As you’ve probably seen from our domination of the live text message board, we arrived in Darjeeling on Thursday 11th January in time for afternoon tea. And what a place to finish… The 60km road up to Darjeeling is the most spectacular mountain road I’ve ever driven. Tom couldn’t have picked a better finishing point. Darjeeling is perched on a ridge some 2200 metres above sea level in the Himalayas. A far cry from Cochin, some 3700km away (as our route took us), this place is cold.
We’d separated from the main convoy several days previously when we took our Rickshaw in for it’s 2000km service. This was pretty much essential as our brakes were useless. The only way they were effective was by driving with the handbrake on a few clicks. Despite some early morning starts and minimal faffing (unavoidable in large convoys) we were unable to catch Tom and Shanti Shanti. In fact we gave up hope after we spent a day in one of the National Parks. A nice experience that we shared with the film crew who we kept bumping into in random places. No tigers or elephants though.
Expecting to roll into Darjeeling alone, the day before we encountered both The Beagle Babies from New Zealand and The Boondogglers while we ate bananas at the side of the road. First pulled up the Kiwi’s and just as we were pulling away, the Boondogglers appeared. We set of in convoy but due to numerous lorries and pot holes this didn’t last so long. Despite breaking up, we all rolled into Darjeeling within an hour of each other.
Making our way up the hill, we suddenly encountered Rich of the film crew (again), who had been watching us come up the hill for some time. We were surprised to learn that Bombay the Hard Way and A Nice Cup of Tea were actually behind us when we thought they were a day ahead. After a lot of posing for the camera and set up driving shots, they managed to catch us for the last 15km drive to the finish.
Arriving in Darjeeling with two of the teams we’d spent a lot of time with and being cheered in by the other 4 teams of the original convoy was a great experience. The only problem was the general fatigue which left me feeling rather empty.
The following day Tom and Dan had arranged a procession of all the Rickshaws (27 of the 34 have made it so far) through the town accompanied by a brass marching band. This was followed by the finishing ceremony in one of the schools before we got beaten 7-3 in a game of football with the locals. This was followed by an evening on the beers meeting other teams and swapping stories. I feel the Boondogglers deserve a special mention. Benji, Robbie and “Roger” currently work for NGO’s in Bombay and are all top fellows. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up with them in Bombay in a couple of weeks.
After a few days of celebration, rest, and over eating I’m finally in a state where I can get online and write something comprehensible. Apologies for the lack of updates while on the road. There just wasn’t time. I’ll try to make up for that over the next couple of days with a series of posts designed to give you a feel of our experiences on the run.