The Rickshaw Run – Day 5
As our rickshaw was getting better in the mechanics we had a good lie-in but still had sore heads from a few too many Kingfishers (The king of good times!) the night before because we knew the lie-in was coming! We are blaming it on the crazy Ozzie team we met. After some western breakfast one of us headed to the mechanic to try and improve the 6pm pickup time he had given us. It turned out it would be ready at 1pm. Great! The total amount for everything, the taxi 20km out from town, waiting 4hrs and taxi back all on a Sunday, the mechanics time on a Sunday, getting the piston, the labour, the parts, the service, all came to a total of €85. Not bad at all.
By 2pm we were fully on the road again and heading north. Despite the annoyance at the time, we broke down in a really good place. As we were in Goa, I would say almost half the teams stopped in Palolem Beach or close by to take a day off and relax by the sea. Even though we had no intention of stopping on day 4 as we thought it was too early it probably came at a good time. We needed a break from the rickshaw after the shock of spending 12hrs a day in it for the previous 4 days. I was getting little bruises on my shoulders and knees from the constant tapping off the sides and I was vibrating in bed mimicking the time spent in the rickshaw!
The Rickshaw Run – Indians advice
After an uneventful hour or so we were heading through the small town of Margao. Well, small is relative as it still had 100,000people. We had zero cash as the mechanic cleaned us out so we stopped at an ATM and two of us popped in. When we returned some random old guy with decent English was telling us some great new way to get to Mumbai. We had only being driving for 5 days but knew enough to know that going through Mumbai would be a disaster from a traffic point of view so were going to avoid it. His idea was to get off the smaller roads we were on now and head inland to the motorway. Mumbai was still 600km away so motorway would be good to eat up mileage. We decided to follow a random Indians advice and head inland to the town of Belgaum at the start of the motorway. He seemed trustworthy!! The downside to this was that it was late in the afternoon and the roads to Belgaum were small and more importantly there were mountains on the way.
It was a bold move but we went for it. By 6pm when it was getting dark we were at the last town before the mountains and the girls decided to get beers on advice of the Ozzie’s the night before. The two of them actually had an esky (cooler box) in the back full of beers at all times! By pure chance I drove in the dark on the first night when we were stuck for accommodation but now I was the dark driving expert. You know, like Batman or something. So I was tasked with getting us to Belgaum. Once the girls had beers in their hands it was like a switch was flicked and they were the best fun ever! The mountains were in a national park were seriously big and seriously beautiful. I’m guessing they were but as it was dark we could see none of them. The night was really clear so there were several viewpoints where we could see for maybe 50miles with the silhouette of smaller mountains on the way. But it was dark so we could only imagine what it’s like during the day. We spent about 1.5hrs going uphill and another hour going downhill all the while with crows singing in my ear from the back!
The Rickshaw Run – A random encounter
On our way down and nearly off the mountain we stopped for a well earned break in a small village and got the customary chai which tasted divine and warmed us up. This random store also had loads of beautiful colourful cakes which was the first time we came across one like it. We ate lots of them of course as they were almost pure sugar. We then had a very random meeting with Indians from Hyderabad. Most Indians we had come across do not have much English, only a few words. Outside the tourist areas and in the country some don’t even have a few words. We were now more rural than we had ever been before on the side of a mountain. Despite this we meet people from Hyderabad, 500km away who had perfect English, knew all about the Rickshaw Run and twitter handles. It was a bit bizarre. By 11pm we finally got to a hotel in Belgaum after some epic driving. ‘Don’t drive in the dark’ they said. We just drove for 5hrs in the dark up and down a mountain!
