Why do you call this a retreat, if we are always on the move?
We are indeed withdrawing to a silent and secluded place – ourselves, as we ride and practice Yoga, and Ladakh - the most remote and inhabited region in India. It is an inner-outer journey. Meaning, we will journey within, as we travel without.
The Yoga practice is central in this retreat, and will lead us to meditation (whatever your level of practice). On the other hand, the way the whole program is structured, between the roads we are riding through, the hotels we stay at, the visits we will do, they all contribute to such withdrawal and introspection, as we move from place to place.
Finally, Ladakh is in itself a spiritually charged region, not only for the religious culture of its people, the presence of the oldest active Buddhist monasteries in India , but also for the fact that important gurus and yogis lived here. In case you don’t know, the Indian Himalayas are the birth place of Tantra.
How am I going to travel?
On your own motorcycle, of course. Exception made to the first two days: On day 1, we will pick you up from the airport by car. On day 2, we will take a flight together from Delhi to Chandigarh, where the motorcycles, and the rest of our support team, will be expecting us. We will ride almost every other day of the retreat, unless it’s a rest day.
Which motorcycle will I be riding?
All participants, including the travel leader, will be riding Royal Enfields, Classic 500cc, with gears on the left and brakes on the right side.
Are the days very tight in terms of motorcycle riding?
Some days are pretty tight, like Day 3, as we ride between Chandigarh and Manali, for an estimate of about 10 hours riding. Some other days are pretty relaxed. Riding is in itself an extenuating practice, and it adds up to the harshness of the high altitude desert, where there is much less oxygen than at sea level. So the days will flow as smoothly as possible in this retreat, between riding, practicing, and relaxing.
How about the practice of Yoga and Meditation?
The Yoga that Gonçalo Luz teaches is coming directly from the father of modern Yoga, T. Krishnamacharya, transmitted through Mark Withwell, Gonçalo’s main Yoga teacher. It is based in the awareness that in its essence, Yoga is a practice of full intimacy with body, breath and mind. It is a non-obsessive practice that every participant can take home after this retreat, whether he already has a practice, or not.
It is much more than just a set of physical practices, as you find in many yoga studios. It is not Yoga as gymnastics as many think Yoga to be. It is Yoga as a way to deepen one’s connection to oneself, as a spiritual practice, based on the idea that ultimately, there is nothing to achieve.
Each of us have our own particular needs in terms of practice, as we have different ages, body types and fitness levels. So in this practice you will be encouraged to always listen to our body, first and foremost. That is why your level of practice is not important. Your commitment to yourself, and therefore your presence in the practice, is the most important. Which ever your level is, you will surely be enriched, and you will strengthen your personal practice.
Having said this: a daily practice will be included in our retreat, and it will vary according to the days, energy and needs of the group, between more intense and less intense practices.
Gonçalo’s experience as a yoga teacher includes, among others, Hatha and Tantra Yoga, training with Akasha Yoga Academy, and his main teacher, Mark Whitwell – Heart of Yoga.
Why men only, and what is men circling, anyway?
Men will gather exclusively in this retreat, as a way of reconnecting to their healthy masculine nature.
By riding, sharing and bonding among other men, we will be remembering the archetypes of mature masculinity, present in every one of us.
Men gathering with men and sharing in a circle is nothing new, but rather a reawakened ritual, inspired by ancient tribal practices, from all over the world.
Aiming to attain mature masculinity is based in the certainty that the only way we have to overcome patriarchy and its negative effects in our societies, is to overgrow our wrong views and beliefs as men, and fully grow into our healthy masculine power. Having said this, it is very important to understand the difference between a healthy empowered man, and an unhealthy overpowering man. The first has fully embraced his potential as a mature man, owns every aspect of his nature and serves others in a supportive way. The latter is still stuck, as many of us are, in his own immature beliefs of what he thinks a man should be, hiding his insecurities by disempowering others, women included.
Men circling is where the journey to healthy empowered masculinity begins. It is a safe space for men to share and express themselves without fear of judgement about what it feels like to be born in a man’s body and a man’s mind. It is a space where men hold space for other men. It is a place where, just by sharing, we look into our own roles, patterns and masks. And most of all, it is a space where men are held accountable and hold others accountable, where each man takes responsibility and holds others responsible, where men hold themselves fully and truly, and welcome both their light, and their darkness.
It is a place where men show up for themselves first, and then for their brothers, therefore learning to fully show up to their families and loved ones, their communities and their societies.
Well, now I want to know more. Are there any books I could read about mature masculinity, to get me started, before this journey?
