 days on road. So 10 x 1000 1.5 = 15,000)
Do not rely on ATM’s in Leh or even in Manali for that matter as the internet connectivity is dicey there and a ‘net-down’ for even a couple of days could send your carefully planned itinerary for a six! There is nothing like the language of hard cash when nothing else works.
SOME USEFUL TIPS FOR THE LADAKH RIDE
All said and done, there is still something left over to share, little snippets of information that could come in pretty handy during the ride planning and execution. Scroll along and learn about it all here.
Remember that your behavior will usually be seen as that of the entire motorcycling fraternity. So don’t let us down there.
- The importance of keeping a SPOC (single point of contact) back home in a group ride in case the group splits and not everyone is in the network coverage area. Group members can share information with this SPOC and he can convey the same to the other members when they get in touch with him.
- Always leave information about your plans with someone back home in case you are venturing into remote areas. This way your last recorded position and direction of movement are known and help/search can be initiated accordingly if needed.
- Newspaper sheets make for an excellent insulator in an emergency. Some 3-4 layers beneath the jacket will make for a crinkly but effective wind-break. Shoe insoles cut to shape and in multiple layers not only help keep the feet warm but also work as sweat absorption materiel.
- Two cotton/silk balaclavas inside the helmet, worn one on top of the other, can see you through the worst of chills.
- Plan your rides so that you can get across water-crossings as early in the day as possible. Post noon the water level rises dramatically as the prolonged sunshine melts snow quicker upstairs.
- Whenever you eat Maggi, have it made soupy i.e. with lots of surplus water. This way its easier to digest, stays hot longer while you eat it and adds to your fluid intake.
- Dal rice, preferably with boiled veggies/meat added make for great food at altitude. The carbohydrates, protein and fibre keep that tummy alive and kicking.
- Chocolates are great for that ‘perk up sugar kick’. Take a bite or two after battling a particularly tough water crossing or climb and feel your spirits rise.
- Keep an extra key of the bike on your person. Getting stranded because you have only one key and you’ve lost that is not funny at all.
- Don’t try and be a showman with the locals, especially trying to compete with them on the mountain roads. Remember its their daily commute and they know the area like the back of their hand.
- Respect their religious places and customs and they’ll respect and help you in turn.
- Make it a point to wave or ‘toot’ your thanks to drivers who let you by, especially on those twisty and steep mountain roads. It’s a lot of work for that lorry driver to slow down and steer inside to allow you to pass.
- Keep an extra layer of warm clothing handy as the weather high up can change for the worse within meters or minutes.
- Do keep checking your bike from time to time however tired or lazy or chilled you might feel. The roads high up can beat the hell out of the best hardware.
- Use sunscreen at least with 30+ sph factor. Especially for those with a fair complexion. Those rosy cheeks around you are actually mild sunburn from a high dose of Ultraviolet at altitude!
- Put on your warm jackets before the sun goes down. The chill will creep in quicker than you can think.
- Eat whenever the opportunity presents itself. You will not feel hungry but you may be very short of calories.
- There’s no way you can fight a winning battle with cold, altitude and heights. Nature is ruthless in response to disregard of danger.
- Keep a positive outlook. This becomes vital when the weather goes bad, you’re stuck with a puncture and the nearest habitation is two-hours away on the bike. A calm mind and good prior preparation will get you through.
- Use zip lock bags for storing things that either need water-proofing or can leak. Includes items like toothpaste, creams etc. Your bike documents, spare memory cards, batteries and paper money can also go in there.
- You’ll probably need less clothes that you think but pack whatever you carry in large polythene bags to keep them safe from water and dust. Even the best of saddle-bags/panniers are not completely waterproof.
- Riding identical bikes in a group can mean a sharing of spares. Also when in a group, all except the leader should ride with their headlights switched on. Helps a lot in locating others in those rear view mirrors.
- Take plenty of breaks. Shun that habit of setting and chasing ‘targets’ in your ‘other’ life. You’re here out of choice and for fun. So freak out and enjoy.
- Look around you and seek the beauty in the places you are riding through. This is not your daily office commute. So look up and perk up.
