Caravan Chronicles: From Ravangla's Buddha Park to a sacred lake, soaking in Sikkim's diverse experiences

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. 

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2 girls | 1 caravan | 30 days across Sikkim 

Dispatch 2

In case you missed our first dispatch on Firstpost, where we introduced ourselves and Caravan Chronicles’ Season 2, here’s a quick brief – we’re Ankita Kumar (@monkey.inc) and Sharanya Iyer (@trulynomadly), two solo female travellers and bloggers who came together to take our blue caravan Luna on a 30-day road trip across Sikkim.

In this dispatch, we’ll take you through the first week of our journey, which commenced in Gangtok and moved to Southern Sikkim.

Making our home

We landed at the Bagdogra airport and Luna met us in Siliguri after a triumphant week-long journey from Bengaluru – her first trip across so many state borders!

Once we reached Gangtok, we shopped for interesting local items including masks, a Yak stool, a bamboo basket for trash, a Tibetan dragon tapestry, cushions, fairy lights and other accessories. Lal Bazaar is where you want to go for these things – with a strong bargaining game. The bazaar’s ground floor is filled with fresh vegetable shops which also sell local items like yak cheese strings, yak stools, wooden Tongbas (cylindrical containers in which the local millet beer chhang is consumed) and such. Buying all this made Luna full and happy, giving her the homely touch she needed.

 Caravan Chronicles: From Ravanglas Buddha Park to a sacred lake, soaking in Sikkims diverse experiences

By the end of the third day we were exhausted but went to bed excited, knowing that Luna was finally ready for the road.

Of homestays and tea gardens

Our first stop was the Temi Tea Garden in Southern Sikkim. We drove for around three and a half hours, knowing that Google Maps’ time estimates wouldn’t work with Luna. She’s big and the roads can get quite narrow, almost doubling what should’ve been a two-hour journey. Throughout, however, we were greeted with curious faces along the way.

We decided to stay at a homestay for our first two nights as we were still settling the interiors and streamlining the luggage. We chose the Aansham Kutir Homestay, a lovely local home which had opened two of its rooms to travellers. It has a beautiful central courtyard overlooking the mountains, a garden full of flowers, a community kitchen where we would dine and interact with the family, and our rooms which had a cozy bed and blankets.

We drove with our homestay owner to the tea estate the following morning and had a fun day, meeting and interacting with the tea pickers. They told us how people begin working at tea gardens at the age of 18 or 19 and stay on until their mid-40s. They work from around seven in the morning to four in the evening. The pickers asked us where we were from and promptly told us they were happier on the hills, with their fresh air and peaceful surroundings.

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The next morning, we made our way to Ravangla, stopping along the way at beautiful spots in Southern Sikkim. That’s the best thing about caravanning, the flexibility to go off the route and stop at random spots that call out to you.

Practicalities of living on the road

In Ravangla, we had our first real cozy night in Luna, parked in a beautiful clearing overlooking the hills. It rained all night as we slept comfortably with windows shut, curtains drawn, and fairy lights on.

Some Lamas and a family from Hong Kong visited us the next morning when they spotted Luna outside their homestay. That was our plan – park Luna next to someone’s home if they’ll have us, and spend some time with the occupants in the morning, to shower, relieve ourselves, and head off to the next spot.

Besides homestays, there’s always toilet paper and hidden spots behind bushes or behind Luna. The big tip for doing your business outdoors is to ensure that you're away from water, as it could be a source of drinking water for the locals. If you’re a woman, find someone who’ll stand guard.

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As for our periods, both of us are ardent users of the menstrual cup. We consciously made the switch about two years ago, not only because it’s environmentally friendly and reduces your carbon footprint, but also because it’s the most convenient period hack for full-time travelers. All we need is a mug, which we always keep with us, and some water. We fill the mug with water and clean the cup before re-inserting it. No plastic disposal issues or the trouble of constantly packing pads and carrying them with us.

Peace, silence and serenity

Ravangla is famous for its massive Buddha Park, Tathagata Tsal. Low-hanging clouds played hide and seek as we entered the monastery, after marveling at the powerful statue staring peacefully down at us.

We had hot momos, chai and spicy Wai Wai noodles to tide away the rain-storm, and then made our way past the central market to the small Doling monastery to see the sacred lake. It was completely deserted. In the silence, the lake put on a show for us, with many fish peeping up and down as they swam in groups, while colourful prayer flags fluttered in the wind.

By the end of the first week, we were beginning to see just how diverse and warm Sikkim is as a state – the people, vibe, culture, food, and peace, against dramatic monsoon landscapes, lush and surreal.

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

Updated Date: Jun 25, 2019 10:09:44 IST