Caravan Chronicles: A month-long journey through Sikkim's towns and villages, with a new home-on-wheels

Caravan Chronicles' Season Two is the story of two travellers, Ankita Kumar and Sharanya Iyer, as they spend 30 days in a van, caravanning their days through Sikkim.

Ankita Kumar and Sharanya Iyer May 31, 2019 09:55:23 IST
Caravan Chronicles: A month-long journey through Sikkim's towns and villages, with a new home-on-wheels
  • The idea of Caravan Chronicles was born in 2017 and took flight in 2018 when Rohith Subramaniam and Ankita Kumar drove Kiro, a bright orange 90s Matador across India for 100 days.

  • For Season Two, we decided to rent a sturdy Tempo Traveller in Bangalore to battle the challenging roads of Sikkim.

  • From the South to West, and East to North, we’ve covered a multitude of small towns and villages, and spent cozy nights inside our van as it rained outside.

Editor’s note: You may have heard the saying ‘the journey is the destination’, but some travellers actually put that philosophy into practice. Presenting, #FTravellers — on-the-road (or air/sea) dispatches from travel enthusiasts on long journeys.

The travellers we have on board this time are Ankita Kumar and Sharanya Iyer, the duo that makes up Caravan Chronicles' Season 2. They’re on a 30-day journey across Sikkim in a caravan rebuilt from a Tempo Traveller, which they call Luna.

***

2 girls | 1 caravan | 30 days across Sikkim

Dispatch 1

Who are we?

We’re Ankita Kumar (@monkey.inc) and Sharanya Iyer (@trulynomadly), and we've travelled to Peru, Kyrgyzstan, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Uzbekistan — solo!

Take Two

The idea for Caravan Chronicles was born in 2017 and took flight in 2018 when Rohith Subramaniam and I (Ankita) drove Kiro, a bright orange 90s Matador, across India for 100 days.

Many trials, tribulations and triumphs made the first season an immense success and put caravanning on the Indian road map. The foundation stones had been laid, but the passion to explore, create and inspire more only grew after those three months on the road. It was time to make it bigger and better and take the road less travelled – to North East India.

Soon after, Rohith left for South America for a two-year-long bike trip. The project, however, had gained momentum, which is why we decided to get Season 2 on the road in 2019.

That’s when I, Sharanya Iyer, came on board. I was part of Season 1 for a few days, travelling with Ankita and Rohith in the Rann of Kutch – in scorching weather. It seemed like a partnership that would stand any challenge that came our way; who powers through melting tyres, coolant leaks, multiple breakdowns and shady highway motels together and lets that bond go, right? We knew we’d found a synergy that could take Caravan Chronicles to the next stage, and decided to go right ahead and make it happen.

Caravan Chronicles A monthlong journey through Sikkims towns and villages with a new homeonwheels

Ankita Kumar and Sharanya Iyer

Say hello to Luna

With no Rohith, no Kiro (who is now living a happy retired life in Chennai) and no real knowledge or means to buy, build and maintain a brand new vehicle, we decided to rent a sturdy Tempo Traveller in Bangalore to battle the challenging roads of Sikkim.

From there on, it was a mad journey to get our home-on-wheels, Luna, in shape.

When we first painted her blue, we realised that we’d made a mistake. We didn't know better, and it turned out to be quite dark and dull. After a whole week of paint prep, we had to go back to the drawing board. That's when we decided to paint her this fresh minty blue. But because of Indian vehicle modification laws came the decision to wrap her in white vinyl sticker, to get her across state borders without legal issues. Once she hit Siliguri though, out came the white sticker, and with that much of our blue!

Long agonising story short, we found some angels in disguise at Gangtok (one of the many local superheroes who helped Luna and us on our whirlwind journey) and painted her with them. A group of local artists worked hard with us over a 12-hour overnight shift to get the artwork on both sides finished in time. We decided on a simplistic nature theme, with Sikkimise style Thangka clouds on one side and a beautiful, wild free-spirited girl on the other, all hand-painted and designed a day before it went up on Luna.

We named her Luna because we wanted her to stand for feminine energy, girl power, moonshine, and all things lighthearted.

Caravan Chronicles A monthlong journey through Sikkims towns and villages with a new homeonwheels

Funding the journey

Since we are both full-time travellers and content creators, this was the perfect opportunity to combine our two passions and create integrated content for our brands.

We had to juggle several tasks simultaneously — ideating, putting the pitch deck together, pitching to brands, persistently following-up, budgeting, justifying deliverables and costs, logistics, operations, coordinating with multiple vendors, content ideation, shoot planning, money management, permits and endless amounts of paperwork, crisis management, predicting issues and battling them, dealing with the police and the army, route planning, people management... and so much more — while keeping our wits about us.

Why Sikkim?

When it came to deciding the location of our trip, we unanimously agreed on Sikkim. We’ve both traveled extensively in the North East to states like Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, and while we love it with all our heart, we had to be conscious of the poor infrastructure and condition of roads in those parts.

We also knew that we’d be shooting a web series in April and May, which is the beginning of the monsoon season in a lot of these states. Sikkim stood out as a big state with great variety when it comes to terrain, landscapes, culture, food, festivals and weather conditions with relatively better roads.

We decided that we’d try and do it justice by slowing down and spending the entire 30-day period there. And we’re glad we did!

Caravan Chronicles A monthlong journey through Sikkims towns and villages with a new homeonwheels

Luna, their home-on-wheels, is rebuilt from a Tempo Traveller

Caravan Chronicles A monthlong journey through Sikkims towns and villages with a new homeonwheels

Gurudongmar Lake

From the South to West, and East to North, we’ve covered a multitude of small towns and villages, spent cozy nights inside our van as it rained outside and sipped on hot cups of chai while watching the frozen whites of Gurudongmar Lake at 17,000 feet above sea level.

Our caravan, our home, our Luna… with her we’ve traversed some difficult paths together (both literally and figuratively), met some beautiful people, heard enchanting tales and come out on the other side – braver and surer of making the culture of caravanning a reality in India. Caravanning in India is an adventure every day. And we've learnt so much from it.

Stay tuned for more from Caravan Chronicles' Season Two on #FTravellers.

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