With just under 8 weeks to go before the Rickshaw Run 2013 kicks off, I thought it might be an idea to check out a viable route between Rajasthan and Kerala. Since The Adventurists pride themselves on not specifying a set route or providing any on-road support WHATSOEVER, it’s up to us (a graphic designer, an ex-flight attendant and a marathon runner) to figure out how to get from the top of India to the bottom in just 14 bum-jarring days.
Google says it’s only 2,400km! We thought it was 3,500! This thing’s gonna be a breeze…
THE STARTING POINT: JAISALMER, RAJASTHAN, JANUARY 1ST 2013
Well, this one shouldn’t be so hard. After spending Christmas in Goa together, Hannah and I will make our way by train to Jaisalmer to meet Kim and Brian, who will be flying into Delhi and training it from there. I’m really looking forward to visiting this fort town in the desert of Rajasthan, and having team ‘NAMASTE OUTTA MY WAY’ together for the first time. Ever.
‘Pimping’ will begin on December 29th, and we will be making our three-wheeled mean machine look as pretty as possible so that people will take pity on her and want to fix her for us when she inevitably breaks down. Hannah has submitted a beautiful design which will be painted on our rickshaw by a very talented team of Indian artists prior to us receiving her.
Then we practice our driving skills by doing donuts in the desert for a few days, before celebrating New Year’s Eve (and my 32nd birthday!) with a cricket match (The Rickshaw Runners vs The Locals; gee, I wonder which way that’s gonna go), and an opening party. I’ll be dragging the girls off to bed just after midnight, however, as the following morning we will be setting off for… um… hang on let me check my map…
According to Google maps, we will be heading to the village of Barmer on the first leg of our journey, 159km from Jaisalmer. I figure we’ll be there for lunch (I’m optimistic!). Now, the Rajasthan tourist board doesn’t have much to say about Barmer, which must have something to do with those show-pony towns like Jaipur and Jodhpur overshadowing everyone else with their monochromatic colour schemes.
From what I can gather, Barmer is a small desert town with a river and a few Jain temples, a population of 83,517, which by Indian standards would be considered a one-camel town. Perfect! We’ll be there for lunch on the 1st of January, Barmer, so if you could whip up something tasty, we’d be eternally grateful.
Image courtesy of Tours In Ajmer
TO GUJARAT AND BEYOND!
Okay, from here I’m not going to bother putting a time on things; if we make it to Barmer on the first day, I’ll consider the expedition a success. Afterwards we will be pointing our trusty steed in the direction of Patan, the ancient capital of Gujarat, which looks absolutely amazing. Forget the Taj, they’ve got the Patan Mahal baby, an ancient palace that overlooks the city and has since been converted into luxury lodgings (that I’d give my left arm to stay at).
Image courtesy of the Patan Mahal website
But the pièce de résistance of this city is the amazing Rani Ki Vav, an intricately carved step-well built in 1063 by Queen Udayamati in memory of her late husband. The amazing structure begins at ground level and descends down into the earth towards a water source, consisting of several pavilions and galleries that depict over 800 spiritually significant sculptures. Wow!
Image courtesy of Gujarattourism.com
We’ll then make our way through bustling Ahmedabad 126km from Patan, trying to stick to the city limits and not get in too many traffic jams.
We’ll also pass by the city of Anand, which I have recently discovered is famous for its international surrogacy program. According to this interesting article by The Times of India, women here live in communal homes during their pregnancies, where they are cared for whilst carrying children for people from all over the world. Yes, India is already blowing my mind with it’s diversity and complexity and I haven’t even arrived yet.
All going well (which I’m sure it all will, the power of positive thinking, people!), we will be crossing over the Namada River and into the bustling city of Vadodara. Haven’t heard of it? Well, neither had I, but the third largest city in Gujarat is home to over 1 million people, including the Baroda Royal Family, who live in the beautiful Laxmi Vilas Palace, four times the size of Buckingham Palace.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia commons
They don’t do things by halves in India!
