sms : Progress on the N5 …

message send at 18:08:33 local time

We were making good progress on the great N5 highway until piston siezed… twice.
Amazingly back on the road again now (with brakes – they failed a few days ago) but now taking heed of running in rules… 40pkh.
Cost of repair, 93 pence.

Survived so far…

Apologies. 3 days into the Rickshaw Run and I’ve posted nothing. I was hoping to update this via text messaging, however having left Cochin my phone no longer can send texts. Until now I’ve hardly had enough time to eat and sleep, never mind get to an Internet cafe. This post will also be brief as it is New Years Eve and I fancy a swift half.

We got under way on the afternoon of the 27th after some frantic last minute pimping of the rickshaw before the off. Unfortunately due to limited resources we were unable to follow the pimping design that Philippe produced for us (sorry mate). Instead our rickshaw has come out looking worryingly like the Swedish flag (much to the delight of Ingo who’s Rickshaw was parked next to us). Photos to follow when I get a chance although the might appear first on the official website, as Tom has nabbed a load off me (There is something quite surreal driving through India in a 3 wheeled Rickshaw only to be passed by Jenny with Tom in the back working on his laptop).

We’ve covered some 700km so far taking in the amazing Western Ghats. The mountain range covered in tea plantations was stunning and the roads we’re equal to many in the Alps. This was slow going, but back on the flat we started making good progress. We’ve been in convoy with 4 other teams. Mr Tom, Bombay the Hard Way (x2) and Shanti Shanti. All of these we’d met before and make great company. In fact I haven’t laughed as much for a long time. We’ve also bumped into Rich and the Curried Away boys loads. On top of that we’ve had a film crew along with us for the majority.

Tonight, we are hitting the beach for a party. Rumour has it there are 15 teams in Mamallapuram. Should be good.

Indian driving is by far the worst I’ve ever seen. We’ve been driven off the road by buses and cars, but this appears to be the norm. The biggest vehicle has right of way. It has been tough so far but at the same time I can’t begin to explain how fun this has been. Highlights so far include:

– Taking switchback hairpins in such a crap vehicle.
– Tom tipping his rickshaw onto it side while trying to “power” slide. (We all rushed to his aid only to see Tom’s head appear with a beaming cheeky grin).
– Watching the reactions of the locals as we pass by. Especially comical are the Rickshaw drivers who at first think there is a newbie in town trying to steal his customer, but then smile when they realise we are western tourists.
– Weaving in and out of traffic to getting one over the big bullies (buses & trucks).
– Formation roundabout displays.
– Being famous. The Rickshaw Run has been on Indian national television. People out there know what we are doing. We were even followed b a press car for several miles. Once stopped they pounced on us for some photos and an interview.

That will have to do for the moment. Hopefully I’ll get that phone fixed. In the meantime have a read over other teams text messages on

It’s all getting rather exciting.

Having arrived here in Cochin on the 24th we’ve had time to see more and more teams arrive. Along with the familiar faces from previous meetings there have been a load of new faces. I’m struggling with names, but it is very interesting getting to know so many people in such a short time. There are all sorts involved. It is going to be really interesting to see how this all pans out.

Today, Mat, Claire (Team Shanti Shanti), Espe and I went of with a Rickshaw driver to his spares shop and garage to take a look around and try to buy as much rickshaw tat as possible. This was all very exciting for us, but most of exciting of all, is that the Rickshaws (all 35 of them) are due to turn up in just under 2 hours time… I foresee a night of frantic Rickshaw Pimping.

Rickshaws y rickshaw wallahs.

Hacía tiempo que quería escribir una entrada sobre esto.

En la página de este blog dedicada al rickshaw, ya expliqué un poco lo que es este cacharro. Ahora que los he visto y sufrido sobre el terreno, puedo decir algo más.

Para empezar, resulta que los colores cambian dependiendo del estado. En Delhi, todos eran amarillos y verdes, mientras que en Agra, además de estos colores, también se llevaba mucho el marrón-negro-amarillo. Lo que me gustó de los de Agra es que la mayoría estaban muy cuidados y adornados. Con asientos de colores chillones y brillantes, algún motivo en los respaldos, normalmente una o dos flores o corazones, tiras de papeles de colores (como los que sirven para adornar una sala de fiestas) o de flores, colgando de los espejos. Mucha imaginación, vaya. Aunque no vimos ninguno con una zanahoria colgando en el frente, ni duchas, ni sistemas de propulsión de oxígeno.

