Indian trip hop in a rickshaw
Would you leave behind the comfort of AC cars or 5-star hotels to face the Indian countryside in a rickshaw, without a guide or a sense of the local culture? While this might seem like a highly challenging prospect, over 200 non-Indians (and just one Indian) are doing just that in the Rickshaw Run, as Hassan M Kamal discovers
On September 8, nearly 79 teams left Shillong in their respective rickshaws, and as you read this, are riding through the less travelled, abandoned, popular and even notorious roads, cities and villages, to reach Jaisalmer. There’s no prize to win, no award to achieve, simply the pleasure of travelling through unknown roads in a rickshaw, from the start point to the finish line. The Rickshaw Run, as it is called, is organised thrice every year in India, by a group of adventurers in UK, called The Adventurists. The September Run, the second run of the year and 14th overall, has over 200 participants, mostly non-Indians who are travelling from Shillong to Jaisalmer.
No rules is the only rule
“There are no rules in this game, except that that there is a start point, a finish line and a finish date; usually, two weeks from the start of the run. In between, teams are free to decide the course they wish to take. If their rickshaw breaks down, they have to fix it themselves, and find a way to reach the destination in time,” shares Matt Dickens, who participated in the first Rickshaw Run -- and is now the event manager of the Indian Rickshaw Run.
Dickens says that each Run is dedicated to a social cause, and participants are expected to generate a minimum of 1,000 pounds, out of which 500 pounds go to the official charity Cool Earth, an organisation, which works towards rainforest preservation. The teams are free to donate the rest of the funds to individual charities that they support. “Some participants are here to raise funds for cancer, some are raising funds for Alzheimer’s Disease and some for education,” Dickens adds. Vatsal Patel, who is part of the team Reading Rickshaws, says that his team has raised nearly 1,200 pounds. “All our proceeds will go to Room To Read, an international organisation that runs schools and libraries across the world. We have raised more than we expected, but will continue to do so,” adds the lone Indian in the September Run, speaking to us from a stop near Patna. “We have covered 700 kms, another 3,000 kms to go,”he adds.
Why the Rickshaw?
Dickens believes that riding through India in a rickshaw is the best way to move around the country. “In an autorickshaw you are in a vehicle and at the same time, not in it. It’s open and there’s no way to stop India from finding you. Besides, it’s a typically Indian thing,” he reasons. How come there’s a lone Indian in the race, we ask: “I guess, it’s not as exciting for an Indian to ride in a rickshaw as its for a foreigner,” he explains. However, Patel, believes otherwise, clearly.
Comfort is not the word
Apart from generating funds for social causes, offering an off-beat and adventurous travel option to people is an equally important part of The Adventurists’ agenda. “We like to make things as difficult as possible,” admits Dickens. “We want people to take a step back from the package holiday, and teach them to find their own way. When you’re lost in a foreign country, with a vehicle, in a jungle, that’s when you discover more about yourself. You can’t learn about a country by living in 5-star hotels and travelling in AC cars. We are always looking for newer ways to know more about the heart of a country,” he adds. The Adventurists run similar challenges including The Mongol Rally and The Mongol Derby through the rough terrains of Mongolia, The Ice Run, the Mototaxi Junket, which takes one from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon basin in a mototaxi, and The World Cycle Race.