There are plenty of books on masculinity to read and get inspired, if you feel like diving a bit more. Among those, try these for a start:
“King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine” by Robert Moore and Doug Gillette
“The Way of The Superior Man” by David Deida
“Iron Jon: a book about Men” by Robert Bly
“No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Dr. Robert Glover
Indirectly related, you can also read:
“The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” by Don Miguel Ruiz
And watch the documentary about the Journey that inspired this retreat:
“Finding Joe: Learning about the Hero’s Journey”
Is there a limit on the number of participants?
Yes, the maximum number of participants is 12, including the travel leader/facilitator. This will facilitate a closer and friendly environment within the group, throughout the retreat, one in which men can personally closer to one another.
Can anyone join the retreat?
Unfortunately not. Every participant has to have a motorcycle drivers licence for 500cc and at least one year riding experience. It is also advised to be physically fit, as the altitude and the roads are quite enduring already.
You will also need an International Driving License, and travel insurance that includes riding a motorcycle in India. If you fail to comply with any of the above, even if you are already in India, a motorcycle will not be assigned to you.
Do I need a Visa for this trip?
Yes, you do. You can apply for it online. It is now possible, for travellers with passports from different countries around Europe, and the rest of the world, to request an e-Tourist Visa for India. To request your visa, you have to access this link: https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/evisa/tvoa.html
Fill up the online form. After paying the due fee, you will get an email with your e-visa. You will have to print it out and show it upon arrival, together with your passport, to the immigration services.
You need to do the e-Tourist Visa at least 4 days before travelling, and maximum 30 days in advance.
You will need to upload a picture, and also a passport scan. The cost of the e-visa is 60USD and needs to be paid online.
It is valid for 30 days, from the day of arrival in India. You should carry the copy of your Visa, all the way through the whole program.
What is the accomodation like?
All accommodations are, as much as possible, mid-range local family businesses. The choice of accommodations throughout the journey was carefully elaborated, after thorough onsite prospection by our travel leader himself. We try as much as we can to avoid standard massified accommodations, as our aim is to support local economies in the places we visit. We will not stay in luxurious hotels, but you will surely have an enriching and luxurious experience, both within, and without.
Our selection takes into account the balance between staying in touch with the local culture and people, provide the necessary comfort for all participants, space for our activities, and safety for our motorcycles.
The quality standards for accommodations in India are not as rigid as we might find in most countries in the west, so it is not possible to give you an evaluation, based on those standards.
All the rooms are twins, meaning, they will have two single beds. In exceptional cases where twins are not available for a night, some travellers might stay in single bedrooms during that night. Those cases are very rare. The rooms will have fans in most cases. Exception to Delhi, where they have A/C. Some places will have Wifi. Most places will not have wifi. Even if they do, expect a very very slow connection.
Toilets have hot showers, to the exception of Sarchu Camp and Diskit. The shower runs directly onto the toilet floor, as none of them has bathtubs. It is the Asian standard in mid-range range accommodations. The toilet bowls are western style. They have toilet paper, and many have optional bum jets for those with ecological and dermatological concerns. We do suggest you to get used to the wonders of using the bum jet.
The accommodations are all conveniently located, and are run by friendly and welcoming staff. In most cases, our travel leader/facilitator has worked with them before.
We will not give you a list of accommodations. They were carefully chosen and adjusted in the course of five years of research and experience with groups. You can trust our choices. In any case, life is impermanent, so are things in India, and for as much as we will try to keep things smooth and very well planned, changes might happen, and we will be there to take care of that for you.
In most nights, to the exception of one (Sarchu Camp), the rooms are very comfortable, clean, and quite.
Can I stay in my own room?
You can stay in your own room, provided you pay the extra charge of 600€, to be paid together with the remaining amount of the retreat.
Is there electricity in our accommodation, along the way?
Yes, there is electricity in our rooms for most of the days. To the exception of Sarchu Camp (Day 6) that has no light in the tents, and Diskit (Days 13, 14) where electricity is limited to a generator that is switched off around 10pm. In all other days, there will be electricity. It does happen, however, more often than not, that temporary power cuts will leave a whole village or town without electricity. That includes us if we are there. So better be prepared for it. Lower your expectations, if you are not used to it, breathe, be joyful, and bring a flash light.
How about acclimatizing to high altitude?
This retreat was carefully designed, having acclimatization into account. That is why we take three days to ride to Leh. That is also one of the reasons we take rest days in Manali, and some again in Leh, throughout the retreat.
One of the most important things we can do for acclimatization is to go up as slow as possible. The other is to drink plenty of liquids (4 liters of water a day, at least, are advised, to get our kidneys going), and have as much rest as we can. Remember that this is a retreat, so give yourself a break, all the way, throughout this journey.
How is the weather going to be like?
