Adnan Khan and his anthropologist sweetheart have embarked on the punishing 8,000-kilometre trip to Istanbul that demands a police escort and hoisting the rickshaw onto trucks to navigate the trickiest stages.
Their purpose is twofold: raise money for a charity that uses circus training to lift the spirits of children in war-torn Afghanistan and to spread those circus skills along the way, to brighten the lives of refugees and orphans.
The rickshaw, painted yellow, green and white with a jazzy ‘Rickshaw Circus’ on the side, and sporting a brass clown horn stands out in an area synonymous with kidnapping, suicide bombings and ambushes.
“I finally got the rickshaw to the Pakistani side. It took hours. It was quite funny. A policeman told me ‘I haven’t seen a carnet de passage (the document needed for tourists to cross the border) in years’,” said Adnan.
His next task was speeding the rickshaw to Peshawar, where Osama bin Laden kept a house during the 1980s war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and onto the capital Islamabad.
The trip has been months in the planning. Khan and Schmeding expect to spend two months winding their way through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey — averaging 300 kilometres a day in six hours.
The couple are determined to raise as much money as possible for the Afghan Mobile Mini Circus for Children (MMCC), which was recently forced to close a school in the western city of Herat and sack staff because of a shortage of funds.