Globetrotters would have to agree that though the touristy sites are a must see, the off-site, remote and non-touristy places too manages to stir in us a feeling of fulfillment. It is here that you will feel the actual essence of the place. And that’s what these two women did in Sikkim. While doing the touristy stuff, they also focused on the real sites, people and culture. But you may wonder what’s so different about them? They are doing the same thing that others do! The thing that sets them apart is that fact they stay in a bright and cheery blue caravan.
Ankita Kumar and Sharanya Iyer are living the high life and are exploring places in their caravan — Luna. With the intention to introduce us to the Caravan culture from Europe, they started Caravan Chronicles and their recent expedition to Sikkim will forever be etched in their memories.
This was initially a joint venture between Ankita and her friend Rohith Subramaniam. And it was only a year back that Ankita met Sharanya. She shares, “I met her in Mumbai just before Rohit and I started Caravan Chronicle season one. She joined us for a few days at Great Rann of Kutch. Since Rohit is in South America now, we both got together and did this season in Sikkim.” Rohit, who is still a huge part of this initiative, was fascinated by the Caravan culture in Europe and wanted to introduce the same in India.
Talking about the trail she would like to cover, she says, “Since we have covered a lot of places in India, it makes sense to go beyond that. Planning on doing a trip from India to central Asia or Europe as well.” Why Sikkim? “The biggest reason we chose Sikkim as it is a very small area but with a lot of things to see. The other reason was because the roads are lot better than other North East states.” When it came to places to see, the girls did a combination of touristy, historic as well as the off beat places. She shares, “While we saw Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang, we randomly stopped at places and stayed at quaint locales like Khecheopalri Lake and Okhrey which is quite a remote region. We also went to Dzongu which is the northern part of Sikkim and it was completely untouched.”
The reason the girls only did Sikkim for this season was because, they wanted to promote slow travel. As it turns out to be cheaper, you get to live like the locals do and be immersed in their culture. Travelling without sampling the local delights is never fulfilling. Of course, they had momos but also the local stuff that the people of Sikkim eat. Anikta shares, “We stayed in a lot of cozy home stays, we ate what they ate! We ate a fern called Ningro which is native to Sikkim which was our favourite. We also sampled Selroti which is a bread that is made especially for the Bhutia tribe.”
The girls also tried the local alcohol which is off two types — Chhaang and also a wine which the girls made with a family they stayed with.
Anikta shares that one of the biggest problem of staying in Sikkim was permits.
She explains, “Since there is a heavy army presence there, every places had a different permit. It was more difficult for us as we had a commercial number plate. We needed atleast 14 permits. White number plates are preferred over yellow ones.” Talking about the dos and dont’s while is Sikkim, “The first thing is do not litter. What I loved about the place was that in the Lachung area, plastic water bottles are banned. Do not be loud and respect the people there,” she says adding that they wanted to encourage the homestay culture. Ankita shares that for a traveller, the one one word they will have to learn is “Ramro cha” which mean very nice. In terms of shopping, “We picked up a yak stool, prayer flags and few things for my braid. I have had it for a year and I keep adding stuff to it.
We have also tried to incorporate the thangka style of painting on to the side of van. This is must to take back home,” she concludes.