DriveDay 06- Sunrise Caught at Railway Crossing – #rickshawrun #rr

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DriveDay 06: Khammam – Vizag #rickhawrun #rr

April 12, 2013 | Friday | Day 6

After another decent night’s rest at a hotel more than decent for a town like Khammam, we push eastwards to Vizag – Vishakhapatnam – in the east coast.

~ Rakesh

DriveDay 05: Warangal, Seethampet, FrankWater #rickshawrun #rr

Distance covered today: 130kms

We were able to put in a much needed night rest last night after driving a seriously bad single track road into Waranagal. I have driven similarly night drives in the past, in India. But driving a car with full functioning lights is far far different than driving and under-powered lawnmower with a headlight and flashlight would put to shame! Anyhow, the beds were welcome and sleep was restful.

Rama has written about our visit the the Seethampet FRANK Water Project. I have to be honest here and say that thinking about practically a day used up over the FRANK Water project visit, I was having doubts if the visit was worth the driving time lost. As we learnt about the project, the concept and all the benefits from that, I was glad that we were able to make it here. The warmth of the people, (especially remember an 8th Grader girl, Anusha – the beaming innocent smiles, the joy in the eyes! Indeed the visit made it all worth it.

We met some wonderful people. Doing what they do with a heart and not just because it’s their jobs.

When we set out at 3:15pm – I had hoped to push through to at least 200+ kms with a stop at dusk in a town called Sathupally. The going was a bit slow and by the time we reached Khammam, some 90 Kms short of Sathupally, it was already dark and the best thing was to check in to a hotel for the night.

Another chance to put in an early night, and get on the road before sunrise.

Next target is Vizag – Vishakhapatnam. A 400kms drive. I’d like to push through and try and reach Vizag late afternoon, early evening and rest up for another 5am-ish start the following morning.

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Sunset chasers to Sunrise Drivers

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DriveDay 04 – No kal for Warangal

And after three and half hours of real test of grit and patience during peak Hyderabad traffic with Sygic map taking us on a wild goose chase inside the city,where some areas of turn left in the GPS has been blocked by traffic police,being pulled over again by traffic cop trying to intimidate us with “where is the No objection certificate for Hyderabad ?”,switching to Google maps on 3G,on to long empty road to Warangal!

To say Rakesh Is a road warrior would be an understatement. The way he blocked and tackled every missile that came from all directions in Charminar, he deserves the title of “General” of Chunga Wagon!

Thanks a ton my friend for driving non stop from afternoon as I caught up on my much needed sleep! Let’s hope we get a decent place to recuperate tonight! Only 3200kms to go!

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DriveDay 04: Warangal or Waran-kal?

Let’s pray we get out of this mess to make our way to Warangal or we will reach there only “kal”(tomorrow in Hindi).

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Accept and Move on!

Engine not starting in middle of road during peak Hyderabad traffic ? No Problemo! I will just get down and start pushing it to get it started…

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This happens only in India!-Series

Indian Ishtyle is hard to beat! Hyderabadi Mechanic headquarters!

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DriveDay 04: Hyderabad #RickshawRun #rr

Another example today of how people with nothing to lose or nothing to gain see the good in proactively assisting strangers.

A local auto Rickshaw driver was behind us and saw something at back of Coco. He pulled up beside us and while moving in traffic, explained to us that the right hand side joint boot had come loose and would need to be greased and replaced.

He was happy to do it himself on the side of the road there and then. We convinces him to guide us to a good mechanic who can look at all the greasing once and take care of anything. Photo shows one Mr Vekhar. Instant service. Humble service. Restores some faith in the good that is possible from people.

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DriveDay 04: On the road refuel stop

Coco – our auto, doesn’t have a reserve setting for the fuel. Which allows us a few kilometers warning. If it runs out, which it did just now, we whip out the spare backup fuel – 7litres – fill the tank and next petrol station, we top the tank and the spare fuel gallon.

ChutneyChungas Refuel Dance!

DriveDay 04: Pitstop Brunch

Distance covered today so far: 168kms

Had skipped breakfast to make up distance. Quick brunch stop

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DriveDay 04: Pitstop

1st refuel stop of the day.
At a Punjabi Dhaba. Hot Chai.

