On a rickshaw going through India, I’m spending a lot of time sweating buckets, becoming one with my horn, avoiding cows, and getting grease under my nails on the road. In the middle of it all however, the views and serenity is most definitely there.
A morning’s sunrise at Kurseong.
An hour after we started our day, the welder our roof rack broke and we had to quickly move all of our bags down in the rickshaw…so it’s a bit cozy now. But at least we didn’t lose anything. Lots of indecision today among the teams – but we finally decided that we had ‘plenty of time’ to make it halfway to Darjeeling in the tea region and up the mountains to get a change of scenery.
We are staying at a cool mountain lodge surrounded by tea plantations tonight in Kurseong. However getting up this mountain to over 3000 feet with about 17 switchback turns while climbing on crap roads and dealing with oncoming vehicles was a ridiculous adventure that involved our rickshaw having to get pushed constantly by teammates and locals. Even in 1st gear it didn’t have enough power to climb the mountain – I had it full throttle and it would peter out.
Our engine was taking a beating and was completely overheated requiring us to stop frequently to try to cool it down with a spray bottle. I’ve never had such a hard time driving a manual transmission vehicle in my life. I actually gave up once and we asked one of the guys to drive it up – but they couldn’t do it either and they had more strength to push – so that left me in the drivers seat. The sun went down and we were climbing/pushing in the dark as we couldn’t run the light as it was too much drain on the engine! But after a couple of hours we made it the 12 km to our lodge. Rejoice!
Now…what goes up must come down tomorrow morning…
While in Darjeeling region of course we’ll have tea for breakfast!
All the little homes in Kurseung are painted in bright colors and have beautiful flower gardens.
After talking to some of the locals we found out that there was a better road we should have taken up the mountain the night before that was new and wider – of course this was all news to us – so we took that one down the mountain. Regardless, the drive down the mountain was nail biting and we had to stop a few times to cool down our brakes with little spritzer bottles. Then we took off thinking we could cover a lot of ground, but were pretty quickly slowed down due to poor road conditions. Pot holes that swallow a whole rickshaw!
One of our caravan rickshaws had issues again with suspension so we stopped early today to try to get that fixed. Hoping it’s the last fix we need…but somehow I hardly doubt that.
Why does the end have to be so hard?!
Any guesses on what this is?
We found a new snack to eat in the Rickshaw – cherry tomatoes found at little roadside market, so sweet!
We arrived in Guwahati at 3:30 pm with 2 hrs and 30 minutes of sunlight left and only 89 km to go – which would normally be doable. However all of the intel we had received thus far said that the road from Guwahati to Shillong is a mountain climb to 3000+ ft and it would take aprox. 5 to 6 hrs to complete. Charlie and I had a very hard decision to make as if we were to push on to Shillong like the rest of the convoy wanted, then it meant we’d probably be driving until 9PM at night on mountain roads and the finish line would be closed so there wasn’t even a possibility of having a finish if we did arrive in Shillong. It would be dark, so we couldn’t film or take photos either.
The rickshaws had been driven hard all day and needed a rest. So Charlie and I decided to stay in Guwahati on our own and leave the convoy so that we could shoot for a proper finish tomorrow.
One last chai stop as we head towards Shillong – only abt 40km away!
The scenery in the state of Meghalaya is really the best we’ve seen; green trees, lakes and rivers with water in them, and little hillside towns. It is a weird mix of cultures in this part of India – near Burma, Bhutan, and Nepal – people’s look and style changes. It doesn’t really feel like India. We drove past a beautiful lake and even stopped to take pictures at the ‘Welcome to Shillong’ sign.
We were entrapped in Shillong city traffic for a while in which I was so anxious to get to the finish line (only 1 km away) that Charlie had to tell me to stop whining! But finally we saw it – the big banner on the left side of the road “FINISH” The feeling of elation and accomplishment overcame us – we had made it there alive!
We drove 2,300 miles in 14 days the length of India in a 3 wheeled, 7 horsepower rickshaw – insanity. We did this all in temps well over 100 degrees every day and slept an average of 5 ½ hours of a night. We had 3 major breakdowns, a few minor ones, we hit a gate, rear ended another rickshaw in front of us and I accidently ran over a dog’s tail…but no major accidents.
And the best part – we raised over $15,000 for Charity: Water and $1000 for Cool Earth.