On 28 December 2006, 34 teams from seven countries round the world left Cochin in Southern India to take on 2,000 miles of wild Indian terrain in wholly unsuitable 150cc three-wheeled auto-Rickshaws in aid of charity. The Rickshaw Run teams receive no support or back up and tackle the arduous journey on their own, including choosing their own route to Darjeeling.
One week into the Run, the teams are spread across the subcontinent getting into the kind of scrapes that are one man’s nightmare and another’s adventure. Reports of elephants blocking the road, traffic chaos, regular breakdowns and stunning scenery have dominated the team’s text messages posted live on the event Web site (see link below).
On Day 1, the teams were straight in at the deep end. Richard Birch, of Team Curried Away from Birmingham, UK, reported the mechanical and psychological challenges started right from the off:
“Rickshaw problems the first day involved our throttle going kaput - so that we couldn’t even drive up the hill in first gear! The next day we headed across the mountains and it was a real head-wreck to see these tiny rickshaws scaling the side of stark mountainsides!”
The terrain has caused mechanical mayhem across the fleet of auto rickshaws. The Dosa Boys from New Zealand “blew their engine”, Team Shanti Shanti from Bristol, UK, sent in this calm and collected report on day 3: “Apart from fuel tank falling off, so far so good!”
The next day, Team Punkah and Pelham, from London, UK, sent a similar message to the Rickshaw Run website: “Exhaust falling off but otherwise chugging slowly north over some pretty ropey roads.”
However, all the teams have overcome their mechanical problems with the help of locals along the way, who have apparently made them feel “like rock stars”!
The most astounding outcome of this first ever Rickshaw Run is the incredible pace of some of the teams. While the 34 teams are spread out all over India and most are not expected to finish until the 14th January, there are some teams already closing in on Darjeeling, to the disbelief of those following their progress.
Niraj Lama, the Rickshaw Run co-ordinator based in Darjeeling joked “they must have got a ride on the back of a truck” when he heard this report from Team Calamity Crew, from London, UK:
“Camped last night beside a tyre wallah - front forks are knackered and brakes too - doing 60 down the wrong side of the road - nearly at Calcutta - 1 team ahead of us.”
The first handful of teams are expected to smash all the predictions about the first ever Rickshaw Run and arrive in the hill station of Darjeeling any day with the majority of teams expected late next week, when an official arrival party will be held.
At the end of the Run, the auto rickshaws are being donated to charity in conjunction with Darjeeling Earth Group, monitored by international charity Mercy Corps Scotland. Overall the event hopes to raise between £35,000 and £45,000 for charity.
The first ever Rickshaw Run is sponsored by .travel.
Picture courtesy of Deric Stucker