So thanks for joining me for the second part of our Rickshaw Run story (Part 1 here). You left us as we just got married and about to head on our honeymoon driving a rickshaw 4000km from south to north India. We flew into the starting town of Cochin, Kerala late at night, and got a taxi to our hotel. It was then that we got to experience true Indian driving for the first time as both of us sat there white-knuckled as the driver drove at oncoming cars (sometimes with their lights off) and beeped the horn constantly.
We drove past a rickshaw for the first time on the freeway, and heard the noise. Oh the noise. Horrible horrible noise. We made it to our hotel alive and to be honest, the scary taxi trip couldn’t have dampened our spirits – we were THAT excited!
Just as a side note we stayed in the Poovath Heritage Hotel, an old Dutch colonial mansion at a rather expensive £43 per night (it was totally worth it). If you happen to be in Fort Cochin then I do recommend staying this hotel. Not only is it beautiful and looks over the sea, but it also had a pool which was very well needed at the end of a hot day test-driving.
Our own rickshaw would be ready for us to test-drive and beautify the next day in Fort Cochin. The next morning once we’d walked around the town to get our bearings, we managed to find the rickshaws, and were excited to find that ours had been amongst the first batch to arrive, and was now sitting there waiting for us all painted. (We’re second in from the right in the picture below).
All we had to do was add a stereo, a few fake flowers and most importantly – learn how to drive it! Rickshaw are pretty horrendous to drive. You can’t see anything, the mirrors are useless, the brakes don’t work very well and you have to slow down almost to a halt in order to turn right or left. Never having driven a motorbike before, I really struggled with it although my new husband was much more experienced with shifting gears. I was more nervous about cars stopping behind me every time I stalled the engine and beeping on their horn and actually trying to start the rickshaw by pulling a bar next to your seat. You really needed to give it some strength and I really didn’t have the that in the heat whilst we were learning and so went totally princess-like on Josh. So he got to do more driving around town than I did and he really started to love it so much that we were heading off on small adventures around town to do chores and pick up supplies.
Along with other participants, we were also asked to help film a spot for an Incredible India! TV advert driving around the shores of Fort Cochin, which was a little dull but the thought of being an in TV ADVERT was very exciting. You can see what happened below:
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So the day of the start finally came around and we were up and packed and ready by about 8am that morning despite having been out for the leaving party the night before. There were quite a few green faces around but the party had been lots of fun. The Adventurists do throw a good party and this one ended with us catching the last boat back across the bay after getting pretty tipsy driving giant bottles of beer. Those left behind would have to make their way home the long way round.
The starting line was a wonderfully Indian affair with the local businesses that had helped to sponsor the event being given a chance to make long, incomprehensible speeches on the stage about the boost to the town’s tourism industry and how proud they were of us for doing this for charity. It contrasted pretty well with men walking around in morph suits and a rickshaw driving past that had ice cream van chimes playing Greensleeves.
- Bring a map of the town. Yes we know that this adventure is all about the “unknown” and throwing all caution to the wind and all that, but there really is only one way in and out of Fort Cochin, or you can catch a ferry across the bay. If you know how to get to either of these then you’re winning. If not, then you’ll be driving around aimlessly all day asking for directions. On your first day. In a town you’ve been staying in for several days. We thought ahead but some teams didn’t and we heard stories of people that stayed the night in Fort Cochin on their first day as they got that lost. On the first day.
- Enjoy your stereo now, whilst you have it. You just spent a while lot of cash pimping your rickshaw up huh? Got yourself some nice speakers and a stereo huh? You think you’ve gaffer tapped that bad boy SOLIDLY to your rickshaw and there is no way on earth that it’s going anywhere…and then you start driving on Indian roads and you hit a couple of potholes. The it starts to wobble a bit and the sounds cuts in and out. Then, no matter how delicately you twiddle wires and the resort to kicking it, your badly made stereo will die and you won’t be able to bring it back to life. Ours made it 9 days – which was a record compared to others! Enjoy it now while you can.
- Don’t drink alcohol. You were up all night last night and it’s 40*c in the shade right now! You’ll pucker into a leather skin-bag soon enough if you don’t drink enough water. You’ll also be stopped for drunk driving on the way out of town if the police see a beer in your hands so hold off. India is pretty dry for alcohol by the way, so it’s not like you can stop at a SPAR along the way and grab a budget cider like you would at home. You can wait until the evening at your hotel and your liver will forgive you. Maybe.
Thanks for reading! As usual, I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts about this below. Next post I’ll tell you all about what it’s like to be on the road and how to cope with India traffic, drivers, bus drivers and finding somewhere to sleep for the night where you don’t have to share with giant cockroaches (unless you ARE looking for that type of place? Let me know in the comments…)