Flashback | Rickshaw Sailing

One of my India based friends, Vir Nakai, posted a nice Instagram image of his ride in a Rickshaw in the current Mumbai Monsoon torrential rain. An annual event. The image took me back instantly to that one night’s drive in a thunderstorm along a banged up non-existent highway in Assam. The 3 pane view. The heavy rain. The elephant sized potholes. The trucks passing us by as if we were irritating flies. Rama did excellent service by keeping the small talk going and taking as many pictures as he possibly could. The rain & the rock’n’rolling over potholes just not conducive to good camera use. Even so, an excellent moment captured.

Vivid. Madness being missed.

The Strike

Link to Rama’s original post on the Rickshaw Sailing

 

/Rakesh

#rickshawrun #NH34 #RickshawSailing #rickshawrun #rickshawrunmemories #chutneychungas #roadtrip #adventure#incredibleindia

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Flashback | Hyderabad Diaries

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On this day, exactly a year ago, my fellow Chunga Rakesh Rao and I were on the third day of our pan-India rickshaw adventure from Cochin to Shillong.

We started our Day-3 from Mysoreand were well-ahead of our schedule when we reached the overhead passage of Hyderabad at 3pm.

Hyderabad is known for Charminar, Biryani and their inimitable style of speaking Hindi mixed with Urdu. Charminar is a historic mosque built in 1591 AD. Its literal translation is Four Towers. It has stood the test of time for centuries and many say, the city of Hyderabad came into existence because of it.

For me, personally though, it was the most popular brand of cigarette with the picture of four towers in it that I had seen while growing up. The thought of taking a picture of our rickshaw in front of this historic monument excited us as we decided to drive through the city during peak traffic hours. We got stopped by at least two traffic cops and we got out by paying them the necessary bribes.

As we got for closer to Charminar, we realized it is one of the most crowded places on Earth. Our dreams of enjoying the architecture, taking picturesque shots in front of it were dashed in minutes.We decided that it is better for me to get down, click some quick shots as Rakesh drove near the Four towers.

As soon as I got down and started clicking as fast as I can in the crowded traffic, I noticed Rakesh was being stopped by two guys in a motorcycle. I had no idea what they were talking about but soon saw Rakesh waving me to get into the Rickshaw.

Turns out there was a series of bombs that exploded in Hyderabad just weeks before we arrived there. These self-righteous Motorbikers thought they were stopping a huge plot by stopping our rickshaw. They insisted that my friend can’t drive away in the most colorful, decorated Rickshaw in the whole city, leaving behind the “Goatee Terrorist” who was taking pictures of their famous monument.

Rakesh obliged and turned around laughing but it is one of the memorable days of our adventure. Getting out of Hyderabad during peak traffic hours to Warangal is a whole other story.

Hyderabad Diaries

Hyderabad Diaries

 

 

#throwbackthursday #rickshawrun #charminar #hyderabad

Flashback | A Two-Wheeler experience

The Frank Water Project:

A few days after I left Shillong I met with a good friend, Dr Sarbjit Singh. And he asked me, “Why do a RickshawRun for charity?” And I answered, “Just donating money is easy and provides for a nice element of ‘feel good’ for ourselves. True charity, in my opinion, is when you have to step out of your comfort zone(s) and do something which does take a special effort and while not necessary, a little bit of hardship“. The Rickshaw Run provided us such an opportunity. I hasten to add, in all honesty, the adventure value was obviously a factor that helped us make the easy decision to sign up! As usual, I digress! The point I try to make here is that our visit to the Frank Water Project site was a test in itself. It was as if our resolve to visit the Frank Water Location was being tested and we were somehow being forced to change course – bypassing the location and heading on. But unshaken, late night – early morning we reached Warangal.

An early start; freshly cooked breakfast and per kind courtesy of the Warangal based BalaVikasa Charity organization we were provided a car to take us Seethampet to visit and see the latest water purification plant implemented by Frank Water. CoCo-CW earned a well-deserved rest.

Two-wheeler Experience | Seethampet

Two-wheeler Experience | Seethampet

While in Seethampet, we were to play a ‘role’ in a documentary/publicity video that Frank Water were filming for release in the future some time. (Sadly, the video has not yet seen the light of day. Yet. I add hopefully) The original plan was to drive CoCo-CW from Warangal to Seethampet. But the drive would have been slow and long and we did not have the luxury of either since we had planned to head out of Warangal mid/late afternoon that day. Instead, the script was changed, showing us arrive on a motorcycle ‘leaving CoCo-CW in Warangal to rest’. The picture shows us ‘just arrived’ after the ride in, reaching the Water Purification plant, with the ‘interviewer’ ready, mic in hand, to ask us about our journey so far. The Head of the village graciously allowed the use of his own motorcycle for the film. We were a little embarrassed since the Head actually considered it an honor that his motorcycle was being used by us. The short motorcycle ride was fun. We took a few minutes getting some pictures before riding in. Rama, riding on the back seat, had fun too and the excitement is obvious. The visit; The bike ride; The people; The smiling faces simply made the ‘testing’ drive in the previous night seem tootrivial.

A heart-warming walk down the Rickshaw Run memory lane.

/Rakesh

#rickshawrun #rickshawrunmemories #chutneychungas #roadtrip #adventure #incredibleindia

Flashback | An Evening before Ananthapur

Flashback | The Evening before Ananthapur

We had pushed hard from Mysore that morning. Plan was to use the good roads and highways and make up for the slow times we made on the first day and going up to Ooty and down into the Bandipur National Park. I had perhaps been a tad unrealistic in hoping to make Hyderabad late evening. But while I knew we couldn’t make it, I was hoping against hope that we did. That would have been something!

But Bangalore traffic and our inability to convince the Toll authorities to allow us to use the ‘super smooth’ Toll Highway, pegged us back considerably. Bangalore took up the whole afternoon. Getting through it and then a spot of lunch with Rama’s brother, Mani (he was the original 3rd member of the team) who lives in Bangalore.

