If you haven’t done so, check out Part 1.
The start of the run finally arrived. If you ever want to know what hilarity looks like, get 150 people who have very minimal experience driving rickshaws and get them to try to sort their way out of a 7 foot wide gate. A few minutes into the run and half the rickshaws already had dents in them… not that we cared too much.
Anyway, we hit the streets. Rob took the first turn driving. He did pretty well… I mean aside from getting turned around a bit and very slightly running off the road. But all-in-all we got out of the city in a rapid order.
We started with a caravan of three rickshaws, and we led the pack. The plan was to use walkie-talkies to communicate back and forth, but the whine of the engine was too loud for us to be able to hear the devices. In the end, one of us spent most of our time peering out the back window or had our head around the side of the rickshaw so we could keep watch on our caravan. This lead to a lot of wasted time as coordinating on Indian streets is nigh impossible. However, we managed.
Around 9 AM, 1 hour into the run and just outside Cochin, our caravan has its first crash. We had taken a U-turn do to me giving some bad directions. Our middle rickshaw pulled out right in front of a motorcycle and he had to drop to asphalt. As someone who has experienced road rash before, it seemed pretty painful. We had an hour break while one of our team mates (who is a nurse) patched up the motorist and paid him off.
The next hour was pretty smooth sailing until it was my turn to drive. We got onto the onramp for the wrong interstate, and right there is when we swapped drivers. My first real time driving and my first task was to flip a bitch on an Indian interstate. That was horribly scary, but I managed to get us back on the right interstate and on we went!
There isn’t much to say about driving a rickshaw, really. It’s similar to driving a car, except you use handlebars to turn, the clutch doesn’t work very well, we were mostly missing second gear, it’s loud as hell, only goes about 35 miles an hour, and flips over if you take a turn… but other than that, it’s similar.
I drove for a few hours until we stopped at a roadside shack for lunch. Dhruv (our other teammate) and myself skipped out early so he could get some driving lessons in. Within about 5 minutes he was a better driver than anyone else on the run. It was crazy. After lunch, we had Dhruv drive for a while. The rest of the day passed pretty peacefully and by the time the sun was setting we had managed to get a couple hundred kilometers.
This is where we realized how crappy our rickshaw was. A bunch of teams were planning on meeting up about 50 kilometers down the road, but the sun was setting and we were nowhere near there. It turns out most people could get their rickshaws up to 55-60 km/hr, but we were stuck at a mere 45 km/hr. Over the course of the day, that adds up to quite a bit of lost space.
Once the sun went down, we grabbed the first hotel we came upon, which was ridiculously nice. We ate and had some beer at the bar (too much beer actually) and agreed to leave before sunrise to play catch-up in the morning. Four hours later, my alarm went off and out we went. As we waited for our rickshaw to warm up we had a breakfast of warm beer. Next we found a gas station and filled up our spare cans (we carried two), dropped in the oil (it needs an oil mixture to run) and our caravan was on the road!
The rickshaws need to rest every two hours or they will have engine trouble. This is where we normally switched drivers. One guy on the other team jumped into his rickhsaw’s driver seat and immediately caused the second collision of the trip. As soon as he sat down, he rocketed his rickshaw into one of the others on our caravan. Luckily their fender stopped any real damage. It accomplished that by being torn right off.
Shortly after the crash, our caravan broke up due to technical problems. Later that day, we arranged to meet up in Udupi. We arrived a bit after sunset to a pretty shoddy hotel. The mattresses were thin and stained and the same for the pillows. The blankets had holes in them. There were also plenty of mosquitoes. Luckily I had my trusty sleeping bag liner for just such an occasion.
Before crashing for the night, we followed our normal protocol of food and beer. We even managed to meet some other teams. At some point, I got separated and ended up wandering the streets for a while checking all the pubs for my team. It was a bit scary… but I managed to find them without being stabbed, so bonus.
The next day our caravan ended up separating immediately and that was the end of our group. We did, however, agree to meet up for lunch. No one showed up for lunch. So, on we went solo. From now on, we were a solo rickshaw daring the roads of India… which is far more epic than I made it sound… at least until the mid-point check-in.
Another day passed before we had our first mishap. We blew a tire. Putting on our replacement tire wasn’t a big deal, except for the curious onlookers watching some white dudes put on a spare. We spent an hour or so finding someone to patch the tire. We went to a tire shop who said they don’t fix our tires, wandering around a bit, then found a shack that agreed to patch it. Issue one solved.
The day after that, we ran into our second issue. We completely lost power on our Rickshaw. We drove/pushed it to the top of a hill and rode the hill down until we ran into a village. There we stopped to find out what was wrong.
My first guess was that we forgot to mix the oil in with the gas so we started to drain our gas. As soon as we started, a bunch of locals started surrounded the Rickshaw. Concerned that I had managed to (rightfully) piss them off, I stopped draining the gas immediately, even though we managed to clear almost the entire tank. However, the locals didn’t seem to care. Instead, they just kneeled down and started to mess with our engine. They pulled out a shoddy spark plug. We passed them a fresh one. They tightened up our exhaust and replaced a worn our bold.
In very short order, they managed to fix our engine. Not only that, but our slow Rickshaw finally managed to hit the 55-60km/hr speed that other ones were reaching! They refused any money, so we bought them a bunch of sodas and snacks. I’m pretty sure they just accepted it because they thought it was hilarious as we tried to carry a bunch of chips and nuts around the town.
In the end, we crashed at the beach that night. Another of our caravan groups ended up there, so we shared a really, really big apartment right next to the beach.
I’ll continue the next part with Goa and the insane party we had there.