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DriveDay 04: Early Start

And we are off to Hyderabad in earnest.

Only 355kms left .

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Incorrigible India!

“My all-day driving in hot sweaty dirty self is cleaner than this bathroom!”- Rakesh.

Yes. We are checked into a shitty place.Pun intended. However, this blog is not about the poor conditions in an extremely small town. We were prepared for this. However, What i wasn’t prepared for(Thank God Rakesh is lot more saner and calmer than me) is the attitude of little people in really small positions of power.

A Receptionist at a Hotel can deny you the room because you don’t have a “Local” address in their town. So, if you plan to stay in Ananthapur on your way to Hyderabad, buy a house first or get the telephone numbers of local officials and let them know you might be passing through.

A private vehicle that has an All-India permit won’t be allowed because the toll booth officer doesn’t want to do it unless two levels above him can approve it. Is it illegal ? No. They don’t allow public auto rickshaws in certain highways. Don’t ask me why.After calling the traffic control room and getting approval from there and the toll booth officer in next toll, you would think it’s a no-brainer. You thought wrong, you stupid, common sense Indian.He still hasn’t heard from two levels above him to allow an auto rickshaw that is touring India for spreading the message of Girl’s education.

A guy who mans the gate in the forest, a clerk in the Bank, security personnel at Airport(well, that applies everywhere in the world but the number of steps in Domestic Airport in India just sucks more oxygen from your blood) and the stories continue in our journey.

Now, that doesn’t mean the folks higher up the food chain are any good. If they weren’t so egomaniacal, control freaks,these guys at the low levels of power will have some authority to make a decision.Whether it turns out good or bad is immaterial. Just make a decision that is different than default,
“I have to ask my supervisor”.

“If I allow it for you, then I might get in trouble”.

“I am not so sure.Why don’t you get someone higher up in the chain,call someone two levels above me and they will in turn call my Boss and then I can do what I am supposed to do in the first place.”

How did it come to this ? A system of utter lack of trust among their own people, bloated with unnecessary personnel to do a simple thing, efficiency and timeliness being a cultural joke and above all,apathy towards their own people. A nation of bureaucracy with umpteen number of layers with no authority,most of them to check if the layer beneath them is doing their jobs.In fact we saw five police officers sitting with one speedometer at every checkpoint. Why do need 5 ? My guess is, it is a senior officer who needs atleast couple of them to bring tea and Lunch. Another couple to chat and when Theodore strikes, pull over someone to harass.

As we entered our penthouse at Ananthapur, the default channel is Home Shopping Network from US with telegu voice-overs. Yes. We want that magical ab-melter without any work but we won’t learn about other good things from the West.

I think the generalization of business establishments and the people who work in them as being extremely unkind, uncaring and extraordinarily inefficient is pretty close to 75%. There is a 25% that is exception to the rule but living with 75% requires enormous amounts of patience and connections.

As we were going from Banglore to Hyderabad in the highway, it felt like Route 66 with empty roads and mountains on the side. I told Rakesh, this is perfect place for my latest obsession, Aquaponics with solar power. My startup vision, mission and execution flowed beautifully until we met a racist receptionist(Check the story in Rakesh’s update).He also reminded me of all the bureaucratic BS over the past two weeks in India and I decided I don’t have the skills to navigate India. I will most likely live only up to 70 based on family history(rest is bonus) and I don’t want to be spending that running between government offices to make money, bribe every little fellow in the process and hope at the end that they will do their jobs.

Buried in these depressing, apathetic stories, there is the genuine help from Hussain who helped repair our fellow riders Rickshaw from US and also take us to other lodgings. We have Rinu Joseph whom we met in the most unlikeliest of places-at moving slow traffic. Yes. You heard it right. We spoke for 5 minutes on the moving traffic and he exchanged his business card and is going to call his friend in Shillong to meet us in the hotel we will be staying. You can’t make up such bizarre stories(and we have proof of video. To be uploaded when we get wifi).We have Aido&Sophiya, Sirish at Archies and folks at Coimbatore. Let’s not forget that most of my family lives here.It’s just sad that I don’t think I have the skills to sustain a living in this system after so many years.

I will always visit and do good, but don’t think I will ever start a business or make a living at work place here.

Goodnight folks! Feel free to share your opinions.