We will find sub-tropical temperatures in Delhi, warm and humid enough to make us sweat and only wear a t-shirt. The weather in Ladakh, by the contrary, is extremely dry. Temperatures will start to go down gradually, on our way up, specially when we reach high passes (0º to -5ºC sometimes). The average temperature in Ladakh will be between 20º to 25ºC in the day, sometimes lower, and it might go down to 10-15ºC at night. Therefore, a fleece sweater, or a jacket, or both, are strongly advised. Cloudy days are normally below 20º. You will not need any technical clothing, besides the riding gear, which should include wind stopper and waterproof protection.
Are meals included?
The only meals included are the ones mentioned in the itinerary.
How about water?
Bottled water is sold along the way. We are still figuring out ways to generate less plastic waste, by having bigger supplies of water with us. Just in case, bring your hydration pack, and an extra bottle.
When will we have our meals?
We will have breakfast every morning after practice, either in the hotel or in a café, depending on where we are. We will have lunch on the way, if we are riding, normally in road side dhabas (very basic restaurants – really basic), dinner in the hotel or a restaurant.
Please bear in mind that we will be riding through deserted regions. This means they are… pretty deserted. Expect to eat when we get there. Meaning, not exactly at your favorite time of the day for lunch or dinner, although we make everything possible for it to happen. If you struggle with hipo-glycemia, or low sugar, meaning, if you have the tendency to get grumpy as your body asks for food between or before meals, take responsibility for your own needs and make sure you have some snacks with you, at all times. We will make sure we stop enough times along the way to take care of all our physical needs, as we enjoy the amazing views around us.
What kind of food should I expect during the retreat?
As the retreat is done in constant movement, we will eat in restaurants, road-side dhabas, at times in the places where we stay, and in surprise places a few other times. North Indian food is to be expected in most places until Manali, vegetarian options are available in all meals. Manali-Leh Highway is mostly high altitude desert, and it does not have many options along the way, so we will expect a lot less choice, most probably a good warm dish of lentils with rice, in some cases, and noodles in others. Leh has a wider range of choices, still mostly vegetarian. Out and around Leh, the choices will narrow again a bit, still mostly vegetarian. This means that for most of the trip, vegan, raw and organic options are defenitely not available. The food is generally very good and clean, as far as clean can go in India, where once more the standards are not to be compared to the west. If you are worried about intestinal problems, come prepared for it.
Any particular health recommendations?
It is advised that you prepare, and that you are as fit as possible. Exercise is always recommended, and we take it that you eventually do yoga already. If not, you can always try some classes before the trip, although you don’t have to. Then again, do it, if you can.
Consult your doctor in what vaccines and medication to take.
This trip has its challenges, and most people will feel them in their bodies, sooner or later. Nothing that you need to worry about, if you are healthy and can climb up a stairway without feeling exhausted. If you are a smoker and were looking for a good excuse to quit, this is your opportunity. You have our support.
In any case, do consult your doctor before joining, since you are traveling to India, and we are going to be riding 4 -10 hour days on mountain roads, at an average altitude of 3000m for most days. We will ride up to 5300m at least twice.
If you have particular health needs, ask for specialized counseling about going up to Ladakh.
If you have allergies or asthma, take your normal precautions, since Ladakh is dry and there is dust and polen in the air, throughout all summer. The oxygen levels are also naturally lower than at sea level. Altitude sickness is something you can read about, and get acquainted to.
There are cases of Malaria and Dengue in Delhi. The chances of those diseases to affect you narrow down to zero as we leave Manali on the way up.
Medication for altitude sickness is a choice to be made consciously between you and your doctor. Take however into account the side effects of such kind of medication, which are quite strong and diverse.
Drinking at least 4 liters of water every day, is so far the best way to keep your body working and avoid Altitude Sickness. In any case, nothing is taken for granted.
Is there phone connection, internet and roaming in Ladakh?
For security reasons, related to the proximity to the borders with China and Pakistan, the Indian government restricts the use of roaming in the whole region of Ladakh and Kashmir. That includes all places in our journey from the moment we leave Manali. In other words, expect roaming between Delhi and Manali only.
There will be wifi in some restaurants and in some of the hotels where we stay.
If you really need to be in touch for some reason, however, you will have to bring an unlocked device, and ask our travel leader to take you and request a SIM card. It normally takes at least 24 hours for activation, just so you know, and you need to provide your passport and photos in the process.
Where will we meet?
We all meet in Delhi, in the hotel, on our first day: August 10. Our travel leader, or someone in his team, will pick you up from the airport, on arrival.
So how will we meet, if we all book our own flights to Delhi?
We will ask you to send us the details of your flights into Delhi, and out of Ladakh. This way you will be welcomed at Delhi airport on arrival, and also taken to the airport in Leh, in the end of the program.
Can you book my flights?
Unfortunately not. We do not operate as a travel agency. We will only book the flight from Delhi to Chandigarh, which is included in the program. This means you will have to book your own international flight to Delhi and return, as well as the connection flight that will take you from Leh - Ladakh, to Delhi, in the end of our journey.
