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Dear folks – check out the report of the Rickshaw Run by clicking the link to the page ‘***The Rickshaw Run – The Record***’.  If you want some other stories, you can check out Robbie’s blog at: www.whelanstravels.blogspot.com

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There are heaps of new Rickshaw Run photos online.  In fact there are 400. Because there are so many, I needed to upload them to different accounts.  You can find the first batch of 200 at www.flickr.com/photos/boondogglers (The start to West Bengal)

You can find the second batch of 200 (West Bengal till Sikkim) at: www.flickr.com/photos/theboondogglers

The photos are in reverse chronological order (except for the first few photos) so you need to make your way from page 11 and finish on page 1 etc.

Enjoy!

On Thursday, January 11, at 5:45pm, the Boondogglers rocketed into Darjeeling like a runaway freight train.  They emerged from their battered chariot stinky, crusty, and generally unkempt, yet they emerged as champions, even heroes to some.

We did it!!! To all those who thought it was impossible, that the task was too challenging, that it was too dangerous, too crazy and too absurd… we did it.  So there.

In a few days you will be able to read a full account of the journey, replete with all of our bizarre episodes and general antics.  You’ll get an email when its done. 

4,200 kilometres later…

The Route

…we hope.

 Robbie here, the latest and greatest boondoggler to meet up with the team. We’ve decamped in some town called Bankura, in the middle part of West Bengal. Roads are choppy, forecast is chilly, and the beer flows like the holy Ganges. All that remains is a beeline to National Highway 34, then some 400 km up the narrow strip of land between Bangladesh and Tibet to the Himalayan foothills, with their cricket matches, tea plantations, steam trains, and glorious peaks. We expect to arrive by Thursday night, if all goes well, in time for the Friday Rickshaw Run festivities.

 This afternoon we gave Sally, as we are calling our noble steed these days, a veritable rickshaw hysterectomy — oil change, muffler tightening, the works… We’d been working her way too hard (65 kmph! Grrr!) and she was being a noisy tart about it. Now she purrs like proper little hussy. Also, we were afraid the muffler might actually fall out. No more.

 The Rickshaw Run film crew caught up with us at a hotel in Jarkhand last night, and this morning we gave extensive and silly interviews, and also debuted the Boondoggler’s first two singles, the country-tinged singalong “I Saw It All From a Rickshaw,” with Benji’s shredding harmonica solo and Rogier on the pill-bottle-filled-with-rice shaker, and Rogier’s neo-funk blues number, “Ridin’ in a Rickshaw.”

 We then went back into the canteen and had some Old Monk n Thumbs Up (that’s disgusting Indian rum-and-coke) with “Sabertooth” Pani, head of the infamous “Scorpio” gang, the scourges of south Jarkhand. He and his buddies assured us that it was not their pleasure, but their duty to take us to a proper mechanic in the morning at 6 am and then show us around the countryside for 3 hours, promising to get us safely back on the road by 9. We were doubtful, however, when Sabretooth started his motorbike completely battered and drove into some mattresses that were set up outside the hotel. We were further doubtful when he reversed the bike and did the exact same thing again. Our fears were confirmed this dawn, when we woke up for chai at the ungodly hour of 5:45 and were cruelly stood up by the Scorpios.

 Just one of our many adventures.

 More from the frontlines soon! Everyone take care, and don’t worry, we’re safe and sound. Rogier has taken a Bengali concubine who is acting as our guide through the backwater, and she shouts abuse at aggressive drivers almost as well as she cooks.

Cheers!

The Boondogglers, although bedraggled and exhausted after a totally hectic New Years Eve Goa style, are in fantastic form.

After bounding up the gorgeous (just see the photos!) west coast of India through the states of Kerala and Karnataka, we arrived into Goa on mid-morning of the 31st.

We met up with some friends in Baga beach and spent the earlier part of the evening shmoozing, drinking and dancing around a small fire abutting a lighthouse which overlooks almost all of Goa state.  Due to the worst fireworks lighting in recorded history, we almost started two more, much bigger fires in the surrounding bushland when our fireworks shot first directly at us and then directly into trees and dried grass bundles.  Thank god we had two crates of beer to douse the flames.  After the lighthouse fiasco we returned to Baga where Rogier and his cronies did the RnB thang while Benji beach-hopped and hitchhiked around Goa’s northern beaches in search of the perfect trance party.  He finally found it at 3:30am in Vagator at a huge rave at ‘Hilltop’.  Best start to a new year in recent memory.