- Drink water consciously at frequent intervals. Thirst is NOT an indicator of a need for water at high altitude.
- Monitor the colour and quantity of your urine to keep tabs on your hydration levels.
- Make it a habit of making notes on points of interest during the day’s ride. Good food joints, a puncture repair shop, a hard water crossing, a good/bad section of the road….they’ll come in handy if not for you but for others who follow you.
- If you wear specs, carry an extra pair at a place where they are safe from breakage.
- Even when riding in remote places where you might not return to for a long time, behave well and impeccably as a motorcyclist.
- You can use Castrol Power Biking App to find nearby bikers who can be helpful in trying times!
TRIP MISCELLANY : Solo Vs Group Ride
While a solo ride to Ladakh would be the ultimate statement in adventure and become a winning story for the rider that’ll last a life-time, it does entail far greater risks and possibilities of ordinary hazards turning into life-threatening ones. Solo rides are strictly meant for the experienced campaigners. For the one’s who’ve been around a while on the saddle, are multi-skilled motorcyclists in that they can fix their bikes as well as ride them, can read the weather, have built up a temperament of patience and calculated risk-taking and can restrain themselves from a head-long dash into unknown situations. Going solo means needing to plan better, carry more in terms of back-up stuff like spares, food and medicines and paying greater attention to their situation and the conditions as both change dynamically. A SOLO RIDE TO LADAKH IS DEFINITELY A ‘NO-GO’ FOR A FIRST TIMER.
Group rides in contrast are relatively less risky as there’s help at hand in case of a fall or getting stuck at a particularly nasty road condition vis a vis a water crossing, deep slush or a land-slide. Groups also make better economic sense, both in terms of food/accommodation as also for spares if the bikes share common lineage. And there’s the added benefit of having people to talk to, discuss tricky decisions before making them and sharing the awesomeness all around you. Here are a few pointers at what can make for a good group ride to a place like Ladakh:
- Cohesion and mutual respect/trust amongst the group members. Democracy works the best here too though the more experienced members’ opinions need to be given more weightage.
- Similar riding styles and expectations do help as reasons for disagreement get reduced.
- Matching attitudes when it comes to motorcycling and adventure.
- Closely matched motorcycle performance will make it easier for the group to stay together.
- A similar match in financial abilities also makes for lesser chances of conflict.
- Good group management practices like allocating responsibilities, initiative in sharing workloads and unanimously going by the majority.
- If every person in the groups thinks about the group and then about himself and similarly if the group thinks about every other rider, that it composes of, that is when the ride shall be successful!
There is no ‘ideal’ group size though 3-5 people riding together are almost akin to a small family and have been known to have more fun together than larger groups. But then human nature automatically sub-divides larger groups into smaller sub-groups of this same number. So as long as everyone is out to ride and have fun together, the numbers don’t really matter except for logistics in an emergency.
PHOTOGRAPHY IN LADAKH
Ladakh is one of the most picturesque places on Earth. Not just beautiful landscapes but the people, the architecture, the culture et al makes for amazing pictures. And of course the journey as you travel from the plains to Leh and then ride beyond is not something you do very often in life.
So taking back great pictures that’ll keep those memorable moments alive forever is so very important. Getting back home and then sharing your ride with your friends and loved ones becomes one added avenue of delight that a ride to this mystic land grants you.
Let’s look at these brief pointers below that’ll help you take back good pictures.
- In these times of digital photography, taking pictures by the hundreds is not an expensive proposition. It’s just a matter of having memory cards with a large enough memory. But sorting them out back home can become a pain. So even though each click will not cost you as it would have with film cameras, shoot to make every frame count. Think and click.
- Don’t buy a new camera that you’re unfamiliar with and take it with you on your ride to Leh. Take tried and tested hardware, equipment that you’re familiar and comfortable with even if it is no longer as hi-tech as the newer models. Try and get a weather proof camera (if a point & shoot) or a weather proof housing (if you have a DSLR). The weather there can mess up with your cameras pretty fast. Also remember that the batteries can discharge faster than anticipated because of the cold, so carry more battery packs or alternate charging options lest you miss that perfect shot. Use the tankbag to keep the camera equipment and lenses for easy access without getting off from the bike, saves a lot of time and energy.