How will I get acquainted to riding a Royal Enfield?
As we arrive in Chandigarh, on our second day, we will be introduced to our motorcycles and our support team – mechanics and vehicle driver. We will be introduced to safety tips about riding in India, and we will go out for a short ride around town. Gonçalo Luz is an experienced rider, and he rode almost 15000km in the north of India, as well as South-East Asia, but most of them in the Indian Himalayas. Gonçalo and his team will take you for a ride, so you can get acquainted with your Royal Enfield, and with riding on the left side of the road.
Will I be carrying all my luggage on the motorcycle?
No. Despite what you see in some of the photos on this website, which were taken by Gonçalo, our travel leader/facilitator in his travels across the Himalayas, your luggage will be taken in our support vehicle, which also carries the spare parts and the mechanics. Besides a small and light backpack with hydration pack (strongly advised), where you should also carry your passport, cards, cash, camera and other important equipment, the rest of your luggage is taken care of, so you can travel lighter, and enjoy the ride.
What kind of Travel Insurance do I need?
You should have a Travel Insurance that includes riding a rental motorcycle in India, as well as medical expenses and emergency evacuation. It has to cover your entire period of travel. Our advice is to check World Nomads (www.worldnomads.com - contact us after registering, for a discount code).
What about riding in India, isn’t it dangerous?
Driving in India is for most westerners more challenging than any average country in the west. The rules are sometimes a bit more loose than in other countries, so one has to be extra mindful and careful when riding, specially in areas of dense traffic, such as Chandigarh, and the road from Chandigarh to Manali.
After Manali, the roads will have less traffic, circulation naturally happens slower, but full presence will be required as mountain roads are in themselves challenging and not guarded for most of the journey. We will however drive consciously, quite slowly in many parts, and stop regularly for short rest pauses.
What happens in case of a medical emergency on the ride?
Transportation to the nearest hospital will be arranged immediately, if needed. We do carry a first-aid kit and have first responder skills.
Are the motorcycles insured?
Rental motorcycles in India are covered under third-party insurance only. This means they don’t cover accidental damages caused by reckless driving, like off road or excess speed. Although we do not charge you for an extra deposit, as some agencies do, we consciously trust that you will, in good faith, cover the cost of any major damage, caused by you, in the course of this journey.
What kind of motorcycle gear should I bring for this journey?
Riding jacket and pants - protected, waterproof, wind stopper. Riding boots, helmet, sunglasses and gloves. Thermal inner wear is strongly advised, as we might find snow and some cold on the way. Rain gear, although not compulsory, is also advised.
How about shoes?
Riding boots are strongly advised. You want to have your feet and legs protected and dry, all the way.
Light shoes should be brought for resting days, as we are mostly relaxing and also going for short walks. Beware of the cold nights, if you are only thinking of flip-flops. And we might walk up a mountain trail, just so you know.
Will I have access to ATM machines along the way, to withdraw money?
There will be ATM’s in Delhi, Chandigarh, Manali, and Leh. In every other place, you should have enough Indian Rupees with you, to pay for your meals and other personal expenses. We advise you to carry a bit more than you need, in any case, as there might always be a shortage in the ATM’s.
Should I bring a sleeping bag?
Not really, unless you are really attached to one.
How fast will we be riding?
We will never be riding at more than 50-70 km/h, in any given day. Besides caring for everybody’s safety, we ride slow so to be more present and aware of ourselves our surroundings at all times. It’s a riding retreat, remember?
What if we find a landslide, for instance or come across extreme weather conditions?
Land slides can happen along the way, since we are indeed traveling in harsh inhabited regions. If any of these happen, the safety of the situation will be accessed on the ground, and the travel leader will decide what to do.
Do you provide any travel services before and after the tour?
We can help you book you a room in the hotel where we meet, if you arrive earlier, and if there are rooms. We can also help you book a room if you want to stay longer, in our last hotel – in Leh. That’s about it.
Can I use the motorcycle after the retreat has ended?
Unfortunately not. The motorcycles will be shipped back to Delhi, as soon as the retreat ends.
When should I book the tour?
As for now, the minimum number of 5 participants has almost been reached, so we are about to confirm this year’s edition. After that, you have 6 spots left. The participants are confirmed by order of registration. So we advise you not to wait for long and secure your spot here. Since there are specialized platforms joining soon to sell this retreat, it can get booked pretty fast.
That’s it, I am in! How do I register for this retreat?
To register, click below, on booking. After you pay your “Secure My Spot” deposit, we will send you a form to fill, and in due time, the bank transfer information for the remaining amount. You will have to pay the remaining amount not later than one month before the start of the retreat (July 9).