DriveDay 03: End of Day #RickshawRun #RR

Distance covered today: 360
Total distance covered: 808

Mysore – Bangalore Highway:
Pretty good run. Most of the distance driven by Rama.

Bangalore:
It was wonderful to meet Monk Mani – ChutneyChungas 3rd mad member. However due to the Toll road delays and having to go through Bangalore, I estimate approx 80kms drive time lost. Not much, you might think, but that would make the difference between stopping at a God-forsaken place such as Anantpur or pushing through to the more traveller friendly, Kurnool. Regroup. React. Readjust. That is the RickshawRun.

Anantpur:
You know the story!
Photo shows the nicer people of Anantpur. Helped fix a fellow Rickshaw Run team – Two Man Disaster – Clint/Jason. They absolutely refused any money for the help. ‘This is our job’.

~ Rakesh

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DriveDay 03: Anantapur, AP; Not hospitable #RickshawRun #RR

A local auto driver helped find this hotel Hotel Sujatha – recommended by him.

Ram went in a registered for two rooms. One for Chutney Chungas and one for Two Man Disaster. All this time, Two Man Disaster were standing outside the hotel watching over the Rickshaws and the luggage. The moment Jason walked in to sign in, the manager refused a room to them since they did not have a local Anantpur address. No. Neither did we. Not an Anantpur address. And to top it all, Jason lives in Hyderabad and had proof of address in Hyderabad.

Absolutely ridiculous. We refused to take our room also, in solidarity and to make a statement against the obvious and blatant bias.

Husain, the auto driver, helped find another ‘not so good’ hotel. Hotel Umravathi. This is that hotel that we planned for when we bought the sleeping bag liner sheets just so that we do not have to ‘sleep’ on the sheets. This is a last resort – get a bed & a place to wash up quickly and get the hell out as soon as possible.

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Rickshaw Brothers -Almost!

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Yes. He is my brother. No. We were not separated at birth. Yes.He looks like my Dad and I look like my Mom.Yes. That’s why I have a goatee so I don’t look like a mirror image of my Mom. Anymore questions ? Yes.He is more stylish than me and his ride is lot cooler than my GS Suzuki. No. It’S just 200CC and my GS would beat him in second gear.No. He is not single.Yes.He loves and works for Samsung which means if he wasn’t blood related, I would have divorced him.No.I am not answering anymore questions about my brother.

Adios Amigos!

P.S: Your greatest contribution of Sygic India Map to Team Chutney Chungas has saved our asses way too many times in three days to count. A Big Thank You for that Badass Bro!

DriveDay 03: Pitstop #RickshawRun #rr

Bangalore Hyderabad Highway
Gutur
Chai break / Engine Cool off break

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DriveDay 03: Bangalore Nice Rd, permission to proceed? #rickshawrun #rr

Autorickshaws not allowed on this Toll Road. Requesting humbly, permission to proceed.

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DriveDay 03: Fuel Stop #RickshawRun #rr

Per advice of the Station attendants, ‘since we’re going long way, put more oil. So be it. Let’s see

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This happens only in India!-Series

Tips on how to avoid a hangover and either fear or some people actually steal the menu in a restaurant! Once again, only in India 🙂

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Sunset Chasers

Imagine walking on a half-broken wooden bridge where you can feel the nuanced balance between your weight and it’s breaking point that makes you extremely careful with each and every step.

Taking our rickshaw from Coimbatore to Ooty felt exactly the same way. There is just enough power to carry two adult men with their luggage but you better manage that gear and accelerator extremely carefully lest you will be on a free fall, literally! Luckily, I am traveling with the most experienced driver one could ask for. Rakesh deftly took the R’shaw most of the way and I took it over from Connoor to Ooty. After few stalls, you realize, second gear it is.Try going to 3 or 4, your engine will give up.I used the Indian safety system to the maximum, the Horn. After an hour and half of non-stop workout,it needed some rest and said,”I am down screaming for you”. We found a local mechanic and he duly fixed it.

Getting into crowded traffic signal reminds me of American football.Every motorbike, bicycle, Car, SUV and Truck, fight for every inch. They move forward occupying the tiniest of places between your vehicle and rest of them.And to escape that huddle unscathed means you haven’t earned your Indian driver badge. I earned mine as a big SUV brushes our lovely CoCo(yes, we call our R’shaw CoCo and considering the Mach 1 speed it goes, we are praying most of the times GoGo). Now that dent is out of our way, we don’t have to bother about our pretty girl anymore. She has become a wan with enough dents to show for in a man’s India.

