If you’re looking for adventure, the Rickshaw Run is most definitely a wild ride. Thinking about it? You’ve probably got so many questions… Is it safe? Is it worth doing the rickshaw run? We asked thrill seeker Seb Szymeczko for his experience….
Undoubtedly some of us yearn for a little bit of chaos, many more to adventure, and nearly everyone to that which is exciting and at the very least, a good spot of fun. The Rickshaw Run in India is all of these.
I’m by no means the first to write about it, and I won’t be the last, so that should be an indication to you that it’s something worth doing.
The premise is simple. Pay your fees, get to India, adopt a 7HP motorised tuk-tuk, drive it across the country. You have two weeks.
The route is any whim you choose, and India is host to many whims. Thousands of years of civilisation, billions of people and vastly differing landscapes offer up umpteen tales and possibilities.
The smell, the heat, the noise, the outlandish imagery, there’s an abundance of stimuli. Cows on roofs, goats in trees, tractors on roofs, cows on tractors, cows everywhere. Monkeys in your laundry. You’ve likely never heard so many horns and such traffic clatter. You may not shit or sleep right for a fortnight, but you’ll talk about it for the rest of your life.
Maybe you’ll have to make a hasty escape from a fraudulent construction project after sneaking on site and attempting to pitch your tent. But not before embarrassingly having to ask your pursuers to help you out of a ditch your terrible wheel clearance has left you wedged in.
Perhaps you’ll spend 3 hours being towed by another team to the hilly, narrow edge of a major town. To hitch into the centre, locate the head mechanic at the dealership for the brand of tuk-tuk you have, convince him to come to your broken vehicle only to have him tell you to the sounds of thunderous passing trucks that you’re simply out of petrol. Maybe you’ll wait until he’s gone before you grab the full jerrycan that’s been sitting on the back seat the whole time.
Maybe you’ll have a go at mechanics yourself despite an utter ineptitude. You’ll tighten a random screw, unbeknownst to you to be the tension for the revs. Only to experience once you get going an engine that won’t slow down. You might happen to pull the handbrake on the side of the highway and sprint out of the rickshaw, its revs reaching a terrying intensity. Every sinew and all the Hollywood movie watching in your body has told you it’s about to explode, instead it chuckles itself off. You and your friend are confused, but relieved.
Or, maybe you’ll take a photo of a burning body by the River Ganga not 30 seconds after asking a baba if you can take photos and forgetting he said no. You’ll learn that somehow bribing him is the only solution to saving these captured souls.
Maybe you’ll see the Taj Mahal. Maybe you’ll stand at the very spot Buddha reached Enlightenment. Maybe you’ll visit Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. Maybe you’ll feel the spirituality of the ghats of Varanasi. Maybe you’ll drink a real lassi, a thousand Thumbs Ups and a million very hot chai’s. Maybe you’ll get sick of all the wariness, photos for locals and staring eyes. Maybe you just don’t want to get stuck holding yet another Indian man’s hand for a unnervingly long period of time. But maybe you’ll love every part of it.
Afterwards you may come across people who’ll put it before you, “Have you seen this crazy thing?!”, and depending on the type of person you are, you might enthusiastically tell them all about it, or you may sit there in a happy, silent knowing, watching as another is drawn in by the Runs’ ridiculousness. Fully aware of how good every stage of the process feels. The giddy virginal eagerness of the starting line, the dust of lawless Biha, the frustration of Varanasi, the tranquillity of the Rajasthani desert, the joy of a tuk-tuk drive through for a well-earned McSpicy Paneer burger. But ultimately it is the knowledge that you finished, despite all the breakdowns, be they mechanical or social, that allows you to look back and feel a sense of achievement.
Years later, no matter what you’ve done in the meantime, you know there was a time, that 2 week window, where you were living the way we were all meant to live; utterly free, laughing your arse off.
Now of course it isn’t all saffron and rainbows. There’s scam-artists and potholes, near misses and bad directions. Robberies, gridlock, mistakes, expletives, dust, sleeping outside, and oh the fatigue. But every part of it is worth that feeling we have in reflection. Take me, the mere writer of this, for example. I’ve been all over, years on the move, and the Rickshaw Run’s still one of my fondest experiences, as it could be yours.
So do those money things, board that IndiGo flight and plonk yourself behind the handles of your exotic sit down lawnmower. Allow yourself and your friends to experience that little special something.
At less than 30km an hour of course.
The essential details
Want to know more about the Rickshaw Run? Travelling the length of India in, as the name suggests, rickshaws, the Rickshaw Run covers nearly 3000km of India’s west coast, starting in Cochin and finishing in Jaisalmer in January and vice versa in April. There is no set route for entrants, with the only two obligatory rules being to ‘get off the tourist trail’ and ‘experience the real India’. It is hard for participants not to oblige, given driving in rickshaws means sticking to major roads isn’t advisable and breakdowns in random places way off the beaten track are inevitable.
The Rickshaw Run has three planned editions in 2020, one in January, one in April and another in August. For more details visit https://www.theadventurists.com/adventures/rickshaw-run/, where you can also find out about Rickshaw Runs in the Himalayas and Sri Lanka.
How much is entry to the rickshaw run?
In 2019/2020, entry for a team of three is £1995, which includes:
- A rickshaw, pimped to your own design
- All the necessary paperwork to drive the vehicle
- Test driving, launch party and finish party
- A jerry can and a few key spare parts plus the tools to change them
- 2 weeks of some of the most underpant-stirring adventuring possible in a rickshaw
Sign up for the Rickshaw Run over at The Adventurists website.
Discover more about India on Gone Travelling with these articles.
Free India Guide
Exploring Kullu Valley
Seb goes ABVIMAS