By Sundown we were nowhere close to where we wanted to be. However the drive was a fairly quick and safe one even in the night. This stretch was a nice wide highway with a median. Thus, ridding us of the fear of having to deal with the monster super bright lit trucks hurtling down at as, as if we are just a small little bug about to go SPLAT! on the windscreen. I remember looking up location and the cities/towns we would be heading towards and realistically stopping for the night. Trip Advisor on the iPhone barely recognized the towns ahead let alone suggest any decent hotels.

Anyhow, the drive for the day had practically gone for a toss. It was pretty late and we decided to stop at the first ‘Dhaba’ – a roadside restaurant, confusingly known as a Hotel locally in India. Yes, Incredible India! There were many trucks and the place was brightly lit and inviting. We had planned to head to Ananthapur and stop for the night. But as things turned out we reached too late to get any decent meal. (Read about our Ananthapur Story here: https://globaladventurists.com/2013/04/09/incorrigible-india/ ). I digress, again!

We decided to have a few cups of Tea and some bottled water.

While I sat sipping my Tea. I looked out and looked at our dear CocoCW (photo below captured the moment). Somehow it felt lonely, all on it’s own. Waiting there for us. At our service. I turned that moment back to me. In those few moments with myself, I felt a little alone. And I’m sure Rama also went through these moments. Sitting there in the middle of nowhere; dark, just us and CocoCw. Loved ones doing their own thing back home. The discomfort. Why? Why was I there? Was this a good idea? The answers would flow like an angry flooded river. Fast and wide. I was there, first of all, because I was blessed with family and work colleagues allowing me to be there and encouraging me to be there. I can’t Thank all of them enough. Amazing moral support. Secondly, I was there because through our adventure, we, our respective families, our friends and colleagues could make a difference on a large number of people in India. Some young girls who we would provide financial help to get educated. Some village folk who would get clean drinking water and also benefit from running their own water purification plants and creating a revenue stream for the village to reinvest to enhance the lives of all villagers. (Teaching them how to fish, rather than feeding them Fish!). These thoughts made it all worthwhile. These thoughts were uplifting. These thoughts were the RedBull for our (and I trust I speak for both Rama and I here) thoughts.

With a smile our face and our hearts, we slurped down the last few sips of the delicious roadside Tea and headed towards Ananthapur, for an experience of a lifetime. Truly!

/Rakesh

#rickshawrun #rickshawrunmemories #chutneychungas #roadtrip #adventure#incredibleindia

RickshawRun-Ananthapur

Flashback | Rickshaw Break

Rickshaw BreakWhen we reached the ocean front five star hotel in an auto-rickshaw,we were duly denied entry. After much convincing about our reservation, we were let in by the gatekeeper. It was heaven after spending more than a week in bad hotels including the infamous Anantpur stinky one room. We seriously considered extending our stay in this luxury palace but decided not to as we had another 2000kms to go. Looking at this picture taken in Vizag, we realize how blessed we were even in our rickshaws. In India, you can find a million reasons to be grateful and not complain about I-285 traffic, missing feature in your phone or not having LTE everywhere!

/Rama
Rickshaw-Run-Vizag

Flashback | The ‘Chief Head’ Award

These are some of the few pictures that actually has me and Rama together. Otherwise, during the actual Rickshaw Run we had to take turns taking pictures. Rama and CocoCW would pose, I take the picture. We quickly do a swap; I pose with CocoCW and Rama took the picture. Often times, the best photo spots turned out to be on busy roads, and we would just scramble and try to finish the photo shoot and be on our way without causing more of the traffic jam than there already was!Coming back to this picture:
This was taken by our another RickshawRunner, Matt Dickens (of The Adventurists), the Head Honcho of the RickshawRun. During the ‘Finish Party’ in Shillong, a day after we had completed the run. This was when we received a ‘Special Appreciation Award’ for the only team of the 72 that took part, to have actually reached the Frank Water Charity location and spent the best part of the day there.

Team ChutneyChungas had set out from Cochin with a firm intention of visiting the Frank Water Charity location near Hydrerabad (there’s another bunch of stories on this little city here!). We had two main targets when we set out. One; to make it to Frank Water and Two; to make it to Shillong. After we left Ananthpur (Aahh, the endearing little town of Ananthpur where we sadly didn’t get enough time <sarcasm>), we made good distance and were expecting to have a quick drive through Hyderabad, a spot of lunch and off to the Frank Water location, by Sundown. But Hyderabad had other plans. Big plans. We got so seriously stuck in the traffic – it was a like a never ending maze. There was just no way out. Not in good time at least. But as we pass the hour of Sundown, we find our direction and are able to squirm our way out of Hyderabad. A nice wonderful stretch of highway elevated our spirits and speeds. We decided to stop for a quick dinner as it was already late, believing that with this good a road, we would reach our destination in no time. Dinner done. Off we set. We probably drove about 3kms and our world shattered. The elevated spirits became deflated, flabbergasted spirits. The nice smooth highway, gave way to a single track road full of potholes, and the gigantic trucks with lights that could light up the whole earth, piercing right through my eyes and playing havoc with the brain. With this onslaught of truck after truck coming at me, I was practically driving blind not knowing where the road was or which potholes to avoid. Many a time stopping dead in the tracks not running the risk of sliding of the road top and off the side. Needless to say, the going was very very slow. Excruciating slow. Depressingly slow. We finally made it to the Frank Water Charity center office at around 2am in the morning. Yes, 2am! When the plan was to be there around 7pm – in time for a nice warm meal and talk with the Frank Water Charity members. Thanks much, Hyderabad! Thanks much! The next days visit to the village where the latest Water Purification Plant had been installed and fully active and making a positive impact on the village residents, made the rough drive worth while and a day to look back upon and smile.

The fact that we made it under such circumstances, the ‘local chief head’ of a trophy that was the award we received meant something. More the appreciation and recognition with all the teams cheering and joining in with applause and pats on the back.

One of the moments of our RickshawRun.

And for those who might be wondering;
“NO, WE DIDN’T GET TO ENJOY ANY HYDERABAD BIRYANI! So let that go now!”

/Rakesh

Award-RickshawRun-Shillong#rickshawrun #adventurists #chutneychungas #rickshawrunmemories

Chutney Chungas Greatest Hits!

CC quotes! Series | Chai #rickshawrun

While I make my Ginger tea this morning for breakfast, can’t help the mind going back to the chai on the Rickshaw Run.

