Name: Monsoon Madness
Destination: Mumbai, India
Distance: 2,180 kms (1,360 miles)
Vehicle: Auto rickshaw 125cc
It’ll be like last time. Only wetter
When driving in monsoon season what you really need is a vehicle with no doors and a hand operated windscreen wiper. That only leaves one hand free for steering which is especially comforting when you have to navigate the “Road of Death”. Thirty five teams from across the globe joined up for this dash and splash across the Indian sub-continent. Welcome to Monsoon Madness.
Grab the passports
Two years after competing in the world’s first auto-rickshaw rally – Rickshaw Rampage – an email landed in our inbox.
“Are you interested in another auto rickshaw rally?”
“Yes. What’s the plan”
“A bit like last time only in a different direction and a lot wetter”
“OK, will book flights”
Little did we realise at the time how much wetter a lot wetter is. Add to that some woeful preparation and un-appreciation of the elements and you’ve got all the ingredients for a classic Trifle.
With team entries like Smokey and the Pandit, Pirates of the Currybean, Mumbai Vice,…you get the picture. The rickshaws were a riot of colour and pimped accessories. Out went the standard battered yellow paint job and in came the flames, go faster stripes and fluffy seat covers.
Pimp my ‘shaw
Team Iced Tea & Notorious Bhaji (that’ll be Oz and Jim then) officially out pimped everyone with their 5.1 Dolby surround sound system, disco laser lighting and onboard fridge.
So with the usual chaotic lets-get-out-of-town driving tactics we sped off out of Chennai in a haze of blue smoke. Our first stop was the Madras Motor Sports Club where it had been arranged for us to do some free laps of the race circuit.
In hindsight, letting thirty-two rickshaws driven by inexperienced but hugely excitable drivers was not a smart move. Half an hour later three of the rickshaws had been upside down so it was decided we’d better leave.
Team Smokey and the Pandit had set the standard early on after they’d shot straight off the start line and failed to turn right. Fifty yards in to the rally and they were already hitching a lift in the press car having shortened their rickshaw by a few inches.
Blame it on Nicolas Cage
A roadside breakdown is never a welcome experience, least of all when it’s raining so hard it’s painful to stand out in it. We’d got split up from the main group a few kilometres back after stopping to take pictures.
In our haste to catch up we gambled with pothole roulette. The wheel of fortune unfortunately stopped in the wrong place. The thud was a ceiling smasher.
We now had an inch-wide hole in the bottom of our gearbox. As we stood around wondering what to do a small scale environmental disaster was unfolding around us as oil leaked away into the torrent of brown flood water. At least it gave off a nice rainbow effect.
Evidently during monsoon flood it’s impossible to tell whether the standing water is a mere puddle, or a foot deep crater. The one we had just smashed in to was the latter.
Jim was relieved his cameras were still intact. Oz on the other hand was slightly miffed that he’d headbutted the on-board DVD player and knocked the screen off it’s mountings. He was only half way through “Ghostrider” as well. Maybe Nicolas Cage’s “acting” had offended Shiva and this was divine retribution.
All walkie no talkie
We had no mobile phone signal, and the other teams didn’t have their walkie talkies switched on. It was for this very situation we brought the walkie talkies in the first place. As things stood we might as well have been shouting into a naan bread.
For an event like Monsoon Madness though this all came with the territory. This was day two of a seventeen day trip. We were taking part in the first ever coast to coast race across India in auto-rickshaws, in the monsoon season.
In layman’s terms we were wading through a 2,000 kilometre long pool of mud and poo in a motorised shopping trolley with no doors.
The opening party was hosted by the Rotary Club of Chennai. Not much can be remembered of the opening party.