Name: Rickshaw Rampage
Destination: Kannyakumari, India
Distance: 3,750 kms (2,340 miles)
Vehicles: Auto-rickshaws 125cc
Further south? Only penguins
Our journey had so far taken us through frenzied city streets, coastal paths and jungle tracks. Each landscape offered up its own challenges. As we pushed on further south the challenge was fuel. Due to the remoteness of the area it became a lottery finding places to refuel and on many occasions we had to coax a few more miles out of the rickshaws by siphoning the fuel from one to another.
The last days of the trip were particularly long with upwards of ten hours in the seat. 7am starts were needed to ensure we got to our overnight stops in daylight. Headlights in India are entirely optional and we didn’t want to be headed down a single track road in the dark with an unlit tractor coming the other way.
The camaraderie of all the other teams kept everyone in high spirits even when they were on their hands and knees in the midday sun trying to reattach a red hot exhaust pipe.
On one stretch of the journey we were warned about “jumpers”. Not of the woolly long sleeved variety but locals who might apparently jump in front of tourist vehicles in the hope that they’ll get injured enough to earn sympathy money, but not too injured that they get funeral money. Thankfully the “jumping” on this occasion was restricted to flat batteries
And so finally, after two weeks, all but two of the sixteen teams were still going strong albeit patched up with the usual quantity of duct tape and cable ties. After consuming nearly 2,000 kms of tarmac, mud, sand and rock, and what seemed like the same length of toilet roll, we finally reached Kannyakumari.
A huge monument marked the Rally finish line. The southernmost tip of India. It was surprising to know that although we were still in the Northern Hemisphere (just) there was no more land mass due south until the frozen wastes of Antarctica. It might have left us feeling rather isolated had it not been for the hordes of hawkers trying to sell us sunglasses, sun tan lotion, or a bottle of holy water. Surprisingly, this was the only place on the whole trip where we experienced any form of begging or hassle and even then it wasn’t intimidating, although it was persistent.
A pair of genuine fake Ray-Bans was knocked down from 280 Rupees to 70 Rupees in the space of ten minutes (which is about how long the sunglasses lasted until a lens fell out).
And so to our final destination, our hotel in Kannyakumari. Our hosts were full of smiles and each of us in turn was blessed and presented with an ornate necklace of seashells. Sipping cold drinks by the pool was the perfect end to an epic trip and yet we still had the closing party to look forward to.
After our first proper wash in days we emerged clean and fresh into the palm filled gardens under the flickering light of charcoal burners. Within five minutes we were sweating our tits off again. After a few speeches an an awards ceremony including best crash, best mechanical bodge, and best most shitting done in a single sitting, we partied on in to the early hours, resolving to do it all over again.
That promise was kept. Monsoon Madness was it’s name.