Over 250 adventure seekers from around the globe revved their engines in a radical rickshaw rally at Jawahar Niwas Palace in Jaisalmer on Thursday, celebrating their epic 3500 km journey from Kerala to Rajasthan in the name of adventure and charity.
Curated by the British based The Adventurists, the Rickshaw Run happens three times a year, attracting wild and daring travelers who enthusiastically embrace the crazy challenge of driving a 7 horsepower “glorified lawnmower” from Kochin to Jaisalmer; Jaisalmer to Shilong; or Shilong to Kochin, journeys many travelers wouldn’t venture even by car. No support or direction is offered beyond witty instructions to be safe, have a great time and make the rickshaws look snazzy! Rickshaw Runners are warned that there is no set route, no back-up and no way of knowing if they’re even gonna make it!
While many adventure activities involve getting strapped into technical gear, the risk and freedom of the Rickshaw Run entices a truly fearless, free-spirited crowd, ready to face rambunctious Indian drivers, dusty roads in terrible disrepair, rickshaw breakdowns and the inevitable Delhi belly. And they sure like to party!
“Other than decorating our rickshaw, there was nothing else we could do to plan,” said Kiran Sodah of England. “You just have to be open to anything and anywhere, never knowing when you might break down.” And break down they did, 17 times, with flat tires, blown gaskets and broken pistons. “We had to stay in random villages which was awesome. We got to experience how incredibly warm, helpful and hospitable Indians are.” Sodah and his teammate smiled glowingly as they recalled the nearly impossible, steep dirt track they climbed, praying their rickshaw wouldn’t tumble and crumble as they approached what turned out to be their favorite homestay, in middle of a lush, wild elephant filled Keralan jungle.
Others flipped and crashed, bandaged bodies and mangled vehicles as their relics, but spirits, as they often do in India, remained high. All sorts of creative solutions for mending the cartoon-like rickshaws were employed, zip-ties being the savior of choice for David Cook from Brisbane Australia. “We even used a ziptie to fix our exhaust pipe – and crazily enough, it didn’t melt!”
The Adventurists use the renowned rickshaw not just as a wacky vehicle for showcasing the pandemonium of India for some intrepid travelers but also as a way to raise money for the rainforest-saving Cool Earth organization and other charities of participants’ choice. Each team is asked to raise a minimum of £1000 for charity, at least 500 of which goes to Cool Earth. To date, The Adventurists have proudly raised £5.5 million for aid organizations.
“Although the cause isn’t what drew us to it, it’s made the experience all the more special, getting others excited and knowing we’re making a difference,” shared Warren Duncan from Capetown, South Africa. “Rickshaw is definitely the best possible way to see real India. This has been the trip of a lifetime!"
Each team navigating its own voyage, the 103 rickshaws stayed in contact over their two week journeys through a what’s app group, sharing tales of splendid sunsets and classic flip-overs.
A highlight for many was finally spinning their wheels all together as they paraded their colorful motorized three-wheelers through the desert city of Jaisalmer, blowing horns and waving hands from atop their rickety rickshaw roofs. And as Indian hospitality would have it, I was warmly welcomed atop the loudest rickshaw of ‘em all, joining in the fun and spreading love for a Cool Earth.
A social worker…..working socially, around the globe.