The longest and most arduous day of the CEAT Mumbai Xpress 2008 began promptly with a flag off at 8:30am amid torrential monsoon rains that drenched everything, regardless of any rain gear or the rain flaps attached to the autorickshaws. So dense was the downpour that the limitless view of the ocean on one side and the tropical forests of palm trees and the Western Ghats behind them were completely hidden behind a wall of grey. To make it even more challenging it would also me the longest distance to the flag down, a daunting 208 kilometers.
Within 10 kilometers teams began having problems with rainwater seeping into the fuel tanks and breakdowns became less fun. As mechanics and support vehicles rushed to assist, other teams also stopped to provide assistance –despite the reasonable desire to plod ahead and finish in the much anticipated Goa. Teamwork, gorgeous beaches and tropical scenery provided a great motivating lift to all the teams who kept their spirits, wits and enthusiasm high.
When teams made it to the boarder crossing between Karnataka and Goa, they were in for a surprise. Officials ushered team members into a small office structure and demanded 100 rupees to be allowed into the state. Without issuing receipts or notating the transaction, teams were waved in after handing over the money. At dinner that evening some teams were confused, was it a toll or a bribe? After a few laughs from the more experienced organizers and travelers, the bribery heavy culture had made a concrete introduction to all 18 teams.
Soon, the entry into Goa once again changed the landscape with the Portuguese and former military influences felt in the architecture, roads, people and animals lining the route. Despite the rain excitement was high as teams made it to the BASE hotel for flag down. Dinner was a rowdy group affair at the Hotel George, across from the main Church square. After consuming as much of the local delicacies as possible, teams and organizers ambled back to the hotel in joyous anticipation of the day off the next morning would bring.