We all chase the unknown in our own way. Some take to the mountain tops, for others it’s through the swift curl of water. It is all with the purpose of expanding our minds to see the world in a new light. We all have our niche, our ‘thing’ that forces us to reach out for dreams that must be bled and sweated for to achieve. These dreams can only be reached by taking a chance and going all in, willing to give’r.
For all of us on team Elon Tuk Tuk’s we found this opportunity by taking part in The Adventurists Rickshaw Run in India last January. As we drove 1,800 miles in auto rickshaws from Jaisalmer to Kochin, we not only raised money for charitable causes, we had the opportunity of a life time to experience India's culture first hand. Not one of us had been to India, let alone driven a rickshaw before. It was a true give’r adventure…filled with the good stuff in life.
Team Members: Maria Castine, Will Stirn, Ben Donahue, Jack Halligan, Jordan Nulsen
We were joined by 78 other teams all raising money for Cool Earth, a charity that focuses on climate change by mitigating deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest. In addition, our team took on a second charity, Frank Water Projects: a charity that assists in funding and installing water purifying pumps in rural Indian wells.
Our story is told through the following pictures and snippet from the day we will never forget...
Cruising down the highway at record speed of 60kmh!
Jack and Will playing with the dark magic that is the rickshaw engine
Rollin on backroads towards Indian wine country
Impromptu rest stop on mountain pass atop the rickshaw
The police attempted to pull us over, we kept going. They then stopped ahead of us in the middle of the road, and we were glad to realize, they were simply desperate to get a picture with us!
Taking in the finish line as the 43rd of 80 teams that took part in the run!
"The second auto-rickshaw in our group sputtered to a stop in the early morning light for the fourth time without Ben or me noticing. We didn't know where on the highway they stopped, when, or at this point why. I was driving at the time and turned around on the overpass, forgoing crossing into the correct lane as the barrier was too high and it could be kilometers before the next break in the cement. With fingers crossed on the mildewed rickshaws grips, I played chicken with truckers. They would flash their lights frantically, edge closer to our suavely painted Mystery Machine abomination of a vehicle, only swerving away at the last second. All I could do was bare my teeth and mutter profanities under my breath. I had forgotten to check my mirrors and the radio had only blared static so Ben and I putted along hoping we would eventually see the others in our group in the distance. It was 8:00am and cold. At least we all could comfort ourselves with having had a few chai’s already this morning. This previous January brought four friends and I upfront and close with the deep end of India in all of its forms, many of which travelers glide past to see the best known tourist sites. We, on the other hand, were hoping for a more gnarly experience, and India delivered. From large cities to rural vestiges, we found ourselves in the thick of it, at the whim of locals never quite sure what we were doing, always sniffing out the next best chai stop or local to talk to. Our overarching goal was to drive two dinky auto-rickshaws, akin to an extreme take on three wheeled taxis, over 1800 miles down the western coast of India in 14 days without any assistance beyond what we could source ourselves. Do not fear, there were 78 other teams cultivated under the banner of a UK travel company, The Adventurists, but we were never quite sure where they would be, or as happened frequently, if they would even stop if they saw us instead of jeering at our current malady!
Our tromp through India started in the desert ringed city of Jaisalmer, constantly caked in dust and cold, but sprinkled with spectacular food and vibrant culture creating a simple coziness I still long for. We had three days to prepare: gathering spare parts to ready the rickshaw, eating as much street food as possible (might as well get sick early and get it over with), and mentally gearing up by talking and debating tactics with the 200 or so other participants of the Adventurists Rickshaw Run. We could have spent six weeks trying to figure out how to be ready to hit the road, but alas, we had three days and trial by fire seemed in the end the best tactic.
We departed after an epic New Year’s celebration and snaked our way south. We would rise at six every morning, driving and driving and driving all day until the sun set and we would begin to search out places to stay. This quickly devolved into pulling over near roadside groups of locals and asking them for advice. Sometimes it worked beautifully, other times it did not! One of my favorite memories, when I thought we might really be in over our heads, was on a ten hour bender driving through the mountains towards Indian wine country near the city of Nashik. The first few hours of the day were spent on highways and slowly narrowing regional byways, stopping for chai and rocking out to Devil Makes Three or whatever Kesha we hadn’t ran through too many times already. Suddenly we found ourselves on dirt roads with potholes that swallowed us whole and spat us directly into the chaos of oncoming traffic with no guard rails, time and time again. We were in it…and at that point, we had to buckle down and give’r through the toughest of the tough. This is what we came here for, and we would make it happen. We didn’t have topo-maps of the area to predict what was ahead, all we knew was our goal for the day was Nashik and we needed to get somewhere close to it. We snaked our way along like this nearly running out of petrol multiple times, only twice going off the road completely, and celebrating at the mesa petrol stop with a much needed beer and chance to cool the engine. It was gnarly and addicting to not know if it was going to get worse or better. Eventually the mountains spat us out into vineyards and in the distance - Nashik greeted us like we were coming home. We sputtered into the city covered in grime, cramped hands from holding on, and a whole new understanding of driving unsuitable vehicles under our belt. It was chaos yet absolutely worth the brutal moments of uncertainty. It truly was travel in the fullest essence of the word, an adventure towards unknown destinations with unknown outcomes that could only be addressed by holding on like a cowboy on a bucking bronco. We made it the full eight seconds…and a little more!"