Otra curiosidad son las frases que escriben en la parte trasera o los laterales: ‘horn please’ (claxon, por favor), ‘welcome’ (bienvenido) o ‘keep the distance’ (mantén la distancia). A lo primero todos hacen caso, a lo tercero no.

También en Agra, vimos uno de los rickshaws escolares que mencionaba en la página pero, al contrario de lo que digo en ella, este era de tamaño normal. Cuántos niños hay metidos dentro y cómo pudieron meterse, es para mi un misterio. Que cada uno haga su apuesta a juzgar por la foto (sé que Andy tiene la misma foto, pero es que se me ha adelantado).

En Jaipur y Cochin parece que la moda impone el marrón-amarillo-negro. Lo que no cambia en ningún lugar es la persistencia de los rickshaw wallahs, que ya he comentado muchas veces en mi blog.

Hubo uno en Agra, este de pedales, que después de decirle que queríamos andar hasta el hostal, en vez de dar la vuelta y marcharse, siguió pedaleando a nuestro lado durante una media hora. La imagen era curiosa: dos extranjeros, un rickshaw wallah en su triciclo y dos niños andando detrás de nosotros, que se unieron en el camino, sin hablar. Extraño grupo.
Al final, como nos equivocamos de calle y no encontrábamos el hostal, le preguntamos y, ya cansados, accedimos a subir a su triciclo. Así que su paciencia tuvo recompensa.

Todos los rickshaw wallahs utilizan las mismas frases para atrapar clientes. La primera vez que uno dijo que su rickshaw era el ‘indian helicopter’ (el helicóptero indio), nos hizo gracia. Al tercero ya era evidente que era un eslógan publicitario muy trillado.

Para comenzar una conversación y ganar tu confianza, te preguntan de dónde eres. A dónde vas después o qué lugares has visitado, para ganar un cliente para el resto del día. Cuánto tiempo vas a permanecer en la ciudad, para asegurarse un cliente durante unos cuantos días y ofrecerte “tours” y, lo peor, llevarte a tiendas caras donde les dan comisión solo por llevar turistas, más alta cuanto más gastan los ingenuos. Hay que evitar que te atrapen porque tienen una habilidad especial para liarte.

El último curry en Madrid

Las últimas semanas en Madrid y Valencia fueron una locura. Me quedó en el tintero escribir una entrada sobre la cena de despedida en el Taj Mahal, el restaurante indio en lavapiés. Aunque es un poco tarde, no quiero dejar pasar la ocasión de dar las gracias a todos los que estuvieron.

Gracias por las donaciones y por la creatividad desplegada en el concurso “pimp your rickshaw”. Nos sorprendimos de la buena acogida que tuvo la idea cuando vimos a todos pintando sus rickshaws, tan aplicados, armados con rotuladores de colores como niños en el cole. ¡Ah! y enhorabuena a los ganadores: Raúl y Ana en segundo lugar y Philippe en primero. Fue una noche muy divertida.

The Great Mustache Debate

Well, we’ve arrived in Cochin. 3rd team here. We met up with some of the others this morning and are expecting more arrivals later today.

More importantly, I need to decide how to prepare my mustache for all the pomp that will commence in earnest on the 27th. I originally wanted a handlebar mustache, but these need years to perfect so it will have to be something a bit more simple. Suggestions in the comments section below please (or for the nerdy types, get creative in Photoshop). Winner can be proud that they’ve helped humiliate me in a foreign land.

Tips from Yogi

Wandering about a shopping mall (in a desperate attempt escape the noise, pollution and general madness of Jaipur) a shop keeper came up to us and started talking in Spanish. He asked if we’d join him for a tea so he could practice his Spanish. It turned out that he used to be a Rickshaw driver, then tour guide but now works in a jewelry store.

Before long the topic of the Rickshaw Run came up. Yogi loved the idea and after studying the map stated that Kochin to Darjeerling in 10 days presents no real problem. He then set about listing spares that we should take and gave me a crash course in rickshaw maintenance.

Best of all though was the following advice.

“To drive in India you need:
1. lots of horn
2. lots of brake
3. lots of luck”

Eager Brothers

This is something I spotted on the Rickshaw Run forums a while back but never got round to posting.

Three Americans flew to India, secured themselves a Rickshaw and then drove from Kolkat to the Pakistani border. What they did, and the experiences they had, I suspect are very similar to what we have ahead of us. The one key difference, however, is the time scale.

The only reason I’ve remembered this is because their rickshaw was parked up, presumably abandoned, not far from our hostal in Delhi.