It is nice to have some tea in comfort with the ‘normal’ mugs, plates and silverware. But that chai in the plastic sampler cups -holding just enough to satisfy a gulp – made in a ‘shop’ no bigger than a small hut and called a ‘Tea Stall; that chai had an altogether different taste and romance about it.

Thinking back at how the eyes scoured the ‘strip’ of huts for that telltale stove fire and the blackened pot. Stopping and then those indelible words:

“BhaiSaab! Do first class chai dena”
(Sir, two ‘first class’ teas please)

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Traffic? What Traffic? #rickshawrun

Thanks to #RickshawRun & weaving in & out of rush hour Hyderabad traffic in an AutoRickshaw, #Atlanta traffic is almost relaxing!

Navigating Nostalgia-land!

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“I am pretty tired…I think I will go home now!”- Forrest Gump.

I wish I could end my India trip as succinctly as Mr.Gump did, after he ran non-stop to all 50 states,with as many followers,as they were expecting him to say something profound at the end of it.

Some of the greatest insights in life happen without symphonic background music, scripted perfect dialogues and dramatic u-turn in character’s behavior.In the real world, they occur subtly. They creep in gently into your system without you even noticing them.They form a pattern that you experience with full-on resistance for a period before you accept them for what they truly are. They give you a grip on the situation to handle something that you were afraid of before. They form a framework to understand and navigate an environment that you couldn’t before.This Indian adventure has been a proof of all these for me.

I had forgotten how India can make you scream in frustration, cry in agony over its laborious processes and test your patience to its limits. At the same time, I had also forgotten how grateful I should be for the strength in character it gave me,how selfless are the ones with nothing to gain and how to move on in life with acceptance without complaining!

It is impossible to put India under simple check-box categories because she is a bi-polar, extremely neurotic, highly sensitive, completely hardened, all-weather-proof strong, extraordinarily generous, fully supportive,enchantingly spiritual,massive blob of humanity in all it’s colors and shades,rising up and down in a constantly shifting wave. She is a paradox. She is a conundrum. She is humanity with all it’s goodness and ugliness.

To live here means to ride a never-ending roller coaster. It tires you but then it also elevates you. You don’t have personal space to endlessly discuss whether iPhone 6 is going to be better than Samsung S4. If you do, you are brought down to reality immediately by the constant power-cuts, unnecessary strikes, barrage of hyper-sensationalized news reporting and the chaotic traffic. You have no choice but to be present,be in the moment,most of the times. If you are not, then you would miss the hundred stories happening around you and your purse!

India makes you a very quick learner and having travelled 4200kms in 13 days over 8 states,staying in 13 different places and meeting countless people,you earn your true Indian Drivers permit to navigate India.

Here are my nuggets,my insights, to navigate this universe of constant cosmic changes.

1) Indian Stretchable Time: Do you need an electrician to fix your fan ? Don’t think you can look at yellow pages,call someone who will turn up on time,give you a quote and do the job,all within 24hrs. Accept the fact that it will take multiple phone calls, the quote is for labour and not the parts,and the job will take three to 5 days to get it done. You can’t waltz into Indian system with American/Western sensibilities. Relationship currency is what counts here. If your parents/grandparents haven’t built the network of plumbers, carpenters,Electricians and other household workers, you need to start building them from scratch.Connections and whom you know is more important than money Or you pay double the price to get things done sooner so he can abandon some other job for yours.Internet problem? Telephone issue ? Need a new door? Just multiply the amount of time you think it should take to fix them by factor of 3.
“That shouldn’t take more than couple of days”.2×3=Minimum of 6 days(if no Sunday falls in between).

2) Slow down: You can’t be in a rush to either get things done or reach some place or hope everything will fall in line. The variables of something going wrong is way too much. You decided half hour early should be enough but you didn’t expect a traffic jam at 3pm.You thought you could get into that shop, buy a few groceries and be back at your apartment in an hour but who knew it would take half hour in that queue to just to pay for your three items you bought ? You thought you can just call the taxi and be on your way in 45 mins but he turned up an hour and half late ?

Rule of thumb-Don’t plan too many things on a day and learn to see the stories unravelling around you.Slow down your to-do list.Accept the fact that things may not go as planned on any given day.

3) When Dejachu strikes,let it go: There are way too many dementors in India(if you are not a Harry Potter fan, google it).People with little power who are extremely insecure and want to prove how big their apparatus is. Ignore them. Don’t fight or try to argue with them.Every country has them but in India, the conditions are even more ripe for them to spread their nasty smell.Get away from them swiftly before they suck the happiness out of you.

4) Do not resist: Accept your situation whole heartedly.Did someone break an agreement ? Is someone asking for your boarding pass AFTER you have landed in your destination city even though 20 people verified you before you boarded? Do they want to get a passport size photo and get it notarized even though you are sitting in front of them with your Indian passport to prove you are who you say you are?Do not resist. Just ask them about all the stupid rules and follow them. Efficiency, common sense, purpose of process/procedure are absent in most places.

5) Few people make decisions: The system of hierarchy and control is systemic and wide-spread.Even after talking to twenty people, it will be hard to find out who makes the decision.A top-down approach will make your life easier but to get to the top, you need to know the right people. It’s a double-edged sword that one needs to know how to wield it and it all takes time to build these bridges.

All of the above has an unwritten base rule and that is Money. You better have lots of it and be willing to spend more than necessary to avoid the hassles.

When you come to terms with the above, the human spirit and stories that fill each one of your senses is a gift that no other country can give you.

Gift of orange sunsets, gossips at tea shops,Dal fry at Daabhas,smiles of people hanging out of overcrowded buses, kids playing cricket in the streets, vendors selling spices in baskets over their heads, lazy cows chewing and staring at you as you swerve your motorbike, Angry Heroes in movie posters, blaring Bollywood songs from an Autorickshaw and Teenagers texting non-stop in a mall smiling to themselves!

Accept India and she gives you bountiful joys that fills your heart with memories to last a lifetime!

The Last Dance | Let’s go home now

Getting ready to get on the ‘last plane to Georgia’ 🎶🎵. Waiting in line to go through the final gate and security before the actual boarding of the plane.