- Take plenty of memory cards to avoid the disappointment of running out of memory space when you want to capture a beautiful picture. Also remember that videos take many times more memory space than still pictures. Don’t depend on the possibility of transferring pics from the memory card to a CD at some cyber café in Leh.
- Shoot jpegs instead of RAW files unless you are a professional at photography and plan to use the pics back home in different mediums. Jpegs take a fraction of memory space compared to RAW files.
- In the same vein, always shoot at the highest possible resolution of your camera. A Leh ride is special and you don’t want to regret a low resolution shot that is exceptionally rare or beautiful.
- Do not forget to take an action camera with you, like the Pentax WG-M1 weatherproof and shockproof camera to record your journey on the go. It can shoot full HD video with surround sound and has built-in color LCD screen and built-in wifi among other features.
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR GETTING GOOD PHOTOS
- The rule of thirds or intersection of 3’s: This rule suggests that you divide a typical photograph frame into three equal parts, both horizontally and vertically. The four points where these lines intersect are called ‘ Strong Points’ or ‘The Points of Interest’. Preferably, place the subject on any of these points.
- Fill the frame. Avoid empty spaces in the frame.
- In case of landscapes, the center of interest should not be in the center of the frame.
- Do not place the horizon line across the center of the frame. Use the ‘Rule of Thirds’ and place the horizon either at the lower 1/3rd or the upper 1/3rd of the frame.
- Preferably, include some living thing to give a scale of reference.
- Arrange the picture so that the eye is led towards the center of interest.
- Diagonals running into the picture e.g. curving rivers and mountain roads lead the eye into the picture
- Try and include enough foreground interest to balance a distant scene
- Strong diagonals can be irritating unless you include a ‘stop’ lie a tree, another mountain, a house etc.
- With distant scenes where none of the subject matter is close to the camera, manual focus cameras can be set to infinity and there is no need to focus between pictures.
- Sunsets can fool the exposure meters of even the most sophisticated cameras. To set exposure, take a reading from an area of the sky just adjacent to the sun but not including it.
- Action pictures are less blurred if the subject is moving towards the lens rather than crossing the frame.
- Wide apertures produce less sharp pictures. Try not to use a lens at full aperture.
- Backlighting misleads the cameras’ meter producing underexposure. Over-expose by half or one stop.
- Long focus lenses exaggerate camera shake. Preferably use fast shutter speeds or support the camera on a rigid support.
- For good pictures by candlelight, shoot when the subjects’ face is close to the flame since light falls off rapidly with distance. And when taking an exposure reading, keep the flame out of the frame or the meter will make you underexpose.
- Accommodating too many colours in a single picture clutters it up.
- Warm colours such as reds, yellows and orange advance towards the viewer. When you superimpose them over a cool background in blue or green hues, the picture takes on almost three-dimensional qualities.
- To catch colours at their brightest, shoot them in direct and bright sunlight.
- When using wide-angle lenses, take care to keep foreground filled and yet uncluttered.
- A polarizing filter enriches the colour of the blue sky esp. the side facing directly away from the sun. Rotate the filter as you look through the viewfinder to find the orientation that gives the max effect.
- The weather in Ladakh can be extreme, so a weather camera like the Pentax K-1 full frame digital SLR can be really handy, especially when it comes with a full range of weather lenses as well.
- You can also consider keeping a Pentax Theta 360 Degree camera in your camera kit to give your photography a completely new dimension. This camera can take 360 degree panorama as well as 360 degree video with sound. Quite an insane device. Check this image for example
Motorcycling to Ladakh : Complete Series
Part 1 : About Ladakh, Reaching There, & Best Time to Visit
Part 2 : Choosing the Right Motorcycle & Preparing it
Part 3 : Preparing Yourself for Ladakh Ride
Part 4: Some useful Tips About Riding and Photography in Ladakh
Part 5 : Ladakh in Winter
Part 6 : Superbiking in Ladakh