Next, we will be passing through the city of Surat and and by the small village of Dandi about 40km to the south, which marked the end of Gandhi’s famous 23 day ‘Salt March’ from Ahmedabad in 1930; a peaceful protest against the British enforced salt tax. Here, we might detour to the shrine erected in remembrance of Gandhi’s determination and resolve to liberate the Indian population through non-violent protest. It might be a good chance to pay our respects and gain inspiration for our onward journey…
Image of Gandhi during the ‘Salt March’ courtesy of Wikipedia commons
We might squeeze in a night at Daman, a relaxed coastal town which was once a Portuguese colony, before making our way through the outskirts of crazy, cosmopolitan and cool Mumbai. I have mixed feelings about going into Mumbai on the Rickshaw Run. Mainly because I absolutely fell in love with that city after my visit there early last year, the final stop on our month-long India trip, but I wouldn’t want to drive through it for anything!
Adding to that, there are some restrictions on auto-rickshaws in central Mumbai, which are quite frankly confusing, but not as confusing as their chaotic, crowded streets. I know Kim hasn’t been to Mumbai yet, so if she wants to go we will find a way, but perhaps that might be a place for some post-Rickshaw Run exploring.
A Mumbai street, with Victoria Terminus in the background, taken during my visit in January 2011. Not so bad eh?
Mumbai officially marks the half-way point of the journey. Are you exhausted already? I certainly am, but bear with me, we’re on the home stretch.
Our route takes us towards the city of Pune, but again, we may decide to stick to the outskirts since it’s Maharashta’s second busiest city. On the way to Pune, we will be passing by the hill station town of Lonavala, where I hope we will be able to spend a night. Why?
Image courtesy of Wikipedia commons
Does that answer your question?
We will then be heading southward bound, through the interesting town of Satara, which means ‘Seven Hills’, named after the peaks that surround the town that was once the capital of the Maharatha Empire in the 17th century. I had never heard of this place, but there are some wonderful sights around it such as waterfalls, rivers, lakes and the Sajjangad Fort, which is the final resting place of Samarth Ramdas, the prominent Marathi saint and religious poet.
It is also close by to the Kas Plateau, a world heritage listed site and home to these very pretty flowers:
Image courtesy of Wikipedia commons
Next, we will head into Goa, where Hannah’s boyfriend Lee will cook us dinner and give us foot massages! Providing we still have a rickshaw that is still in one piece, from Goa, I’d love to take the coast road for the remaining 786 kms to Cochin, Kerala. It will mean going against Google’s fastest route, but I have heard that it’s a good drive through coastal towns.
Alternatively, we can take the inland route via Mysore, which might be a good idea, as I think we will be needing some yoga by then!
FINISH LINE: COCHIN, KERALA, JANUARY 14TH, 2013 (WE HOPE!)
We hope to make it to Cochin, the laid back capital of the sleepy southern state of Kerala, in time for the Rickshaw Run closing party on January 14th. In the recent summer Rickshaw Run through northern India, 50 out of 70 teams made it to the finish line within the recommended time frame.
Those odds aren’t too bad!
The Chinese fishing nets in Cochin, Kerala
I know I am going to have to remain flexible and adaptable if I am going to enjoy this crazy journey. We will probably end up taking a route that is very different to the one I’ve mentioned here, but by throwing out a ‘hypothetical’ route, I feel a little bit more confident about it. To be honest, I’m not the best driver, just don’t tell my boyfriend that! I am nervous to get behind the wheel of an auto-rickshaw, because throughout Tyrhone and my travels, I’ve most often been the navigator, not the driver. In Goa, I hope to rent a moped and get some practice in before hitting the open roads of India. Hopefully, I can gain the confidence I’ll need to live up to our team name, NAMASTE OUTTA MY WAY!
But there’s only one way to find out!
A very unsuspecting me on a Cochin street in 2010. Little did I know I would be learning to drive one of these cross-country!
And where will be staying throughout the journey? Well, the answer is anywhere we can find! Our expedition is being supported by Hostelbookers, which we are very excited about. We will definitely be using them to peruse their extensive selection of hostels en route from Rajasthan to Kerala, but like I said, we’re going to have to be flexible and ready for anything. After all, this is India we’re talking about!
A pilgrim takes a nap on the ghats by the holy Ganges river, Varanasi, India.