So thanks for joining me for the third part of our Rickshaw Run story (Part 1 here and Part 2 here). You just left us as we had set off from the start line in Fort Cochin and headed off on our big adventure driving a rickshaw 4000km through India.
We managed to get on the freeway pretty quickly after leaving the start line in Fort Cochin (with my husband Josh driving) and it was astonishing the transformation that he underwent in just a couple of hours. The White Van Man had the opportunity to shine in India! There are literally no rules on the road and if a car wants to drive the way down the road at you, then it will and if he wants to stop in front of you and do a ten-point turn whilst traffic builds up behind you – in the middle of a highway, then he bloody well will! The White Van Man gets to get on the horn throughout all of this and as such, is in his element.
At first we were both pretty on the edge of our seats but the key to safe driving in India is all about keeping on the horn. You use it to tell people you’re there, as well as to get out the way. So, you go past a truck, you beep; you drive past some pedestrians, you beep – and most importantly – you are just driving along, you beep. After a while we stopped being shocked at seeing multiple trucks drive the wrong way down the freeway at us (sometimes they’d ‘helpfully’ blast their horn) and forget to suck in our breath as cars and buses avoided us by very small gaps. The White Van Man would then take over!
Look at us! We’re driving in India and we’re still alive!
Our first night was spent in Coimbator in Tamil Nadu, where we really struggled to find somewhere to stay. In India, restaurants are called ‘hotels’, which gets confusing, so we had to look out for ‘lodges’ or ‘motels’ instead and driving at dusk looking for a hotel when you’re quite hungry and a beer wouldn’t go amiss, is hard work! I left Josh looking after the rickshaw while I went off to find somewhere to send the night. By the time I got back 20 minutes later, he was surrounded by about 20 locals all interested in the blond-haired man with his very own rickshaw. One wanted to take him to meet his family and they all kept daring each other to touch his hair – which no-one did! I dragged Josh away from his new friends and headed to our ‘lodge’ to enjoy a night of Bollywood on the TV (I’ll do a post on this soon by the way!), interspersed with power cuts.
So the next morning was an early start. In fact, such early mornings turned as par for the course, and every day saw us get and leave between 5am and 6am in our attempts to avoid the 40c heat that usually started to beat down around 10am. We’d also decided to try and get to the other side of the country as quickly as possible, then work our way up the coast. The scenic route, if you will which gave us reason to start early. On average, we were on the road around 12 hours a day and that enabled us to get to the east coast of India in about 4 days. The second night had us thinking “this isn’t so hard” as we managed to stop at a convenient roadside lodge, but subsequent nights had us making strange detours to towns in the hope we could find a decent enough please to sleep with food and we always did!
Our third night in Kavali, led us to a lodge that offered to keep our rickshaws outside on the road which we weren’t happy with. Another team turned up (which by the way is a very exciting thing when it happens as you might not know each other, but you feel safe and familiar!) and we both managed to negotiate for the hotel owner to move other rickshaws and bikes out of the way to fit us in on the pavement outside the hotel. I’m not sure how popular that made us but we did feel rather special as room was made for our little Rickshaw! The most challenging part of the Run for us, though wasn’t the problem with finding lodges, it was the state of the roads. They were so potholed in places, it hardly made for a good drive and even on the freeway where the road was smooth, we would just end up veering off into the middle of nowhere, before having to drive across the central barrier onto the other side of the road. One time, a monkey, who was sat in the middle of the road, decided to run into the side of our Rickshaw, leaving a monkey-shaped dent in the side (although it looked fine as it shook it’s head and ran off!) and we also drove through a fireball too! Check out the video below…
On day 7, when we drove through the power country, which had power plants as far as the eye could see, we managed to drive into a coal mine as we couldn’t tell the difference between the state of the road and the gravel and rocks that make up an entrance to a place where they mine rocks. You would have thought there would be a sign, but there wasn’t! The security on the gate just watched us trundle through without saying a single word and some helpful man stopped us to tell us we’d taken a rather embarrassing wrong turn. How were we to know? The roads really are that bad!
It was a massive relief when we ended up at the top of the mountain that runs around the mine, where we suddenly found ourselves surveying the beautiful views over an industrial India (before it no doubt disappears before too much longer from over-mining).
That evening managed to find the best ‘lodge’ of all. A beautiful, neon oasis in the middle of power country in Chandipur, The Hotel Bequest Inn had a suite, yes – a suite for about £60 for the night and this honeymooning couple took it without hesitation. Covered in dust, sweaty and tired we traipsed into the foyer and made ourselves truly at home.
Thanks for reading this segment in which we talk about roads, motels and mines. We’ll take you to the finish line on our next instalment! Thanks for reading and be sure to post your thoughts in the comments below!