Walkie Talkies. Brilliant. When Turned On.
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 got split up from the group a few kilometres back after we stopped to take pictures. In our haste to catch up we played pothole roulette, and lost.
We now had an inch-wide hole in the bottom of the gearbox and were doing our bit for the environment by giving the torrent of brown flood water a nice oily rainbow effect. In the monsoon 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 smashed the screen. He was only half way through “Ghostrider” as well. Maybe Nicolas Cage’s “acting” had offended Shiva and this was divine retribution.
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. If we’d known no one was going to bother we wouldn’t have spent a whole 5 minutes on the phone blagging some off Binatone.
For Monsoon Madness though this all came with the territory, and this was day two, of a seventeen day trip. We were attempting a coast to coast expedition across India in auto-rickshaws, in the rainy season. So basically, wading through a 2,000 kilometre long bog in essentially a motorised shopping trolley with no doors, a rag top roof and hand operated windscreen wiper.
Just as was the case with Rickshaw Rampage, the opening party was hosted by the Rotary Club of Chennai. Again, the beer was again. Again, not much can be remembered of the opening party.
With team entries from the likes of The Fabulous Furry Freak Bros, Pirates of the Currybean, Mumbai Vice, Poppadom Preach…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. Iced Tea & Notorious Bhaji officially out pimped everyone with a Surround Sound system, disco laser lighting and built in fridge. Nice.
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 at least once 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 lane in to some school gates having failed spectacularly to manage 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.
Heading west, deep in to the Indian interior things were set to get worse, i.e. better. The second rally stage was along the infamous “road of death”.