Sikkim has suspended all tourism-related activities as of now due to the Covid-19 situation t least till September 2019. They will reopen for tourists only in October 2019, that too if the situation improves. Will update in case of any new development.
Rimbi Orange Garden is a private orange orchard near Pelling, on the banks of the river of the same name. It was not a part of the plan but it turned out to be a good detour for 30 minutes. But before that, we need to understand a few things about Sikkim and its organic push as several questions popped up in my mind as I visited it.
Sikkim: The Organic State
Sikkim is a rare state in NE, India which generally makes it to the headlines for positive reasons. It is one of the cleaners and better-governed states without any serious law and order issues or political conflicts (except of course the recurring border issues with China, but those areas are not for tourists anyway). One of the things about Sikkim that keeps returning to the headlines is its status as a 100% organic state. This is a culmination of the efforts that started in 2003, when various circumstances forced the state to take drastic measures.
Now, this organic tag also has many aspects that people don’t understand. Avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides can affect productivity while it needs significant branding to make average people pay a premium for organic items. As of now in India, organic stuff are overpriced, and restricted to high-end supermarkets in the big cities. A bit of research, also gave me some conflicting reports. Let me post a few for your consumption…
I am not an expert and I spent very limited amount of time out there. So, I can’t say who is right. But I do find the whole topic fasinating.
So, even as I was preparing for Sikkim, I wanted to visit at least one place where I could witness some kind of organic cultivation although I had no clear idea about anything. As the trip started, I almost forgot about it and I did not know where to find them as we were just quickly knocking off the popular tourist destinations one after another. The only noticeable thing during the early days for me was the graveyard of plastic bottles at a checkpost at the order of North Sikkim, en route to Lachung. Every car was being checked and plastic bottles were being confiscated. They were really serious about the plastic part.
Visiting Rimbi Orange Garden
However, on our last day, while going towards Yuksom from Pelling, the driver suddenly pointed towards the plantations on the right side of the road and infomed us that these are the orange gardens of Rimbi. So I quickly asked him to stop for a while, so that we could have little walk through the garden.
First we just noticed a bunch of roadside shops selling tea and fast food, but soon realised that the path to the garden goes down from here towards the river. They were also selling their produces on the shop and one girl was selling entry tickets for INR 10. We bought tickets and quickly descended down to the orange kingdom. First I saw one tree, fully loaded with fruits, followed by another, and then the whole grove appeared till as far as I could see. The good part was that although it was unplanned, we were there at the peak of harvesting season.
Orange is not the only thing here. There were other things being cultivated and there were some small wooden houses too. It was more like a village that is neatly maintained with concerete pathways through the groves and bamboo garbage bins for visitors who has reminded me of Mawlynnong. As a matter of fact, there is limited space available for cultivation in that slope between the highway above and the river below, but they seemed to have utilized it perfectly. Apart from oranges, I could notice a small plot of cardamom (the large black variety of cardamom from Sikkim is famous), some other plots of potatoes, peas, and other seasonal vegetables, and along with bamboo groves and ornamental flowers, and one grasshopper mocking at some ants. After 30 minutes, we came back, had a cup of tea, and moved on.
So, the question here is, can tourism make up for the loss of productivity due to organic farming? It has surely provided a secondary source of income to the garden as they are charging entry fees to the visitors and also selling the products. However, I would love to see a more detailed report with proper numbers regarding this.
Visiting Rimbi Orange Garden
How to reach Rimbi Orange Garden?
The garden is located by the side of the road leding to Yuksom from Pelling, in West Sikkim.
How far is it from Pelling?
It is around 12-13 KMs from Pelling
What other attractions are nearby?
A small waterfall called Rimbi waterfall is the more traditional stop for tourists here. It is another Km ahead of the garden. Peronally I thought it was a pretty basic fall.