12 Foreigners in 5 Auto-Rickshaws Stop in City on their ‘ Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge’

12 Foreigners in 5 Auto-Rickshaws Stop in City on their ‘ Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge’

Mangaluru : Year after after for the last seven years Mangaluru is a destination where the participants in the Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge make a pit-stop here in the City. And this year was no exception, where 12 foreigners from various part of the world traveling in Tuk Tuk Auto-Rickshaws stayed over night at Hotel Ginger-Mangaluru on 12 August, prior to their on-going journey towards Mysuru on 13 August morning. Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge 2019 is a unique adventure on auto rickshaws with participants from across the globe like UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, France, Ice Land, Finland, Canada, Italy, Spain and Switzerland take part in this adventure.

The Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge 2019 is an adventure Rally/ Challenge done on Auto-rickshaws- and this adventure runs from Mumbai to Chennai, taking the 12 international participants on their five rickshaws on an exhilarating journey across the breadth of the country. An approximately 2000 km adventure in a 7 horsepower glorified lawnmower ( auto-rickshaw ?) -that’s truly amazing ! The “Rickshaw Challenge” is easily the least sensible thing to do just within 11 days travelling from Mumbai to Chennai. At each end of the Ride is a party of earth shattering proportions but what is between them is all down to the team members.

The team members who are taking part in this Challenge are- Nick Bates and Bill Fletcher (who is deaf), both from New Zealand riding the rickshaw named “Deaf & Determined”; Nicholas Turner and Marcus Turner, both from UK on “TT” ; Darian Quinlan, Peter Berry, both from Australia, and Kurtis Tracy from Canada on “Curly Twirly Whirlies”; Miss Grace Turner and Miss Emily Sherwood ( both college mates ) from UK on “Shaman Sisterhood”; and Kyle Salomons, Derek Starr and Drayton De Maere-all three from Canada on “The EH Team” .

The Challenge journey kicked-off on 5 August from Mumbai to Alibaug in Maharashtra (98 kms); 06-Aug Alibaug to Pune (141); 07-Aug Pune- Mahabaleshwar ( 117); 08-Aug Mahabaleshwar- Ratnagiri (202); 09-Aug-19 Ratnagiri- Panaji (239); 10-Aug Stay in Panaji; 11-Aug Panaji -Bhatkal (222); 12-Aug Bhatkal- Mangaluru (157); 13-Aug Mangaluru- Mysore (252); 14-Aug Mysuru-Bengaluru (142); 15-Aug Bengaluru- Vellore (212); and 16-Aug Vellore- Chennai (137). And luck – good or bad. No set route, no back-up, no way of knowing if they are going to make it. The only certainty is that they are bound to get lost, will get stuck and their vehicle will break down.

It’s just the driver and the mates in a wholly unsuitable vehicle traversing the subcontinent enduring whatever the road has to throws at them. The aspiring adventurers come from countries as far as UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, France, Ice Land, Finland, Canada, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland- and this year the participants on this adventure route were from UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who were all looking for an experience of a lifetime and this is exactly what this “M E R Challenge 2019” provides. In order to win the “M E R Challenge 2019, the participants will have to rely on the locals at each destination to guide them along to the next destination. Clearly it is all about human power.

The Rickshaw Challenge is a modern day, yet primitive, cannonball challenge ride across parts of India in a glorified-three wheeled auto-rickshaw. An epic journey across India that offers craziness and unexpected adventures at every turn. The Rickshaw Challenge is mad dash across the prescribed destinations where just making it to the finish line is an achievement. Put on by the clearly crazy individuals – it’s basically done on a tricycle with a lawnmower engine. “The Rickshaw Challenge isn’t a race – there’s isn’t a course, just a destination! “We don’t know which team traveled the furthest because none of the odometers work many a times ?” said the duo from UK.

Each team consisted of one rickshaw and between two and three drivers. The Rickshaw is a vehicle designed to transport light loads over small distances on paved roads, making it a challenge to cover long distances. A short trip in a Bajaj auto-rickshaw is enough to convince you that the rickshaw is barely fit for the purpose of a brief journey across town. It’s only when you hit the open road or indeed off-road that the beauty of these vehicles becomes apparent. Nothing of the design of these noisy tripods is with comfort, safety or reliability in mind. Thus these rickshaws will put these participants right at the bottom of the Indian road hierarchy thus giving them perfect opportunity to see India from the gutter. Possibly the least suitable vehicle on the planet for covering the entire subcontinent within two weeks. In other words: perfect.

