CHENNAI: Spotting a caravan that looks right out of an Enid Blyton book, parked in a suburb like Adambakkam is not something that you see everyday. Well, we did! The Caravan rebuilt from a 90’s Matador was home to travel enthusiasts Rohit Subramanian and Ankita Kumar for 100 days. Over a mug of hot coffee and in the comfort of Rohit’s cozy and vibrant van, we find out more about the duo's pet project, Caravan Chronicles.
“I was motorbiking and Ankita was backpacking across the globe for almost three years. I wanted someone to handle my social media account and that’s how I became acquainted with her,” narrates Rohit, seated amid the bed, which turns into a sofa during the day, and their semi-functional kitchen. “During one such trip in Austria, I stayed with a friend, who had a room for five people who inspired him to travel. I was one. That night, I thought, what if he came to India and I had to host him...where would it be? That triggered the idea of building a home — something that’s on the go,” he says.
The concept of waking up to different sunrises and sleeping to different sunsets has always fascinated the duo. “There shouldn’t be monotony and it should be comfortable — this was in my mind. I figured no one in India had documented such an extensive journey on a caravan before. I shared the idea with Ankita and she was immediately onboard,” he narrates.
By February, the route was planned and the ‘nutty travellers’ serendipitously found a van which suited their requirements in Pollachi. “We found the van on Droom.in, and incidentally my father was in Pollachi that day. He paid an advance and blocked it,” he says. The van was taken to Bengaluru and rebuilt in 10 days, from scratch. “I did all the woodwork and Ankita did all the beautification. We named her Kiro, meaning cross roads in Japanese. But it actually came from An ‘Ki’ and ‘Ro’ hit,” he laughs.
A stove, induction cooker and BBQ, a makeshift wardrobe, two fans and an inverter makes Kiro feel like home. Rohit says, “Kiro gets all her character from the people who spent time with us, in our home. We met different kinds of people in our journey. We have had people cook for us when we craved for home food,” he shares.
Carrying your home around with you on wheels is a challenge and Rohit confesses that it took time for them to get used to. “We slept in tents, in the caravan, been through the hottest days in Rajasthan and survived rains. This uncertainty made our journey interesting,” he explains.
Being a second-hand vehicle with an old engine, Kiro had her own ordeals. “There’s one screw that falls off every night, one new breakdown and a tyre gone wrong. But that made us stronger. People were helpful. As much as Kiro is home to anyone who wants to be here, she has a mind of her own. She has hasn’t started when certain people boarded the caravan. Right out of a movie, isn’t it?” he grins.
From people stopping and staring at their caravan at hairpin bends to curious bystanders peeping into the van, they have seen it all. “There was a time when Ankita was sleeping inside and found someone poking their head inside the van. When she asked them what they were up to, they said: ‘We are just checking out the van, you please go back to sleep’,” he recalls.
From enjoying their travel playlist — music by Queen, Beatles, Pink Floyd and the desi travel song Yun hi Chala from Swades to soaking in the serenity, Rohit says they went where the road took them. “The playlist was decided by Ankita, and I drive around. We changed our scheduling and extended stays in certain places. It was an entirely different experience from our previous travel expeditions. We hope that this triggers the caravan culture in the country,” he adds. For details, visit: Caravan Chronicles on Facebook/Instagram
On March 5, they began their journey and took the caravan through Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu-Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Hyderabad and Chennai. “We went with the flow. We had a rough map and woke up every morning without knowing what to expect,” says Rohit.