Since I’ve been back I’ve been asked a lot of questions from friends and colleagues. I won’t lie : being back sucks! Spending my 9 to 5 day in front of a computer working: sucks! The Rickshaw Run has changed me. It has changed the way I look at life; the way I look at my water consumption; the way I bike around the city.
One thing is for sure: it is a life changing experience and I’d do it all over again.
So, to answer a few questions:
How was it? It was the most grueling, exhausting, nerve wrecking, adrenaline packed adventure I have ever been on. To better express this and quote a fellow rickshaw runner : I had some of the best times of my life and some of the worst, often within moments of one another. To say “ we survived”, it’s an understatement. There were moments were death by a truck came too close for comfort and where driving into a ditch became the only option.
And although this happened, we also had the most amazing moments : like playing an impromptu game of Simon says with the village kids; dipping our feet in the Gange; watching the sun rise above the Bay of Bengal; spot elephants in the wild or sipping tea in Darjeeling.
We met amazing people that helped us get out of trouble, and made friends for life. We managed to get lost even with a GPS ( a free downloaded version). We got stock in mud (GPS said: “turn left”); drove on a one way street going against the traffic (GPS said: “turn right”); we broke down in the middle of nowhere; drove without brakes; drove at night with barely any lights. We laughed hysterically and cried too. We had moments where we just wanted to put that piece of metal on the back of a truck, and moments where we were on a beach watching the sun go down on the Coromandel Coast.
How was it, you ask? I still can’t get my head around it. 4,130km of adrenaline pumped days, are still hard to assimilate.
How did you guys plan where to stay? Did you book hotels? This is one question that makes me laugh…. If there is one thing we learned quickly, is that ALL plans get shattered at the lightning speed of 35km/h (the average speed we we’re driving, with a recorded peak 57 km/h downhill!).
Like Elly said and reminded me every couple of hours: This is an hour by hour adventure. Its about the journey, not the destination (Although, we did have to make it to the finish line!)
There is no such thing as planning, as there is no way to predict what’s ahead of you. Things can change so quickly along the way, that your dream of “We’ll have beers on the beach tonight” will likely resolve into you sleeping in the crappiest minus 5 non-star hotel you never even though existed. That’s why, you don’t plan. You wish, but you don’t plan!
So no, we didn’t book a thing. We ended up in random “hotels”, in villages that I cannot even pronounce the name of.
How were the roads? How fast were you guys going? The following are a guarantee on Indian roads:
# 1: awful roads or ‘Highways’ (calling them highways is sometimes a real over statement). Indian roads are known to be some of the ‘shittiest’ (pardon my language) roads in the world. Potholes so big they could swallow a truck, and dust so thick it would make a foggy London day look like its a clear day. Put the following with the most daring and devilish drivers in the world and you start getting the picture.
Yes, this is # 2 : Indian drivers. They are fearless. They drive like maniacs at full speed, carrying loads so big you start wondering how they even packed their trucks! They love to play chicken, and they love to win at this game too. The problem is , when you are driving a rickshaw, size matters. Their size, not yours. In India this is how the road order goes: cows ( they are holy, therefore can do anything that pleases them); buses (especially the pink one, blaring its horn that’s drove us in a ditch on day one); trucks (colorful, dreadful, loaded beasts); SUV’s; tractors or any agricultural related vehicle; cars; rickshaws; motorcycles; self-made vehicles; bicycles; pedestrians and animals.
Now put all these together and you get number #3: Traffic. To get the picture put all of # 1 and # 2 together, jam them into a 1.2 billion population country and see what happens. Yes, you got it: a symphony of loud horns, vehicles, animals, humans all coming and going in every sense and direction feasibly possible and all trying to either get there first, or avoid potholes. To this day, I’m still surprised that a motorbike didn’t drive on top of our rickshaw. We came really close to losing our rearview mirrors and my only road kill was a toad and a cactus ( this last one was just sitting there, having a peaceful day in the sun when I decided to maneuver the rickshaw back and forth on it…. Long story. If you ask I might tell!)
And no, we weren’t going “fast”.
Would you do it again? No. Yes. Maybe. Ya, I would!
Any words of wisdom? Yes: don’t do it! This is NOT a vacation by any means. So if you’re ideal is to sit down, relax, sip a drink and enjoy life passing by, this is not for you. If your ideal is to see India (like the Taj Mahal): don’t do it. You will have no time for anything you want to and you’ll be at the mercy of a “glorified lawnmower” that will dictate every minute of your day . Remember : it’s about the journey, not the destination.
Oh, and if you’re going to do it: get driving gloves and extra lights.