Even though we lost precious time climbing the mountain, the beauty of Ooty more than made up for it. Although every hill station has its beauty, considering the weather and flora, Ooty is truly India’s Hawaii!

As we got down Ooty and went through Mudumalai, a tiger reserve,the toll gate person stopped us. I spoke to him in Tamil hoping the language bond will get us through but instead it had the opposite effect.He couldn’t give a rat’s ass about us as rules are rules. This is something that you find everywhere in India. The end result never matters. Following the rules is what counts. No wonder the non-rebels get screwed royally in our country.We switched our language back to English, being the foreigner, and spoke to local forest officer who let us go.

In hindsight, I understand the reasons for not letting Autorickshaw in forest preserve. It is loud, tends to breakdown often and above all, if an Elephant herd chases you, you have no way in hell of speeding away. If the toll guy had said the reasons for not allowing are these risks,we would have happily obliged. Nevertheless, we continued the journey through Mudumalai . As Rakesh warned about getting out of this area soon,I noticed we were pretty much on our own,inside the forest,surrounded by animals. We saw few Elephants, Peacocks and lots of Monkeys. No Tigers were spotted by us and I wasn’t particularly disappointed about that while sitting in a Rickshaw.As luck would have it, the rickshaw stalled while enroute to Bandipur. The 5-litre petrol container that we had carried saved our skins.

As we were driving along the Mysore road, we were constantly being chased by an orange fellow. He was constantly distracting me as I could not concentrate on the road. Rakesh sensed my distraction knowing I can’t ignore him and drive. We both finally got down and shot him to our hearts fill.Yes.It’s Mr.Sunset who has been thrilling us with his views for the past two days. While first day, it was his reflection over a canal at Palakkad, yesterday, it was over the western Ghats. I really hope Rakesh got that wonderful picture as he was going down on the mountain.

I hope everyday we get to see those sunsets over every part of India. Call it biased or perhaps the tropical environment, the Sunsets in India reminds me of a time that was young, pure, filled with awe and hope for all things to come.It’s not all doom and gloom now as we are able to experience that again and through us, hopefully you too.

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DriveDay 02: End of Day #RickshawRun #rr

Distance covered today: 203
Overall distance covered: 428

Another seemingly slow day. We finally set off from Coimbatore at 9:15am. Need to put in earlier starts. We should be aiming to do around 300+ per day. Which shouldn’t be a problem, considering that both days so far we’ve had to contend with Ghat sections. Especially today going up to Ooty. Going up the Ghats I had been a little concerned whether CW (ChungaWagon) would be able to cope with the constant barrage of hairpin bends and the steep incline. It managed pretty well. We had to keep juggling between 2nd & 3rd gears. Many stretches in 2nd gear only. Which led to the concern of overheating the engine. A couple of short breaks were taken to allow the engine to cool off.

Ooty:
Being a Sunday, all of Ooty’s streets seemed to be a street market. Road closures, million people on the streets, jostling with vehicles for space. In this, we had our first mechanical casualty. The horn packed up. Since we were in Ooty, Ram suggested we get it fixed or get a new one. Found a mechanic pretty quickly. The wire going into the horn had snapped. Quickly fixed and we were in our way again.

Ooty also saw our first contact with another vehicle. Ram was turning left and one of those SUV type cars came up and it’s front metal guard scraped the rear left wheel arch. Just a bruise. No major damage.

Mudumalai Reserve:
Coming down from Ooty,soon after we passed the Ghat section, we ran out of petrol. Turning to Reserve only gave us about 2kms!! (A big Note to Self – don’t rely on reserve) Our back up 7ltrs of fuel was pulled out and our 1st refueling completed. All in a pretty isolated place, except for the many cars & trucks going past in both directions.

When we reached the Mudumalai Check Post, we were sent packing. No Auto Rickshaws allowed. We had to get special permission from the Forest Officer. Which meant a drive back a few Kms and meet with the FO! After explaining what we were up to, we were granted permission to drive through the reserve, provided we gave all our contact information & details.
That done at the Checkpost, CW proudly drove through the Reserve.
No major sightings. Except for a few Elephants grazing alongside the road, oblivious to the vehicles stopped to snatch a few pictures.