Dad, Son and Daughter : L-R – Marcus Turner (14), Nicholas Turner (57) and Grace Turner (18)

Speaking to the dad, son and daughter participants in this adventure, where dad Nicholas Turner (57) and son Marcus Turner (14) on “TT” rickshaw- and daughter Grace Turner (18) joined with her college mate Emily Sherwood from UK riding “Shaman Sisterhood” rickshaw. Nicholas said, “Being this adventure for the first me and my son loved every bit of it- it was challenging and full of experiences. Loved the Indian food, even though it was bit spicy here and there. People were great and friendly wherever we stopped, and between each locations we learned new culture, tradition and lifestyles. If we get a chance we will surely return again”

How does one come to drive a rickshaw down the coast of India? I asked- the duo girl team on this adventure, Grace Turner and Emily Sherwood from UK who replied, “By joining one of these adventures puts us on exciting adventures. We’re fighting to make the world less boring with a bunch of glorious old school and college adventures. We’ve entered the Rickshaw Challenge, a adventure that goes in/across/through India (Mumbai to Chennai, all whilst driving a rickshaw. We’re on the road for nearly 11 days)-feels great and awesome! But we hated the congestion on the road, and the constant honking by motorist drove us crazy. May take part in the next adventure too, because we love India and the people here”

Speaking to Bill Fletcher (63), who didn’t speak much since he was deaf, his partner Nick Bates (48) from New Zealand said, “We love our first time experience on Tuk Tuk rickshaw, and loved every place we stopped. People were courteous, good hospitality and friendly. We had so much fun here in India than we had in London. Great scenery, landscapes, and Holy Cow- loved the cows roaming the streets, where we had to brake quite often? This experience will no doubt be a memorable

“The rickshaws go about from 50 km-60 kmph -but you can’t speed up that way for long, since the engine may crank up. The engine is only about 7 horsepower, just under 150 cc. You’ve got to pull the clutch in to shift, that’s one more thing that can break. Engines have been known to catch on fire while moving along at 60 km/h. The eight-liter tank has to be refilled basically every day. It’s two stroke, so you have to mix oil in with the petrol. We didn’t know that, so our rickshaw engine started doing some funny noises and got heated up releasing some fumes-but everything was okay. You can get about 150 k on a full tank – they’re very economical until they break down or you smash into something!” said trio from yet another team.

When asked about their experience with people they came across, bunch of team members said that people along their route were friendly, helpful and very courteous and gave them respect and provided them good hospitality when they needed. “Indian folks are the best people on this planet” they said. When asked about consuming Indian food during their rally, they all said that they enjoyed the Indian delicacies, especially veg dishes like Paneer Tikka, Dal Tadka, Gobi Manchurian etc etc- “Tandoori chicken and Chicken tikka was great at a roadside Dhaba. Loved the Mangalorean delicacies Kori Rotti and Chicken Ghee Roast (Whoo..bit spicy!) and coconut added Chicken Sukka. Masala chai was excellent” at Hotel Ginger restaurant.

“Anything and everything, we ate when we were hungry. Almost exclusively, though, we ate at local restaurants and roadside cafes (dhabas). We found that the dirtier the cook, the better the food was. We often liked the veg plates better than non-veg. Water, though, was the most important resource – especially when traveling long distance. Keeping stocked with bottled water was difficult at times, especially bunch of us drinking litres and litres, said Kyle Salomons, Derek Starr and Drayton De Maere-all three from Canada on “The EH Team” .

Why are you doing this? I asked, “For fun, and in the spirit of unadulterated adventure. Experience and get excited by India…it’s a crazy, awe-inspiring place., and have a blast, but make it out alive- most important goal. What we get, besides a giant thank you, fame and fortune for assisting in this epic journey, and perhaps our first-born child, are perks ?” came back the answer from the “Curly Twirly Whirlies” team. Prior to their departure from Hotel Ginger, Mangaluru, Vinod Pinto (Area Chairman of Mangalore Round Table -115) briefed the foreigners about the activities and projects of MRT. Other MRT-115 members who interacted with the Challenge Teams were- Sandeep D’silva (President), Vadi Shenoy ( Vice Chairman) and Lester D’souza (past president) of MRT-115. Each rickshaw was flagged off by the MRT-115 representatives, and also by Sudheeya Shetty-the Assistant Manager at Hotel Ginger.

With so much to achieve and such little time, the participants of the Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge 2019 have their work cut out for them. The stage is set for the grandest of all challenges – a unique opportunity to the lovers of adventure to push their boundaries harder and higher and to prove their mettle in the great outdoors. While I enjoyed just a short time in the company of these 12 great adventurists, I would like to compliment them for being bold and brave in undertaking this adventurous rally, and I wish them best of luck . Great guys ! Great Lasses-loved them all and their new friendship-hoping to keep in touch with them forever. Long live the “Rickshaw Challenge” heroes!