The last leg; the last paragraph of the story of our amazing adventure. An adventure that, without a doubt, we will keep boring you with. The stories within the story. We have earned the bragging rights to do so surely.

There are many many pictures that still need to be shared, written about, dwelled satisfyingly over. Especially videos which we were not able to upload and share due to poor and slow network coverage.

For now, I can’t wait to get on the plane and get back to the warmth and belonging of home and my people.

Homeward bound. Truly.

~ Rakesh

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Goodbye India! It was a pleasure getting to know you

As I board the flight taking me away from the adventurous shores of India and towards the reality of USA an Atlanta, can’t help but look back with a rueful smile. At the adventures and a few misadventures I, Rama and the all important CoCo – CW went through together over 14 days.

We saw and experienced India and its varied peoples from a new level. From our eye level and not from the lofty heights of our perceptions and beliefs.

I got to witness another face of India. Whether it is the real face, I can’t really tell. But it certainly threw a new aspect, a new perspective at me. Many a times humbled by the humility, the simplicity of the people along the highways and bye ways we traversed. A face of India, I certainly hope, I have the opportunity to see again. Very soon.

Thank you, India! You, indeed, are !ncredible!

Au revoir, India! Till we meet again.

~ Rakesh

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Almost dead after “Living Bridges”!

After twenty days, going from Mercedes SUV to Banglore Taxi to Brother’s Bike to Autorickshaw, it was only fitting that the final adventure ended on foot!

While all the other modes of transportation was by choice, a casual sight seeing visit ended on foot with a right -thigh muscle pull, Left-calf cramp,eerie creaking sounds of bones in unknown places and some great photos at the foothills of Nongrat village at Cherrapunji, Meghalaya.

During the finish-line party that went into wee hours, a fellow team,Half-a-tribe from Australia, invited us to see the “Living Bridges” at Cherrapunji, a few hours drive from Shillong. We said “why not” and promptly woke up at 5.30am only to find just Dianna and Chris at the Van. Half the members of half-the-tribe had caught a bug and luckily couldn’t make it.

We drove through beautiful scenery and had our breakfast in a beautiful resort just a couple of kilometers from the starting point. We had not done any research about this place and had no idea what was in store for us. As the resort owner showed us a map and talked fast about various things to see enroute to the Living bridges, all we got at the end was 13kms hike. Now, under pre-rickshaw run state, I would have asked the taxi guy to take us back to hotel and ordered room service to watch the repeat telecast of previous night’s IPL game after hearing 13kms hike.But in the current state, as the newly crowned kings of the road, hiking 13kms after covering 4146kms, sounded like a piece of cake. We announced bravely that we are in for the longest route and would like to see all the things possible.We have all the time today and in no rush to get back to the room.

I saw a family sitting in front of us in the restaurant with a T-shirt that said “Chennai Trekking Club”. I have not known tamilians to be active outdoor people. So, I struck a conversation with them to find out more as they happily spoke to me in Tamil.When these active, regular trekkers told us this trek was a “bit” difficult for them, the pride-full post rickrun mind refused to heed to the warnings.

We marched on bravely as the board before the climb down the hills stated 3kms. We brushed it apart,thinking we should be back by lunch time.That extra lunch that we packed at the restaurant, must be an overkill. Thus the party of Diana,Chris,two Chungas and the little mountain goat,our guide,Ebenezer,started down the steps, nice and easy.

After about 200steps, Diana, being the most experienced trekker,having climbed mountains in Rwanda and Tanzania, started racing ahead. Chris, the dirt bike expert combined with natural outdoor lifestyle of Aussies, wasn’t far behind. Road General duly overtook me just to keep pace as the big bear,me,started panting already as my legs started to shake on it’s own. Was my sugar low ? Perhaps it was my lack of sleep the night before as i caught only three hours of sleep after the party.When Diana admitted that her legs are also shaking, I thought,”Well,am not as bad as I thought I was!”.

Throughout the rickrun, the sunscreen never left my face but today I felt it wasn’t necessary as this is Meghalaya and we are going to Cherrapunji, the wettest place on the goddamn planet. As luck would have it,the rain gods took the weekend off giving his check-post duty to Mr.Sun as he hit my brown nose and started frying it in earnest.My brown Chilli pepper nose soon became the Red Chilli Pepper nose singing a different tune with each step. As I crawled my way to the last step on the climb down and caught up with others gasping,Ebenezer,who can’t speak English or Hindi, smiled wickedly and told only  one and half hours more to the main attraction point as I saw the steps go up real steep. Diana, Chris and Bade(Big) Chunga made their way up as I was looking for a winch somewhere to take me to the other end. They should put somewhere in the brochure that these steps don’t just go down but also up. With every ounce of my pride and reminders of skipping all those invitations to trek in Stone mountain from Chandra&Shinja, I climbed up one step at a time.My orange color t-shirt started changing its color to red as it mixed fully with my full-body sweat.

Suddenly I find bade Chunga sitting on the sides holding his left leg. His muscle had pulled and I could see he was visibly in pain.While i was struggling to walk with a piece of water-bottle,Bade Chunga also had a big back-pack on his back.Just as we were ready to give up,our super-fast little mountain goat showed the beautiful “Single” decker living bridge. It was a nature’s wonder made by the local tribes who figured out a way to weave the roots of the tree to form a bride across the waterfalls.A bio-engineered bridge that is fully functional to navigate inside the forrest.

Considering the physical pains, Bade Chunga said no more and asked us to move forward. Ebenezer insisted that the “double” decker is very close by and even showed a glimpse of it from the middle of “single” decker. The Road General decided to make one final push after some rest as we made another big steep climb to reach the “Double Decker”. It was quite a marvel. Imagine every overhead crossing bridge on I-285 being made of branches from the trees,forming a natural arch for people to cross over. We took several pictures and everyone decided after climbing up and down for two and half hours that it is time to go back.

Now, it is one thing to have come this far but whole other  ball(s) game to go back the same route with 70% of your energy fully burnt.This is where you apply all the learnings of past two weeks on the road to test.

“Slow Down”.
“This is not a race”.
“One step at a time”.