Early tomorrow morning we are heading inland and are looking to make it to Hyderabad in 2 days, where we will be finally joined by our third wheel – Robbie.

Updates to come.

The inaugural Rickshaw Run kicked off today with convivial fanfare – and noone was in better form than the Boondogglers.  The day started way too early (7am) with a last minute “pimping” (read painting and decorating) session, and proceeded with a game of cricket against the local sports team, which the Rickshaw Runners can proudly say they won.

Our plan is to drive to Goa by New Years Eve, then cut across the country to Hyderabad, and then find ourselves somewhere along the East Coast, before shooting up along the Bangladeshi border from Kalkuta to Darjeeling. 

So far we have driven 112km (out of a mindboggling 3,500) in about 3 hours, so we figure that we can manage the job if we drive about 8 hours per day…

Here are some piccies for your squizzing pleasure in the meantime before I set up a more tech-savvy Flickr site or other.

Benji

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The ‘Rickshaw Run’ is the latest offering concocted by the ‘Institute for Adventure Research’, the same people who have hosted the ‘Mongol Rally’ – a car rally from London to Mongolia – for the last 4 years. The concept of the Rickshaw Run is simple; to travel in a team from Kochin in the state of Kerala, a town in the luscious south-west of India, to the historic British hill station town of Darjeeling at the foothills of the Himalayas, in the north-east of India – a journey of over 3,500km – in just 2 weeks. The catch is that it all happens in a rickshaw! These three-wheeled, lightweight Indian vehicles usually functions as taxis, and, to put it mildly, are by no means an example of excellence in engineering . It is usually a challenge just to get down the street in one of these machines! The Rickshaw Run starts on December 27, 2006, and will finish on January 14, 2007.

However, the rickshaw run is a lot more than “an opportunity to break new grounds of silliness” as its website proudly claims, as it also has a large charitable component. Each team that enters the rally needs to buy their rickshaw outright, and this rickshaw is then donated to an indebted family near the finish line to help relieve them of debt and provide them with a livelihood. The philosophy behind it is that it is best to ‘teach a man to fish’; that is, to provide a family with a means of being self-sufficient. Additionally, any funds raised above the amount required to purchase the rickshaw will be donated to other local charities in India. The charitable aspect of the Rickshaw Run is being handled by Mercy Corps, a highly respected and trustworthy international NGO, so one can rest assured that everything will be done in a transparent and legitimate fashion.

Being in its inaugural year, the Rickshaw Run has already turned a lot of heads and is sure to gain a lot of attention in the coming weeks. There are already nearly 30 teams registered and more are expected to join the ranks shortly. For more comprehensive information about the Rickshaw Run, please consult the website at the following address: http://www.rickshawrun.com

Being young, adventurous, and in India with no plans over the holiday break, we can think of no better way to spend our time off than traversing through formidable Indian terrain in a rickshaw, all in the name of charity. Our crew in this long haul to West Bengal will be two ‘brews and a flying Dutchman. More specifically we are 3 NGO workers currently residing in Bombay; Benji Holzman, Robbie Whelan and Rogier Janssen, an Aussie, yank, and Dutchman respectively.

Together we call ourselves the Boondogglers, and we are coming soon to an ashram near you!

(God Help Us!)

 

The other night the soon to be Boondogglers met up in Bandra to discuss everything ‘team’. However, what’s a team without a name? So besides almost lynching eachother over what time we will wake up on New Years day after a night of partying in Goa, we put our heads together to come up with a team name. Thus, the Boondogglers were born and written into the annals of history, or atleast the annals of wordpress blogs. While choosing our name however, we brainstormed plenty more amusing names that almost won the day. Presented below are the would-be Boondogglers:

  • The Lost Tribe
  • Goy in the Middle!
  • Runnin’ on Curry
  • The Trecherous Three
  • The Deccan Drifters
  • Goyride!

Are we mental? insane? deranged? in for a total boondoggle? Well, in a way we are.

Robbie has given us a 30% chance of getting to the finish line by the 14th of Jan.

I am more optimistic, but I can’t logically give us anything over a 55% chance.

Rogier is a lot more mercurial, changing his mind by the hour.

Post a comment on how you rate our chances of not dying.  Are we getting all worked up about a stroll through the park or are we totally underestimating the unrelenting and indomitable Indian wilderness?

I think that if we end up making it to the other side without any serious injuries, we must have had God on our side.  I better start eating kosher!