Imagine travelling over 3,000 kilometres in India in an auto rickshaw (or tuk tuk as they are known in Thailand). These vehicles are basically glorified lawnmowers with 2 stroke, 7 horse power engines. They are designed for tootling around urban areas, not for long distance, cross country sojourns. While we were wandering around Kochi (in the Indian state of Kerala), we came across some mad individuals who were going to do just that. Moreover, they were going to pay for the experience!
There was lots of activity at the Cochin Club on this particular day in late December, so we decided go down the driveway to investigate. We discovered 95 brightly decorated auto rickshaws gathered on the lawn, together with teams of people from all over the world. They were getting ready for the 2015 Rickshaw Run from Kochi to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
This challenge started on New Year’s Day and finished on 14 January. There was no set route and no back up support. Once the teams left Kochi they were on their own until they reached Jaisalmer … or rather, IF they reached Jaisalmer. Of course, I had to find out more!
I spoke to Julie Walsh from the UK who has always wanted to do the Rickshaw Run and finally managed to persuade her 23 year old twin daughters, Suki and Stevie, to join her. I asked Julie if she was worried about driving a rickshaw.
“No, I’ve done it before. It’s just like driving a scooter,” she said.
The teams paid £1,500 to enter and the proceeds go to two charities, Cool Earth which was chosen by the organisers, The Adventurists, and a charity chosen by the individual teams. Most of the teams had organised to have their rickshaws decorated to indicate their charity.
When I met her, Julie had just started painting her design on the rickshaw, with the help of two Indian women who she asked to assist after they did a good job of painting her hands with henna.
“We weren’t organised enough to create a design and email it to the organisers in time,” said Julie. “But there are some advantages to being disorganised – the unpainted rickshaws are all brand new!”
The design was going to be a big smile to tie in with her chosen charity Smile Train. This charity pays for children in developing countries to have operations for cleft lips and palates so they can smile again.
I followed, Julie, Suki and Stevie’s progress on their Facebook page (Spreading A Smile – Rickshaw Run) and am happy to report that not only did they finish the race in the allotted time, but they were the first to arrive. Julie even got a ‘Finishing with Style’ award because she drank so much rum when they arrived that she was sick on the finish line stage!
If this sounds like your cup of tea, check out The Adventurists website to find out more about the Rickshaw Run and other crazy charity challenges.