As I saw Diana and Chris vanish,Bade Chunga slowly recovered and started pushing forward on sheer willpower. After a while, he too vanished from my sight as my big dehydrated body slowly dragged itself one step at a time. Ebenezer, took extreme pity on me as he decided to make sure that I reach the summit alive else he wouldn’t be paid. My one step at a time turned into ‘rest every four steps’ routine.The water bottles were being emptied faster than the speed of Colorado rapids at Grand Canyon.Energy-meter reached less than 10% with internal red-flashing in brain asking to be plugged into some energy source.Only a palanquin or a stretcher to carry me further with a glucose bottle filled with Red Bull attached to my arms could save me but they were all just dreams to take my mind off from climbing the remaining distance.The left calf gave away and the right thigh started cramping, both at same time.I knew I had to come up with a different strategy to save my pride and show that I can do this.It would be a shame to be carried out in a stretcher for not completing 6kms after surviving over 4000kms in a rickshaw.

I decided to play some music from my 15%-only charge left on my iPhone. As my phone in right pocket was hitting my right thigh, I gave it to Ebenezer.Instead of staying with me so i could hear the music and move,Ebenezer started moving up the steps faster as if to bait me into taking more steps to listen to the music.Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect as after few fast steps, with him being out of sight and my music being out of reach for my ears,I decided to go even slower with no hope.

My heart started beating real fast as I could feel the entire trajectory of my whole breath.This just became a do or die in shame situation.I remembered my favorite movie “Finding Nemo” and the greatest ever one liner ever written in movies-“Just Keep Swimming!”.

I decided that I will not be carried out in a stretcher and gathered all my willpower.My new strategy was to rest every 75 steps unless my muscle pulled,in which case, stretch, wait for the engine to cool down and re-start the count. Few people who passed me got very patriotic as they commented, “If only he was a bit thinner, he would resemble Mahatma Gandhi walking with that stick so slowly”. I had no energy left for a smart retort as I focussed on conquering my next 75 steps,very slowly.

The pace began to pick up as I covered more ground now with my new goal. The pain on left calf didn’t seem to matter, as all my mind was more concerned about the muscle pull in right thigh. I realized how people who live with no choice,have to pick between worser of the two evils.

They said this place had 3000steps to reach double decker(6000 overall).After gasping and panting for three and half hours, I can assure you, that number is absolutely wrong. As the energy-meter reached 1%,with my eyes taking small doses of sleep,only waking to make two more steps,I heard some big screaming and clapping sounds. It was Diana,Chris and Bade Chunga.I made one final push, climbing up the last big mound of steps reaching our Van.I learnt from Bade Chunga that it was a similar story and he arrived just half hour before me.

I laid flat on the front seat in the Van and browsed the pictures on phone with last bit of energy,especially the one with both Chungas on Double decker, as I closed my eyes happily,passing out fully,knowing it was the perfect way to end our  adventures in India!

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Guwahati to Delhi | How to board an Indian Domestic Flight #rickshawrun

Arrived Guwahati airport at 8:45am. A full half an hour early. I have a sneaking suspicion that the driver chewing on some white paste & beetlenut leaf had something to do with the half hour gain. All through the hill roads, he didn’t wear a seat belt. The moment we reach the flat ground of Guwahati, he thinks of the seat belt! Safety is not important. Nor self-preservation. But we mustn’t be stopped by the police over a silly non-sensical thing like a seat belt.

Must haves before you can catch your domestic flight out of any Indian airport:

1. Proof of confirmation of booking / Ticket:
To get into the airport you will need a printout of the booking confirmation received via email. A print out can be obtained for a few of Rs 50 from the ticket office. Alternatively, if you have a smartphone, showing the email on your phone will be acceptable as proof.

2. Proof of Baggage Security Check:
Once inside the airport, you head straight for the line for having your check-in baggage X-Ray screened. Once done, a signed sticker has to be applied to the locks or buckles. Without this sticker, your baggage will not be accepted by the airlines.

3. Check-in:
Have the printout of your ticket and ID ready for check-in. In absence of a printout the confirmation (aka the PNR Number) number will also be acceptable.

4. Baggage Tag for Carry-on:
Each item (you are allowed only 1 piece as Carry-on) must have a tag. Without this you will not be allowed through Security Check. This will be provided when you check in.

5. Security Check:
The usual dance but you will not need to remove your belt and shoes.
Tip: Pack all your electronic chargers and cables in a small bag. Easier and quicker, when and if you are asked to remove all such items (this will include cameras also) to screen the bag without these items.
To save time at the personal security screening, you can empty out all your pockets and put them in the carry-on, just for the screening process. Mobile phones must go into the Carry-on.
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Laptops and iPads will need to removed and put in a separate tray for screening. You will be provided a token showing which tray number has your items.

Now to personal security check. If you have anything in your pockets, get everything out and in your hand. These items, including pens, will be checked.

Once completed, your boarding card will be stamped. Without this stamp you will not be allowed to board. Now collect your carry-on. The baggage tag must be stamped by Security. Without this, you will not be allowed to board.

That’s it. You’re through. Award yourself a Gold Star, Champ! Now just wait for the flight, twiddling your thumbs and then prepare for the Boarding Dance call.

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Exit Adventure: Enter Reality

It is the day. All good things come to an end. And the Rickshaw Run indeed comes to an end, with the Team flying out towards the final destination of Atlanta, the Home City.

I am just about ready, waiting for my Taxi for the 3hr ride to Guwahati airport.

Rama will leave later at Noon to catch his evening flight to Bangalore.

We part ways temporarily but connected permanently by the Rickshaw Run.

~ Rakesh

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Updates

Note to all our followers:

Apologies for the lack of updates from the Team ChutneyChungas. The network and wifi here have been unreliable. We will post pictures etc related to our finish and other events following as soon as possible.

~ Rakesh

Cherapunji & The Living Bridges

https://twitter.com/ChutneyChungas/status/325757493890396162

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Finish Line photos- crappy iPhone

Will post good quality ones once the pics are downloaded from real camera-Cannon G1X. Until then, enjoy these in-hand crappy .

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Shillong- We are here after long long Drive!-Video

Chutney Chungas reach the Summit!

