The Rickshaw Run is a race which sees participants “speed” through various routes in India in a rickshaw, although it’s certainly not a race and more of an adventure. The challenge is really more about trying to leave behind the comforts of travelling and head into the unknown and you are actively encouraged to pack as little as possible to help you on your journey. I’d really like to share with you our experience on the Rickshaw Run earlier this year…
We’d known about the Run for a few years as it’s organised by The Adventurists, a company that also organize the Moto Junket (similar challenge in South America on local bike taxis), the Ice Run (where participants race over the ice shelf in Siberia on bikes with sidecars), and the most famous one, the Mongol Rally – which we did in 2010.
We hadn’t planned on doing another challenge quite so soon, but I had got itchy feet again and literally on a whim, booked the tickets and then phoned my (then) boyfriend (now husband) to tell him that he was going to India the following year. No thought, no discussion and no deliberating.
Exactly how travel planning should be!
On 7th April 2012, we would be leaving from Cochin, Kerala in the south-west of India and driving nearly 4,000km to Shillong in Meghalaya (the north-east). We had around two to three weeks to do it and by god – we would and we’d do it in a little motorised vehicle that has an average top speed of 40km/h up mountains, across fields and on the worst roads I had seen since Mongolia.
The idea was that we would both save up our holiday for the trip in the following Spring. There’re several Rickshaw Run routes throughout the year depending on the season and this particular route was by far the longest. With this in mind, it was 9 months away so didn’t need to really think about it too much.
But then Josh asked me to marry him.
I said “yes” of course, but post-jubilation, when we were working out the logistics of the wedding and what we had available to spend, it seemed that making The Rickshaw Run as our honeymoon was the sensible thing to do. Well, sensible only in that we didn’t want to forfeit our entry fee! It was decided that we would set our wedding date the weekend before we went away – the 31st March. As you can imagine, our family and friends thought that we were pretty crazy to do this. Honeymoons have this association of being a relaxing time where you and your spouse can sit poolside and clink champagne glasses as you congratulate yourself for organising and getting through all those tough months of wedding preparation and we were choosing to sit in a very uncomfortable motorised taxi for two weeks.
So we had taken on a fairly big trip, that involved little or no preparation, but in actual fact, we’d still have to get vaccinations and Indian visas plus organise our rickshaw design from the UK and raise the obligatory £1000 for charity (which is a requirement of entering).
So where do you start with organising yourself on The Rickshaw Run?
First up – come up with a name for your team:
We called ourselves The Bounders only because that was the name of our team from The Mongol Rally that we’d completed the year before. Some of the teams that sign up to The Rickshaw Run have pretty funny names, my favourite from this September’s Run being Fifty Shades of Curry. We did toy with calling ourselves a name that told people we were on honeymoon but believe it or not, there was already another team who pipped us to that particular post and would also be celebrating their honeymoon! We love our name and our friends and family knew it well, so it would make fundraising much easier.
Next up – “pimp” your rickshaw:
You have the ability to be able to submit a design for your rickshaw and for a modest sum, it will be ready pained for you by the time you get to India. All you’ll have to do then is learn how to drive it when you get there. Josh’s creation was a psychedelic mess that we hoped would brighten up the road a little for the other drivers and more importantly make sure that we would be seen.
Get people to give you money:
This one was easy this time round – we turned the charity collection for the Rickshaw Run into our wedding list and simply posted our Just Giving page to guests. We raised over £1000 doing it this way and guests really liked the idea of giving to charity. The very worthy FRANK Water were the chosen charity for our run in Spring 2012 and since 2008, The Rickshaw Run has raised £500,000! FRANK Water save lives through funding innovative and sustainable clean water projects in developing countries. You can find out more about what they do on their excellent website: www.frankwater.com
Book your travel arrangements:
As usual, we used the very reliable Skyscanner to find flights to Cochin, Kerala for £315 each leaving on the 3rd April. As we weren’t sure exactly when we would arrive at the finish-line , we decided to book the return flights closer to the time. We had done the same with the Mongol Rally. If we had booked flights when we wanted to, we would have missed them for sure, as we could have been stuck in the middle of nowhere (like we were on the Mongol Rally).
We also had to organise our visas, which for Josh was a quick and easy process and for me was along, drawn out drama of the DVLA losing my passport, getting a new passport and then getting a visa with only three days to spare (check out the date below!) You can apply for an Indian Visa at the India Visa Application Centre next to Victoria Station in London and cost £55 (plus fees) as they insisted I got a journalist visa as I stated I worked in “media”. Please don’t make the same mistake as me if you ever get a visa.
So all that was left to do before we embarked on the Rickshaw Run was to get married and have one of the happiest days of our lives and then have about one free day left to pack. We certainly were keeping in the spirit of this adventure and were sure that we would forget many, many things and miss the comforts of home and most likely get sick from dodgy food and possibly argue and be dirty and hot and miserable, with a lack of sleep and run our petrol and lose something important and get very, very lost – but they’re all the best bits aren’t they?
You can read Part 2 here, where I’ll tell you all about arriving in Cochin and preparing for the adventure in full. Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts about this below…