Bandipur Tiger Reserve:
We were now in Karnataka. Another couple if CheckPosts. All without any hassles, as soon as they realize what we are doing. One Guard was so pleased and appreciative of the charity effort that he offered us some water! Couple of swigs respectfully taken and we trudged on.

Mysore:
Once out of Bandipur, we pushed for Mysore as it was getting dark. Nice roads helped maintain a good speed. With some TripAdvisor help, we pulled into Park Lane Hotel, Mysore at around 8pm. Right next to another RickhawRun Team – Nepal Deepz – which arrived about 20mins before us.

All in all an eventful day. Slow going. But as Ram pointed out, we did have to contend with Ghat sections. We should be able to cover more distance from now. All going well. 20130409-061221.jpg20130409-061244.jpg20130409-061255.jpg20130409-061324.jpg20130409-061337.jpg20130409-061405.jpg

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This happens only in India!- Series

One of the biggest annoyances when you buy an Indian Sim card is the non stop advertisements. You are supposed to call a Do-Not-Call number to stop it but I just haven gotten around it. However, considering ads like this come your way, you’re intrigued to say the least. Someone somewhere in the 500million cellphone users of India is buying this. Why else would they send it ? Right ?

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This happens only in India!-Series

Darn! Now the hope for brining your way to get some good service at the hotel is also lost!

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This happens only in India!-Series

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DriveDay 02: Forced Pitstop #RickshawRun

Requesting permission to enter Mudumalai Tiger Reserve from the Forest Officer.

DriveDay 02: PitStop 1: Horn gives up #rr #rickshawrun

Slow going up the Hairpins to Ooty. Just as we get into Ooty the horn gives up. Asked around for repair shop. Tons of traffic. Weaved our way to a mechanic. Turns out the wire to the horn was cut. Mechanic fixed it pretty quick. Seemed to take more time to explain to the mechanics why we’re stupidly traveling madly across India.

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DriveDay 01: Damage Report

Chunga-Wagon:
Nothing to report. Started up 1st time.
All good. Reported for duty. Thank you, Wagon.

Personnel:
Rakesh: Blister on left hand ring finger. From the constant clutch gear & gear changes. Will need to switch from cut-finger gloves to full fingers

Ram: Not much to report.

~ Rakesh

DriveDay 01: End of Day #RickshawRun

Reached Coimbatore at around 9:15. We thought that we had lost a bit of time and distance, due to the traffic jam coming into Palghat. After crunching out the numbers, we didn’t really do that badly. The final 2hr push from Palghat to Coimbatore helped.

Palghat to Coimbatore saw our 1st night drive. It was dusk by the time we left Palghat. The initial stretch of a few kms was a decent patch of road. After that, not only was there a lot of heavy traffic the roads were substantially less than decent. The combination of oncoming super high beams and the nearly invisible potholes the size of a football field, did put us thru some ‘concerning’ moments. On the whole, it wasn’t something that I wasn’t used to. Although driving a Rickshaw can no way compare to driving a car.

Kavita is one of our very dear friend back in Atlanta. Her parents live in Coimbatore. We had the advantage of her father helping us find a hotel and was very helpful with local information. That saved us a lot of time.

Dinner and then calls back home and turn in for the night. A long day ahead anticipated.

King of the Tarmac trudging along!!

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DriveDay 01: Pitstop 3 #RickshawRun

51kms / 2:20mins

Very slow going. The short Ghat going into had an accident where a car had gone off a bridge. Add to that, the totally I disciplined traffic & driving, we were practically standing still and striking up conversations about our Rickshaw with the passengers in cars stuck going the other way.

Now we try and hit Coimbatore. Push on.

And then she goes to sleep giving us a kiss!

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Cruising at supersonic speed!

Watch this picture before going to work on Monday and be thankful!(Not for the ever patient folks in India)!

Oh, one more thing: Don’t make bold statements like we will reach Coimbatore in no time, it’s only 150kms from Cochin 😉 Might have to take a break at palakkad!

