July 18, 2024

Camp Kharu: Royal Enfield’s first Green Pit Stop in Ladakh speaks community, culture & conscious travel

6 min read

Kharu (Ladakh) [India], June 18: Royal Enfield showcased Camp Kharu – its milestone Green Pit Stop in Ladakh, the first of many, planned on popular travel routes. A short drive from Leh city on the Leh-Manali highway (NH3), Camp Kharu is enroute to some of the most scenic tourist destinations in Ladakh such as Pangong, Tsomo riri and Hanle. Nestled in the Kharu market, the two-storied 1,500 sq ft archetype rammed earth architecture, stands on the banks of the Indus river, overlooking the stunning Zanskar range. Travellers can stop for rest, refreshments, tourist information – such as Intangible Cultural Heritage experiences, a list of homestays, including ones supported by Royal Enfield, riding routes and more.

“Camp Kharu is an ode to the transformative power of travel that inspires people to ‘Leave Every Place Better’. Its sustainable architecture, community initiatives and avenues for cultural exchange show the way for mindful exploration. A Green Pit Stop is meant for slow travel, making one savour local experiences. Local communities are at the core of our Social Mission and an initiative like this helps in local entrepreneurship, environment sustainability and promoting intangible cultural heritage – all in a differentiated way. The Green Pit Stops are truly for the community, by the community,” says Bidisha Dey, Executive Director of Eicher Group Foundation. 

Ready for its first tourist season, the property has been managed by six self-help group (SHG) women from the Kharu village, aged 37 to 55 who volunteered for the opportunity. The women run a cafe, serving authentic Ladakhi dishes, made from locally sourced ingredients. They also manage the commercial and exhibition space and ensure that the public convenience facilities within the premises are usable throughout the year. 

Royal Enfield invested in the women’s potential by offering training and capacity building. In addition to being trained in bookkeeping, facility management, cooking, baking and hospitality, they were taken on exposure visits to Mumbai and Goa and were mentored by established chefs such as Chef Prateek Sadhu of Naar amongst others. At the cafe they serve signature Ladakhi dishes such as Paba (a local barley dish), Skyu and Chutagi (native pasta dishes) among other delicacies. Working at Camp Kharu has given the homemakers-turned-entrepreneurs a steady income, an expanded worldview and newfound confidence. Taking their skills beyond Kharu, they have also catered at prominent events such as Royal Enfield Motoverse Goa, the Royal Enfield Ice Hockey League in Leh and Sa Ladakh at Disko Valley, Leh. Through the Social Mission, Royal Enfield is supporting the SHG women to develop and deliver on a business plan that will help them to become self-sustaining in the near future. 

“After working at Camp Kharu, we are proud to assist our husbands in managing household expenses, contributing to the education of our children, all the while nurturing our passion for traditional Ladakhi cooking,” says Chemat Lamo, the SHG President of Camp Kharu. 

Camp Kharu is an all-weather facility. Royal Enfield worked with architect Sandeep Bogadhi of Earthling who built the facility using rammed earth architecture – an ancient practice, now being revived, that involves tightly packing together earth, natural clay, sand and gravel. The sustainable, labour-intensive construction with its low carbon footprint is resilient and timeless. The property, fitted with solar panels, is built to keep cool in the summers and remain warm in the winters, preventing water pipes from freezing even when temperatures dip under -25 degrees. The facility is also equipped with water refilling stations, free wi-fi and charging points. 

Camp Kharu is a joint initiative between Royal Enfield Social Mission, the Rural Development Department/ Leh Development Authority, Kharu Nambardar and the local community. Given that Kharu sees a massive tourist footfall each summer, the market area has long needed a public hygiene facility. Through its CSR initiative, Royal Enfield stepped in to meet this need and developed it into a one-of-a-kind pit stop for the community, run by the community. 

The ground floor is a lounge cum community space for visitors to have an immersive experience of the local culture and art through various exhibitions. The dedicated exhibition-cum-shop space on the ground floor is designed to spotlight Ladakhi Intangible Cultural Heritage, heritage textiles and local produce. The contemporary art, curated by Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation, provides a glimpse of the new direction’s art forms are taking in the region while still being rooted in creative practices rooted in the past. Workshops and community learning activities are also planned for the local community. These include community awareness sessions, skill-building workshops for youth, budding artists, designers and architects. Winter workshops are planned for children to study local flora and fauna, climate change, conservation, theatre, art and craft and more.

On Saturday, Camp Kharu witnessed an interactive performance by Tsering Motup,  a multidisciplinary artist from Leh. Motup is a fellow of the Royal Enfield and Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art Fellowship for creative practitioners. His performance, accompanied by an ongoing exhibition that can be experienced through the season, was based on what Ladakhi kitchens and recipes reveal about its culture. In addition, Royal Enfield curated a conversation with architects Rahul Bhushan and Sandeep Bogadhi about sustainable architecture practices and the metaphor of a community pit stop.

The Himalayas are a spiritual home to Royal Enfield. Camp Kharu is an initiative of the Royal Enfield Social Mission which aims to work with 100 Himalayan communities to ensure that they are resilient and thriving even in the face of climate change. The Social Mission’s other initiatives in Ladakh include the development and support of Ice Hockey and the conservation of keystone species such as the Snow Leopard, Himalayan Knot – a textile conservation programme that conserves local textiles from Ladakh, as well as pastoral lands – and The Great Himalayan Exploration, where rider-researchers document the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Himalayas. All this, while aiming to catalyse a movement of one million riders to explore sustainably and become active stakeholders in the mission.

Hashtags:  #CampKharu | #LeaveEveryPlaceBetter | #RoyalEnfield

Follow @royalenfieldsocialmission on Instagram for more information.

About Royal Enfield Social Mission

The oldest motorcycle brand in continuous production, Royal Enfield has created beautifully crafted motorcycles since 1901. From its British roots, a manufacturing plant was established in Madras in 1955, a foothold from which Royal Enfield spearheaded the growth of India’s mid-sized two-wheeler segment. Uncomplicated, accessible and fun to ride, Royal Enfield is a vehicle for exploration and self-expression. A division of Eicher Motors Limited, Royal Enfield operates through more than 2,050 stores across all major cities and towns in India. It has a presence in more than 60 countries around the globe. 

The Himalayas are ‘a spiritual home’ to Royal Enfield. Royal Enfield’s Social Mission aims to partner with 100 Himalayan communities and landscapes to become resilient and thriving even in the face of climate change. It currently supports more than 50 projects across the Indian Himalayan region. Whether it is promoting rural sports and winter tourism through the ‘Ice Hockey League’, building a network of ‘Green Pitstops’ for travellers, conserving textile heritage by bringing together pastoral communities, artisans and designers through ‘The Himalayan Knot’, supporting filmmakers and creative practitioners with fellowships, or instituting a collective learning centre called ‘The Himalayan Hub’, the initiatives are wired to create learning and livelihood opportunities for local communities. 

Through our partnership with UNESCO, riders are engaged to document and promote the unique Intangible Cultural Heritage of Himalayan communities. The Social Mission’s goal is to enable one million riders to take action towards regenerating landscapes and empowering the communities residing there, thus forging the largest rider-led movement in sustainable exploration.

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