In December 2014, two friends and I set off for India to take part in an adventure like no other, The Rickshaw Run, the objective? To travel across India in a rickshaw, bottom to top!
Here are some photos that hopefully capture the spirit and atmosphere of the mayhem that ensued.
The January run started in Cochin in the South and finished approximately 2000 miles later in Jaisalmer in the North of the country.
As part of your entry fee you get to ‘pimp’ your rickshaw. This basically involves sending in a basic 2D design for the paintjob. A team of “experienced” local painters then transform your 2D design onto your rickshaw. In order to complete the WW2 spitfire theme we brought wings and a propeller and spent the first day or so attaching them with gaffer tape.
Again, in keeping with the theme we had full Biggles style costumes for the launch.
90 teams took part in the race, all starting and finishing in the same place but apart from that you were completely free to go wherever you wanted and do whatever you liked in the 2 week window.
The mornings were the nicest times to drive, especially in the south, it was warm, there was a lot less traffic on the road and you got to see some incredible sunrises.
Occasionally you would bump into another team. This was way into the mountain range (The Western Ghats) that run up along the Western coast of India.
Sometimes the only accommodation we could find was cheap and ‘cheerful’ – £3 each
Sometimes we treated ourselves to a bit of luxury – £14 each
We tried to find roads we thought looked interesting. We found this road on google maps and thought it looked like a beautiful wiggly mountain road. Turns out it was actually a 60km dirt track around a lake.
This dirt track was easily the worst ‘road’ we drove on during the trip and once we had started along it there was no way off, we had to just keep going and hope we didn’t break down.
This ferry saved us driving the remaining 40km and allowed us to hop across the lake and finally make it back onto solid roads. Never been so happy to see tarmac in our lives!
Looking back over the lake we had just spent the entire day driving around on the dirt track.
After our day of off-roading it was fair to say that the rickshaw was pretty ruined. We took it into an ‘Official Bajaj Service Centre’ in Pune and got a full service to fix all our various problems. We needed new electrical wiring, new clutch plates, a new front assembly, brake fluid and many other little things.
Here is one of the mechanics replacing our front assembly. When we brought it in the whole rickshaw would pull to the right so much that your arm would ache at the end of the day from keeping it straight.
Luckily India is insanely cheap, 8hrs of manual labour and many new parts cost us a total of £35.
We stopped regularly at these road side cafes for a cup of chai. This gave us a bit of a break from driving and also allowed the engine to cool a bit. The chai at these roadside stalls was always better than any chai we had in the restaurants, they’ve obviously spent a long time perfecting their art.
And it goes without saying that the food was absolutely incredible.
Our breakfast stop in the carpark below Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. We had a few hours wandering around this place before continuing our journey North
An evening spent wandering around Udiapur. This was one of the last major cities before the finish in Jaisalmer so by this point a lot of the teams had converged again. There was a colourful painted rickshaw down nearly every alley you looked down.
We bumped into this convoy of Aussies at a police stop. After the usual pleasantries of having a chat and a cup of tea the police allowed us all to continue on our way.
All three times we were stopped by the police all they wanted was a chat, a cup of chai and sometimes a selfie.
We hung out with these guys for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine.
It’s fair to say that Indians love a GoPro selfie. The Yeti (bearded man in the middle) replaced our clutch cable for us when it snapped in the middle of this town, he refused to take any money from us apart from the cost of the cable (~£0.50)
Hanging out the rickshaw with the GoPro on the selfie stick got some of our best shots from the trip.
The scenery was breathtaking.
And the rickshaw continued on running…
A short stop at Kumbhalgarh Fort
We made it!
After 2,000 miles, countless breakdowns and god knows how much chai.
If you haven’t had enough feel free to watch our full video of the trip which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4waLHsc4rv8