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DriveDay 01: Pitstop2 #RickshawRun

1:36mins // 54kms

Ram put in his first Run drive. Few new situations that he had to deal with. He handled them in a very calm and composed manner.

We stop at another Indian Coffee House. This seems to be the local McDonalds equivalent. Where they serve warm water, watered down hand soap and paper napkins which disintegrate on mere contact with water!

Refreshing Ginger Lemon, some snacks and we push on.

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First Cl’ass’ experience!

It’s one thing to talk about a cross-country rickshaw trip and a whole other ball(s) game to actually do it. My first 2 hours ride on Indian roads went uneventfully which is just the way we want it to be for the rest of trip.

After getting used to the level of honks and the duration it needs to be used to get the reaction you need,which is, “get the hell out of my way”, you realize how great it is to see India in an Autorickshaw.

Riding with someone who is as patient as Rakesh also makes it doubly enjoyable.He didn’t flinch a second as I found the neutral gear in stalled Rickshaw while a Kerala bus,two Marutis, three other Autos and four Motorbikes tested their horn capacity- Screw you “Horn” y fellows).

There is a wonderful chain of restaurants in this stretch of road from Kerala to Coimbatore called “India Coffee House”. We made second pit stop also in same place. Now, the first cl’ass’ needs some rest to gain some of its old form as Rakesh drives for next couple of hours. More to come…

Chunga Road Diaries to continue…

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DriveDay 01: 1st Pitstop #RickshawRun

1st Pitstop.
Indian Coffee House advertisements seemed appealing. So we stopped. Breaking up our convoy of 3, one of them being Team OffTrax.

We were first served with ‘Ayurvedic’ warm water. The pitcher in the photo.
A quick bite and we should be off. Need to get to a 3 figure distance covered.

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Jamming

NH 47
1st Jam!
Lets get going people!

~ Rakesh

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The Day is Here

April 7, 2013
Cochin, Kerala, India

The day is here. All those months of fund-raising, planning, thinking, over thinking, and anticipating. All comes down to today. All for that moment in a few hours when we set out on, at this time, an adventure of a lifetime.

Please wish us luck, an abundance of which we need, and support us right through to the finish line in Shillong, Meghalaya, India.

~ Rakesh

Talk is over! Pre-show reel is over! It’s time for the real movie to begin. A bumpy, crazy, unplanned interval filled, unexpected action filled, emotional and literal roller coaster ride across our great motherland begins! Join us on this untold, unfolding story our journey. With your cheers,laughter and moral support, we are sure we will make it to Shillong sharing along the way and left with enough stories to share for years to come, we hope! As our personal Olympics begin, let’s scream together,”Let the Games Begin….!”

P.S: Do not forget to DVR Game of Thrones for us when we return;)

–Rama

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Chutney Chungas Celebrity Moments

What are the odds? Celebrity Moments!

That’s what I thought when a few days back Matt, the main man on the ground for the Rickshaw Run- for The Adventurists, mentioned that Charlie Boorman & an Indian film Celebrity, Gul Panag (he thought) were going to visit The Rickshaw Run HQ. This was to be part of a TV series highlighting motorcycle stories across a few Asian countries. The TV series, Freedom Riders Asia, is to air during May 2013 and has been produced by ESPN/Star Sports with Shell.

Why the odds?

Charlie Boorman (http://www.longwayround.com/): I came to know of him through a couple of motorcycle TV Series. Both of which featured his close friend, Ewan McGregor (Star Wars fame). The first series, Long Way Round, chronicled their journey on motorcycles from London to New York, traveling East. The other, Long Way Down, chronicled their motorcycle journey from John O’Groats, Scotland to Cape Town, South Africa. Excellent series on the trials & tribulations and a test of endurance. Not to leave out some unforgettable experiences.

Gul Panag (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gul_Panag) Less for her film industry popularity and more for her ‘adventurist’-biker credentials, I’ve been a big fan of Gul Panag. Gul was the crowned Miss India 1999. She is a beautiful person, forthright and a fighter for things she believes to be right.

Both of these people who I admire a fair amount, to be in Cochin on one the days that I was in Cochin – on the Rickshaw Run! What are the odds?

I got in touch with Gul via twitter, first to confirm that, indeed, it was she who was joining Charlie Boorman. It was and she hoped that she could meet me when she visited RickshawRun HQ. Not even wild horses would stop me from that!

