The Rickshaw Run is mad dash across India where just making it to the finish line is an achievement. Put on by the clearly crazy individuals at The Adventurists — whose motto is to make the world less boring — it's basically done on a tricycle with a lawnmower engine.
At the beginning of September, dozens of teams from around the world piled into the overgrown go-karts for the 3,500km trip from Shillong to Jaisalmer – and almost all of them finished. Matt Dickens, on-the-scene operator for The Adventurists, hears about everything that goes right – and everything that goes awry. Here are some highlights.
“The Rickshaw Run isn't a race – there's isn't a course, just a destination! We don't know which team traveled the furthest because none of the odometers work, but we do know who got the highest — literally. One team crossed into Nepal, and topped out at about 2,488m. The best part, they said, was going down – we can only imagine!”
Your trusty steed
“The rickshaws go about 60 kmh. The engine is only about 7 horsepower, just under 150cc. You've got to pull the clutch in to shift, that's one more thing that can break. Engines have been known to catch on fire while moving along at 60km/h. The eight-liter tank has to be refilled basically every day. It's two stroke, so you have to mix oil in with the petrol. You can get about 150k on a full tank – they're very economical until they break down or you smash into something!”
The best repair this run
It involved the handle of a cricket bat, and held up for 40km. Your best bet? Get help! “India is chock-full of terrible mechanics – but there's a few of the best mechanics in the world,” says Dickens. “I've seen a ten-year-old boy hop in the rickshaw with nothing but a teaspoon and have it purring sweeter than a kitten!”
Dealing with Delhi Belly
“It's pretty much guaranteed – something's not going to sit right with your digestive system. One chap spent 27 hours on the toilet before being able to move on – he was really dehydrated.” Of course, it gets worse. “One team pulled up in this village and were invited to be guests, for a special feast. The villagers brought a plate full of grubs and maggots. They put on the polite game face, ate the grubs… and as soon as they got through them, the locals brought out another one!”
The big story this race? Actual bandits with actual guns who actually stole everything one team had. They had to drop out of the event, and head to Delhi to get their passports replaced. Another team was luckier – they were approached by would-be bandits with sticks – but the rickshaw-running Kiwis happened to have machetes, and chased them off quite quickly!
There are panty-snatchers…
But don't worry, it's not your fellow travelers (we'd hope) – it's the local wildlife. One team walked into a hotel room, and found a monkey digging through the luggage. They chased the cheeky chimp off with a sword — these clearly being essential bits of kit for anyone taking part — but what did monkey make off with? Plenty of underwear.
And we're not talking about Delhi Belly (although those accidents happen, too – just hopefully not at dinner.) One team crashed their rickshaw into a steamroller before the race even started. Says Matt: “The fellow fractured his wrist! They put a cast on him, and he managed to do the run!”
Little rig, big kids
“One team of two included a fellow of about 200cm and over 125kg – and his teammate wasn't much smaller. Together, they weighed more than the rickshaw!”
Oh yeah, the party…
“There's no better way to wrap up a proper adventure than with a little tipple… and by tipple, we mean about 1,500 beers – that's the amount consumed at this year's finish line party. Good thing no one had to travel the next day.”
Check out the Adventurists' other events and sign up for your dose of mayhem.