13 Days. 4146 Kms. 8 States. Countless potholes.

Chutney Chungas reach the summit at Shillong,Meghalaya. Cochin,Kerala seems a long long time ago. More updates,thoughts and pictures when we get a decent connection.

Mini Breakdown! #rickshawrun #rr

Just when you think the adventure is over, the Rickshaw Gods work their magic. To truly earn, you have to really suffer. Only then your ego will be humbled. As I posted the sunset picture, within minutes, CoCo said “No More!”.

We had just put petrol about 50kms back. It was really surprising why she would trouble us on this last day. Turns out we forgot to put the cap back on the petrol tank and it was left on top of CoCo to be carried by wind as we moved. Have you ever forgotten to pick up your coffee cup from top of the car ? (Or trash bag).

Honest mistake from our side and we paid dearly for it. I immediately flagged a van going on the opposite direction, bought enough petrol to last Kolkatta(no we are not going back on NH34) and found a fellow rickshawwalla to drop back at breakdown site. We filled her up,duct taped the petrol tank opening and she is up and running now.

For the cocky Chungas who were riding into Sunset, the hint of rain and driving in dark over hills will keep us alert until we reach Pinewood hotel at Shillong.

This Rickshaw Run is still on folks!

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DriveDay 13: Sunset Catchers – One final time with CoCo! #rickshawrun #rr

Riding into Sunset over the hills to complete this great journey is what I call a dream finish! Last half hour stretch…

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DriveDay 13: CoCo, please hold on for couple more hours! #rickshawrun #rr

As if she sensed that we are going to abandon her in few hours, she started throwing some unwanted tantrums. Gave her an extra drink with the cherry and umbrella! Hope she cooperates over the next few hours. We love you CoCo! Now take us to Shillong without breaking
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DriveDay 13: To conquer, one must climb the Mountain-Ooty Redux #rickshawrun #rr

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Forget trucks and Cars on NH 31B

And just when you t

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DriveDay 13: Shillong: The final stretch #rickshawrun #rr

Made it across the Brahmaputra River, running through Guwahati in decent and leisurely time. Stopping along the way to capture some pictures at some nice rural spots.

Stopped at a propah Restaurant for lunch and then the final stretch to Shillong. Just 98kms left. However, this last stretch is a hill climb with some twisty sections. I estimate a 3hr drive from here.

Though word is that it can take 5hrs for the climb. Oh! Oh! Lets see how we get on.

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DriveDay 13: Fuel Pitstop #rickshawrun #rr

We did the refuel dance just as we left Boigangaon. So the spare fuel needed refilling and a little top up to the tank. This would probably be our last fuel Pitstop. The word ‘last’ will keep creeping up all day today, with a touch of sadness

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 13: The Pink Team #rickshawrun #rr

The Pink team left a little before us from Boigangaon. We’d expected them to be zipping along towards Guwahati. They had also taken the Goalpara route. About 75kms later we came across them, broken down, with the town and the kitchen sink giving them a staring reception! Their engine had just given up. We tried to get a mechanic from the town, but none of them had opened shop yet. They decided to drain the fuel tank, thinking there was a problem with the fuel line. Nothing much else we could have done at that point. Wished them well and we cracked on along the Long Long Way to Shillong.

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 13: Shillong A Long Long Way it is #rickshawrun #rr

April 19, 2013 | Friday
DriveDay 13

All going well, today could probably be out last DriveDay on the Rickshaw Run. A somewhat saddening realization. The mind runs through the achievements, the experiences, the regrets. All making for a good story to tell.

Local intel (the hotel folks) insist that we head to Guwahati via the NH31B – via Goalpara. We trusted and verified and verified again. Via Goalpara it was. We need to cover approximately 300kms to Shillong. If the roads turn out to be as promised. It wil no longer be ‘A long long way to Shillong’

Home stretch.

Just a little bit further CoCo. You’ve done extremely well for us.

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Chutney Lightning, Chungas Thunder! #rickshawrun #rr

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They say you can never win the grand prize in Jeopardy without going through the “Lightning” round. We didn’t expect the rickshaw gods to take that literally!

Let’s start from the beginning. After the NH34 episode, everyone in the hotel promised us that the roads will be great from Siliguri to Guwahati. Obviously we forgot to ask “great” compared to what. Within minutes on the road we found out what their standards were. Most likely the roads were great compared to “Underwater upside down hand walking inside an ocean”.

By now, the Rickshaw sailing has become an art with most runners who dared to conquer NH34. Rickshaw sailing is a skillful tender dance that you do by maneuvering over a series of potholes, inches apart, as you row your adrenalin-powered vehicle one hole at a time, shifting between second and third gear and occasionally move it up to one when it stalls. We hit upon one such stretch right after Jalpaiguri where the wonderful Bengal government under “Didi” has decided to lay brand new spanking roads. Only problem is that in order to do that, they ripped the entire old roads for a long stretch that seemed like 10kms to us.

Sathupally was a teaser. NH34 was the first half of movie. Jalpaiguri Sailor paradise section was the true “Interval”. Our plans of Guwahati went up in dust cloud as we rowed our rickshaw for about hour and half inch by inch. As usual, all inquiries about how far does these sailor waves go was promptly replied by the road workers as,” Just around the corner” and we realized they forgot to mention that the corner was around 9kms from that spot.

As we got off the sailor surface, we made some good progress, even going up to 60kms in some stretches until we saw large groups of people going in Vans and Rickshaws. Smarter, less tired minds would have guessed these large number of people on a weekday must be going somewhere important but we were too “active” to think anything. Turns out one of the biggest festival in the region was taking place right smack in the middle of NH34C, the route we were on. It was their celebration of harvest,”Basanti”. We wasted another hour there as the crowds ignored our honks like Americans ignore the expired milk carton in their refrigerator.

As we got out of the crowd, we saw the smooth, tar filled, silken expressway that everyone has been promising sincere morning. Any movie without a befitting climax is just a documentary. Our Rickshawrun movie got its climax as the Road General took over the wheels in the expressway to save lost time only to find out, the elusive expressway is just 2kms long. After that you get a stretch of decent 400 meters road and then mud road. Another 400mts and more mud road. The roads began to get darker as lightning and thunderstorms started making climatic background music. As we were hoping we reach the next town before it rains, the rains started pouring down. So, there we were, two road warriors on a desolate, mud road with rains, thunderstorms and lightning sputtered across for miles. All I could think was, “And we thought yesterday was bad!”.