The ChutneyChungas (with a bit of advance intel) were one of the few Rickshaw Runners milling around at HQ. Gul & Charlie were on a shoot schedule with the TV crew, so we had to wait patiently to meet Gul and show off our Rickshaw and get a chance for a brief chat and a few pictures. As things turned out, we got pulled into an on-camera ‘chat’ with Gul and Charley. After that we had to wait for her to complete her shoot. Gul was gracious enough to get back with us and spent quite a bit of time with us. She even insisted on driving our Rickshaw around the ground, with us as the happy passengers! While taking a few, very nice, pictures. This really made my day and has created a wonderful memory. No doubt, Rama, felt the same way. I know he was impressed by her very grounded personality.

Before she left, she made it a point to say Goodbye and wish ChutneyChungas the very best of luck for the Run to Shillong.

Thank you, Gul & Charley for your time with our team.

Besides, the meeting with Gul & Charley, we also had our pictures taken by a journalist traveling as a participant, and two local papers, Malayalam Manorama and Matrubhumi. We hope to get a copy of these publications and try and get a cutting of the articles/photos.

Moments of Charley Boorman & Gul Panag at RickshawRun HQ and with Team Chutney Chungas!

~ Rakesh

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Location: Cochin Fort Restaurant/ Bar
Bartender/Server comes to take our order.

Rakesh: What’s your Name ?
Alistair: Alistair
Rama: Like Alistair McLean
Alistair:Alistair Francis
Rama: Cool
Rakesh:So, do you know what we are here for ?
Alistair: Rickshaw Run ?
Rakesh: Yes..Want to join our team ?(Patronizing tone)
Alistair: No..I am done with those things.
Rakesh: (Mockingly) What do you mean done ? Chalo Hamare Saath..(Come along with us)
Alistair: I did a Motorbike trip from Kanyakumari to Jammu Kashmir for six months..I am done..
Rakesh,Rama- both resembling Jim Carrey Mask character’s Jaw on the table.

Yes. We didn’t expect a waiter to have done a cross country motorbike trip from southern most tip of India to Northern most point.

Never judge and if you do, you may miss the great stories buried in each person you meet in your life!

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

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This happens only in India!!!

#RickshawRun: Where the famous congregate

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The Weird & Wonderful Back-Breaking Machines

On the first day – April 3 – when we walked up to the small grounds of the United Club, we nearly missed our Rickshaw. We were expecting a White & Red front per the design we had submitted. The Adventurists had warned us that the result may be ‘slightly off’ from the intended design. After all this, dear friends, is India. Incredible India! Where, if you expect the expected, you’re probably in the wrong country. However hard you try, schedules do not apply here. With that in mind, we loved our Rickshaw and moved merrily along.

Rama has posted our 1st day notes earlier. Sharing this short video of the Rides aka Tuk-Tuks aka Rickshaws aka Shaws aka ‘That metal bucket over a lawn-mower engine’. These were just the few that were ready and waiting for the rest of the machines to be chauffeured in.

Hit our first Technology snag

Hit our first Technological snag in our multi media collection & storage process.

It was planned that the photos, videos collected via the SD cards of our cameras could be transferred over to the iPad using the Camera Connection Kit. From the iPad, it would be easy to share the images via the Social Networks – Facebook, Twitter etc.

We found out last night that the iPad does not support the format of the SD cards. We needed to reformat the SD cards. Not having a computer with us, that’s not a possibility.

We put in to play a little bit of the Indian ‘Jugaad’ like workaround. Instead of pulling the SD Cards out of the cameras, we would connect the Cameras via USB and the USB Camera Connection Kit of the iPad. Tried. Tested. A-OK!

Now, one of the Cameras – a GoPro – uses too much power. Because of this the GoPro cannot be connected to the iPad. On this issue, we would need to take the GoPro SD Card, insert into the camera that can connect to iPad – a Canon and import into iPad to share.

But..but..but;
The video format of the GoPro is not recognized by the Canon. The video clips cannot be imported into iPad. Sadly. A GoPro camera pulls amazing video.

If any of you out there have any ideas, please share.