The Rickshaw Run – Day 6
Again to make up time some time we lost with our blown piston we got up before dawn, got some petrol on our hands getting it started and hit the motorway for the first time. It was a whole new experience. Up to now we were driving on single lane roads which was all we were used to but it made for a lot of dangerous overtaking by buses and being held up in villages and towns every half an hour. The motorway skipped all this and we could zoom along at our top cruising speed of about 45-50km/hr. Our max was 60km/hr down a hill! We were doing some serious mileage but the downside is that it is very boring. There are no goats or cows to surprise you or mad bus drivers peeping around the corner. Having said this there were a few cars driving the wrong way down the motorway to keep you on your toes. It was good to get a big distance done and we managed 350km which was 70% more kilometres than any day previous. Our destination was Pune which looked big enough on the map but I had never heard of it. Pune was almost directly east of Mumbai and was huge, not just huge, enormous. We were above it on the motorway and we seemed to be doing 5, 10, 20km and we were still passing it out. Pune is semi joined to the city of Pimpri-Chinchwad so maybe that was it. No it wasn’t, it turns out that Pune has over 5million people and Pimpri has 1.8million. After getting off the motorway and a local telling us a good hotel one of the girls did some good work being much more aggressive than the locals getting through the traffic to eventually get there. Peak time for traffic in India is always in the evening, much more so than the mornings.
An interesting aside about my view on the biases or the mentality of the Indians. When we were near our Ginger hotel we asked for final directions to be sure we were on the right path. Two people simultaneously pointed us down a large street. After 5min we asked another and he pointed to a large hotel. Oh right, it must have changed name or something as Ginger wasn’t the name now. When we went in we discovered this was a 5star hotel and very expensive and we had been right beside the Ginger hotel the first time. All the locals just presumed we were staying in the 5 star hotel despite us driving a rickshaw and referring to the name!
The Rickshaw Run – Day 7
As was the norm we got up early to be across the city before any rush hour traffic. We were now on Google maps with GPS which we thought was cheating at the beginning when we had our maps but now that we didn’t it was fine! It is definitely handy around cities. We were going to find out tomorrow that it wasn’t half as good as we thought it was just like others had warned. We got onto the Nashik road and headed out into the rolling, hilly countryside. The land was much drier than down south and everywhere was a shade of brown. The hills are a killer for the rickshaw and really slow you down. With only 7 horsepower and 4 people in it even the slightest incline seriously slows you down. On one of the steeper inclines Aoife (pronounced like Eva) managed to do a wheelie and get the front wheel airborne by revving the life out of the engine before letting of the clutch and break off at the same time!
The Rickshaw Run – Afternoon delight
By afternoon we were in the holy city of Nashik. This is one of the cities where the famous Kumbh Mela festival is held. This is the largest gathering of people in the world and takes place every 3 years. After some skilful negotiations with a hotel we were in a taxi out to the wine region of Nashik. Yes India has wine and those rolling hills come in good for something. The wineries of Sula (www.sulawines.com ) and York (yorkwinery.com) are close to Nashik so a perfect place to spend the afternoon. We had a tour and a tasting session in York over a lake and burning orange sunset before heading to Sula, which is much larger, to see what they had to offer. I must say that we could easily have been in France for the facilities, the service, the wine etc, everything except the roads which were brutal! The wineries are relatively new and they are still a growing industry in India but of course although very nice are very expensive to set up and is why they are only pet projects for some multi-millionaires. That rounded off a nice seventh day for us and was a good break from drinking Kingfisher.
|Launch location - Fort Cochin|
Cochin, Kerala, India
|Day 1 - Tirur|
Cochin, Kerala, India
|Day 2 - Bekal|
Bekal Fort, Kasaragod, Kerala, India
|Day 3 - Bhatkal|
Bhatkal, Karnataka, India
|Day 4 - Palolem Beach|
Palolem Beach, Goa, India
|Day 5 - Belgaum|
Belgaum, Karnataka, India
|Day 6 - Pimpri Chinchwad|
Pimpri-Chinchwad, Maharashtra, India
|Day 7 - Nashik|
Nashik, Maharashtra, India
|Day 8 - Surgana|
Surgana, Maharashtra, India
|Day 9 - Bharuch|
Bharuch, Gujarat, India
|Day 10 - Udaipur|
Udaipur, Rajasthan, India
|Day 11 - Sheoganj|
Sheoganj, Rajasthan, India
|Day 12 - Jodhpur|
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
|Day 13 - Jaisalmer, the finish line|
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India