For the next 100kms, fellow Chunga started following a truck that lighted our way as we reached Bongaigaon amidst some serious lightning photography from back seat. Once we get some decent connection, we will share them.

It has been 12 days nonstop driving and we have another 280kms to go. You might think these guys are ready to get off the road and go back to AC rooms but truth be told, I am sad it is coming to an end tomorrow assuming the roads from now on will be good and we reach Shillong tomorrow evening.

Let’s just say for tonight, end of Day 12, has been more memorable than we ever expected it to be and quite happy to be staying in a clean place with white hospital bed.

Adios Amigos!

DriveDay 12: End of Day #RickshawRun #rr

Distance traveled today:
Overall distance covered: 3839

Based on local intel on the road to Guwahati, we expected a smooth ride towards Guwahati. I was even contemplating trying to push for Guwahati for the night. Little did we know what was in store for us.

Endless patches of ‘under construction’ roads. Rock bed of a surface, throwing up continuous clouds of dust. The ‘good roads’ were mere figments of some people’s warped imaginations!

It was getting depressingly slow and extremely frustrating. Amazing how expectations work!

A brief patch of expressway was like a mirage. Here one minute, gone the next!

As noted earlier the weather closed in and the driving turned into stressed night drive. We had some 55kms to cover to reach a decent hotel in Boigangaon, Assam. I decided that we will push through. But then rain came out to play. This added some concern of poor vibility. Fortunately the bulk of the rain storm came down well ahead of us and we only went through some light rain. However, the mix of water on the pothole ridden roads added another level of inconvenience.

I used the convoy if trucks to my advantage. Most of these trucks are full loads and travel at around 50/55kms per hour. Matching the speed we push CoCo to. I picked a truck and slotted in behind it. It practically cleared a path for us. That made the night drive substantially safer and easier.

We then came across the Pink Team – struggling in the rain. They actually had a team member use an LED flash light to light up the way ahead. Doubt that it was doing any good at all. To each his own! I passed them and asked them to follow me and I became that shielding truck for them. I then looked for another by truck to latch on to. And we convoyed thus into Boigangaon and into the compound of the ‘grand’ Hotel Kanishka. Have to be honest, I was strongly contemplating using the Truck Shield to guide us all the way into Guwahati. But, with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, it was better to have rested up for the final push to Shillong tomorrow.

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 12: Oasis #Rickshawrun #rr

Another major delay caused by a rural traffic jam on account of a local fair, coupled with further washed out bad roads and then like an oasis, the green boarded gateway invitingly signifies the start of the Express Highway.

We have lost a lot of time. With it being overcast, our drive time day is further shortened.

Nothing seems to be falling in to place today.

We march on.

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 12: Fuel Stop #RickshawRun

After a horrendous patch on the NH31C , we have a decent patch and an excuse to take a break and refuel. The road that we just passed is being completely redone from scratch. It is just a long bed of rocks and puddles. This has been a very disappointing drive so far. Lot of time used not much of distance covered.

Just as well we didn’t use up a day to do Darjeeling. We still don’t know what lies ahead and in my estimation we are already behind on the distance we expected to cover.

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 12: #RickshawRun Convention

A few bumpy kilometers after we drove off from the welder, roof rack fixed up, we came across two UK teams on the side of the road. One had similar Roof Rack issues that was being Duct Taped and the other just letting the engine breathe.

Neither team did NH34. But used NH7. Which, based on their description, is an exact twin of the dreaded NH34. Thus, there is no easier route to Dalkhola!

We went our way along the same route. They being ahead of us. We bumped into them again 10 minutes later. They decided to turn back and go along NH31D leading to NH31. We stayed our course and aimed for NH31C leading to Guwahati. Let’s see which route is kinder to which team.

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 12: Elbow Grease #rickshawrun #rr

The windscreen had mud spatters from yesterday. Wiper only helps to create an opaque film of mud. It needed cleaning. While the welding was being done, Rama took on this task.

Rama putting in some elbow grease. Elbows now in a state of shock!

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 12: Roof Rack strikes again. #rickshawrun #rr

About an hour on the NH31 out of Siliguri via Jalpaiguri, immense racket started up from above. The roads were not the best and possibly the misaligned supports of the Roof Rack catalysed the breaking of the ‘fixed’ support and in addition the right front arm also snapped.

Found a welder right away. He needed to take the rack of to do a ‘good job’. Off came the luggage. And he got to work right away. While we waited, sipping on the Highway Special Chai!

~ Rakesh

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CC Quotes!-Series #rickshawrun #rr

When people say the road to Guwahati is great from Siliguri, next time ask them,”compared to what?”.

DriveDay 12: It’s just another day in Paradise #rickshawrun #rr

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DriveDay 12: And thus begins the journey to Gondor..err..Guwahati! #rickshawrun #rr

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DriveDay 12: Guwahati way #RickshawRun #rr

April 18, 2013 | Thursday
DriveDay 12

Plan today is to head toward Guwahati. Distance is about 500kms. Doubt we can make it there for the night. We’ll probably stop at the next best place around nightfall. And tomorrow try and zip through Guwahati into Shillong. That’s the plan.

Other option is a tad adventurous one. We head south off the highway to Goalpara and use a state highway straight into Shillong. Mixed information on the road quality and there appears no decent night stop.

We wil know better as we travel East. Guwahati way.

~ Rakesh

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Smiles that drives our CoCo #rickshawrun #rr

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DriveDay 11: End of Day Siliguri. Check #rickshawrun #rr

Distance covered today: 255
Overall distance covered: 3539

Today’s drive was a drive of two halves. Malda to Dalkhola and Dalkhola to Siliguri.
Malda to Dalkhola was excruciatingly slow. NH34 – for a drive in an Autorickshaw – has to be the worst highway around. A National Highway at that. Dalkhola to Siliguri was easy pickings. Smooth sailing. We had debated pressing on since it was only 4pm when we pulled into Siliguri. But then CoCo needed some attention and TLC (Tender Loving Care) so we stuck to our plan and rested up for the night in Siliguri.