Downsizing ‘Carry-On’ items

When we first received our Rickshaw a days ago, the actual size and the mounting of the Roof Rack was one of the things that concerned me. It was smaller than I thought it would be and the mountings to the frame of the Rickshaw were far from sturdy.

Add to that a very specific warning in the event Hand Book:

The Rickshaw has a Roof Rack. But don’t use it. It is shit and will break and make you Top- Heavy

Couldn’t be any clearer than that.

We would certainly need to use it, but seemed that a reduction / downsize of the items we were carrying was going to be required.

Rama had flown into India – a week before I did – into Bangalore. He will be going back to Bangalore after the Run and flies out from there to USA. Giving him the advantage of being able to carry just enough items for the Run itself. I flew in with a few days before and after the actual Run days and had to carry a few extra non-Run specific things, necessitating a larger – but still smaller – bag size. A Roller Duffel which I thought would be just right, now appears to be too big and inconvenient.. Fortunately, I had a larger sized empty Backpack tucked away – ‘just in case’.

Decent – non-Run – travel clothes and other related such items will now be packed in the Roller Duffel Bag and shipped off to Delhi – I fly back to USA from Delhi. I will then carry the Backpack on the Run, complete the Run, reunite my Roller Duffel in Delhi, repack and then fly out back home.

That shall be the main task today.

( Photos to follow)

~ Rakesh

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Sai Baba Redux!

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First Ride in Chunga Wagon

Best place to get stuck in Traffic-Kerala Backwaters!

Love, Spice & Harry Potter!

The truth is little stories make the big story and your big story is part of someone else’s little story. So is our Rickshaw Run journey. The stories of the people we meet make our big story and we know our moments with them is small story in their own life story. Last night, during dinner, the Chungas discovered one such story. The “Love,Spice & Harry Potter” story of Ado & Sophia!

Ado joined big Malabar Hotel as front office manager six years ago.He found he has a way with satisfying customers, especially Foreign tourists. He just didn’t sit behind his desk all day. He learnt how all the departments functioned and came together to serve the customers. He picked up on things that would make for better experience. As few years passed, he realized he can do this business of running a Hotel much better than others in the area. He decided to open his very own hotel but he still had a long way to go. He knew his pleasing personality, very affable nature and above all, his genuine, caring smile will take him to success in his new venture.

As he decided to leave his big hotel, a young,beautiful, talented girl joined his office.Her name was Sophia. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She brightened his dull days during off-season and he knew he was in love within no time. He wanted to quit but that would mean not seeing her everyday. He was now more determined to open his dream hotel and imagined being married to her and running their dream place together. She fed his dreams everyday as they spent more time planning in God’s own country. They knew it was God’s work that they were brought together.

After a year of courtship, Ado proposed to Sophia D’zousa. They married in a grand ceremony.

They learnt the joys and struggles of married life as they were also saving up for their dream venture but knew what mattered most was their love for each other. Sophia made him watch all the Harry Potter movies even though Ado would rather watch the action movies. He relented for her every time. They were blessed with a healthy, smiling baby boy after a year. Sophia named him Harry appropriately and Ado could convince his large extended family with that name as it was also his Grandfather’s name.

Finally, an Italian restaurant went out of business in the tourist hotspot. Ado decided it was time to take action. He put his savings and bought the place immediately.

In July 2013, Ado & Sophia,started a new chapter of their dream story as “MasalaFort Hotel” was born. They decided to serve all kinds of good- South Indian, North Indian, Kerala style and many others. They wanted to give more food choices for the customer walking on the street to enter their dream hotel. Sophia realized that with baby Harry, she can’t help him in their dream hotel without having someone to take care of her baby. She found a live-in Nanny that made her fulfill the duties of owner even though the Nanny is very bossy with her. She has to split her duties between her young baby, Harry and her big baby, Ado!

They decided to have free wifi in their hotel which was an added bonus to their great food to their customers. “Masala Fort” also has inexpensive A/C and Non A/C rooms for backpackers.

The Chungas were happy to spend their dinner in the company of such wonderful people.We left their hotel having tasted a delicious Chicken curry with appam and Biryani with our stomachs full and our hearts filled.

We wish all the success and luck to Ado & Sophia in their dream venture and life together! Thanks a ton for sharing your beautiful story.

And if you are in Fort Cochin, do not forget to check out Masala Fort!

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