Now final stage with drive into Guwahati and finally into Shillong.

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DriveDay 11: Siliguri Coco CW being refreshed #rickshawrun #rr

Coming through Siliguri, our original plan was to check in to our hotel and then come out and find a mechanic to check on CoCo CW and get any needed attention.

On the way, we came across an Auto Driver, Krishna. One of those ‘nothing to gain, nothing to lose’ tribe of people. He initially told us the directions. But then when a fare he picked up was going the same route, he passed us and told us to follow him and he took is right to Shambhu the mechanic. Krishna made sure Shambhu understood what we wanted done and carried on to ply his trade, this being the busy time for Autos.

Shambhu told us that it will take about an hour. Rama suggested we may as well get it done and then check in to the hotel and we can relax. So now we wait.

Rear axle pin changed.
Axle boots replaced and greased.
Rear shocks checked and additional rubbers mounted.
From Fork/Steering checked and tightened.
All cables checked – A-OK.
Engine oil replaced.
Gearbox oil replaced.

~ Rakesh

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Photo-Op Chunga Style!

As we were doing our 1-2-3 photo op, some school kids came running wanting a picture! Those smiles sure made us forget the journey from Malda to Dhalkola!

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CC quotes! Series | Chai Everywhere #rickshawrun #rr

As we enter Siliguri area, Darjeeling District, Tea Estates abound. Lush green. Arranged in neat rows. Which led to:

“Chai Chai everywhere; Not a drop to drink”

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 11: Ready or not Siliguri, here we come! #rickshawrun #rr

Down to the last 45kms to Siliguri. All going well we should be able to get CoCo – CW checked through for the final stretch to Guwahati and Shillong.

Checking the weather, looks like Siliguri’s going to serve up cool and wet welcome! A bonus that we didn’t get any rains while we were driving today.

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 11: Food Stop #rickshawrun #rr

NH34 finally turned into NH31 at the small town called Dalkhola. We just couldn’t believe our behinds! There were no bumps, pots, holes. Just a smooth flat black surface. It was indeed, a strange thing. We soon realized it was the long awaited, constantly promised, ‘good road’. We were back on the Real National Highway Expressway system. Zipping along now.

Few kilometers in on the carpet road, we spotted an Indian Oil Petrol Station with a nice ‘Dhaba’ attached. These are the ‘Ghar’ Dhaba brand attached to Indian Oil Petrol Stations. Good, clean, reasonable.

Very soon, it was like a Rickshaw Run convention. The two Australian teams caught up with us (we’d actually passed them at a Railway Crossing Traffic jam – they drove like foreigners, we drove like Indians! It’s the only way!) and a Kiwi team joined us as we chatted about NH34.

Food. Good.
Petrol. Good.
All good good.

Siliguri, here we come.

~ Rakesh

NH (Nasty Hell) 34-Hump,Jump,Slump Day #rickshawrun #rr

If we thought Orissa(Odisha) roads were bad, West Bengal seemed to be laughing at us hysterically.

It’s one thing to encounter bad roads for a stretch but whole other “ball” game to endure it for over 120kms and still another 150kms away from Siliguri.

I want to say,”NH34 should be crowned the King of Nasty Roads” but then, my brother lovingly called up to say,”It gets worse and you will be climbing up the hill”. Thanks Bro for the moral support.

On NH34, there is no left or right side. Just drive on the side wherever there is a hint of road or a pothole that won’t topple CoCo completely. And while you are applying heuristic logic to carve the least resistance path, watch out for that ear-busting horn of local bus which seems to be in more hurry than an Ambulance with an accident patient. Except, the local bus stops few feet in front of you just to prove who is the big boy in this area.

Among all the “Horn”-ers, the bus drivers seem to be the worst. It’s as if they have the horn attached to their accelerator pedal. So, when you hear that war cry, they are not only asking you to move (even if you are on the left most side), but they are also coming at you at the fullest possible speed in that road oasis.

At times like these, you have to use your imagination to get through it. I don’t know surfing but driving on this road comes pretty close to it. Except, am sure we won’t find these many waves to climb even in Hawaii. We are riding at 20-30kms per hour. If we get down and start jogging, we will reach Siliguri faster. And to add color to this adventure, Lord Varuna (rain) and Lord Indra (Thunder and Lightning) decided to show up for this party. Now, our heuristic algorithm has to calculate the potential depth of water covered potholes to make sure CoCo doesn’t do ‘a la Keanu Reeves Speed’ Jump!

We are already singing songs like ,”Hum Honge Kaamiyaab (we will succeed)” and “Humko Man ki Shakti de” (Give us strength of heart)” to get through this ordeal. Feel free to send us more such wonderful “spirited” songs.

We are having as much fun as possible as India is a country of hope. Almost at every pitstop someone keeps saying, “Good roads in just 2kms!”. That was 80kms back but then we realized their barometer must have been the roads before this oasis was probably built.

Siliguri- No matter how silly this “buri”(bad) roads are, we will see you today!

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DriveDay 11: Chai Stop #rickshawrun #rr

We hit a bit of a traffic jam coming into Raigunj. We’d stopped just next to a local ‘restaurant’ with some fresh chai being brewed. How could we not stop.

It was great to connect with the people in Hindi. Talking about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it. They really beam with appreciation once they know. This is the real India that we’ve had the opportunity to see and experience on the Rickshaw Run.

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 11: Siliguri? Today? #rickshawrun #rr

The plan today is to get to Siliguri. From what we’ve been told, this is going to be another long slow day. Add the potential 80% chance of Thunderstorms and the hilly roads as we get closer to Siliguri. The day just got longer and slower.

The two Australian teams left at 6:10am and we now drive out of the hotel at 6:50am. Somehow we, or rather our bodies seem to read 6:30 as 6:50! Wonder why?

This is a good time to start out. It’s still pleasant with roads relatively empty. Can’t say much about the noise though. Just takes a couple of buses to blast past with their ear piercing air horns to jolt us back from the pleasant morning to reality. We’re on a Rickshaw Run.

Rama is at the helm this morning. We’ll swap over in about 90mins – when we break for a chai, hopefully.

We trundle on.

~ Rakesh

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