Rickshaw Challenge Classic Run Tackles a Cyclone, Breakdowns and Local Toilets

Days before the Rickshaw Challenge sees in its 9th year, the Classic Run 2015 kicks off from Chennai with the tail end of a cyclone for companion. As our participants drive a rickshaw for the first time, they have to contend with Chennai’s crazy streets, heavy rains, breakdowns, among all the other obstacles that make the Rickshaw Challenge what it is. But our teams bonded over the topic of local toilets, drinks and mingling with the locals as they learn the new Human Positioning System.

Meet the teams - Classic Run 2015
Meet the teams – Classic Run 2015

Day 0 – 28 December 2015, Chennai
It maybe the end of 2014, but the Classic Run 2015 has already got started! Our participants made it to Chennai in one piece, but can they get through the next 10 days with their rickshaw intact after battling potholes, crazy Indian drivers and a cyclone?
Most of our teams successfully attended the training day, some arrived later due to flight issues, and one member is still waiting for his Indian visa in Thailand! Navigating through the streets of Chennai with naught but a map and an address, getting to the training ground was a challenge in itself.
There were some teething problems with the training, a couple of teams had to get the mechanic out before they even drove the rickshaw, while others couldn’t wait to zip around the track tooting their horns at each other.
Aravind and Princely demonstrate how light rickshaws are and how easily they can topple... they also show how you can change a tyre!
Aravind and Princely demonstrate how light rickshaws are and how easily they can topple… they also show how you can change a tyre!

Princely gathered everyone up to show the basics of rickshaw driving and maintenance, with a demonstration on just how light (and easily toppled) rickshaws are, the magic and vital combination of oil and petrol required to get the rickshaw running, along with tips on how to tap the locals for directions.
“Every day you’ll have one or two breakdowns,” Aravind forwarned, “you will break down!”
After a little practice session, our nutty teams learned to navigate passing each other on tight country roads, with a few teams, like British youngsters The Dukes of the Green, struggling to get the rickshaw rolling.
Our teams had to endure the stalling challenge, where they had to get their rickshaw running in under 9 seconds so as to not annoy the Indian drivers around them. After which, they were ready to take their rickshaws out for a spin to fill up their three wheelers at the local gas station.
Team Wacky Racers sped through the streets, cutting through bikes and vans fearlessly.
“I learned to drive in Paris,” Francois Gauci told me as his vehicle slipped in and out Indian style between the sound of horns, “I can cope with driving here!”
The team made it to the petrol station way ahead of the others, leaving a queue of pimped-out rickshaws at the gas stations as we made our way back to the field.
The Dukes of the Green got lost, missing the petrol station entirely and ended up on country roads, but eventually made it back to the hotel unscathed. The rest of us drove over to FTE School in the suburbs, one of the schools that was built by our partner charity Round Table India, for whom we have raised more than $250,000 in the 9 years the Rickshaw Challenge has been running!
Day 1, Chennai to Pondicherry
Our teams sped off in the morning from the Deccan Plaza Hotel in downtown Chennai and had to battle their way out of Chennai’s crowded streets down to Pondicherry.
With the cyclone’s weather getting worse, our drivers not only had the traffic to contend with but also heavy rain and gusts of wind. Some of our teams stopped off to visit the temples at the ancient city of Mahabalipuram, where we ran into Norwegian chaps Game of Horns, although they soon learned Google Maps wasn’t their friend when they almost drove into a nuclear power plant!
Photo by Sindre Blomvik from Game of Horns: "Wrong way. Atomic energy. Damn you, Google Maps"
Photo by Sindre Blomvik from Game of Horns: “Wrong way. Atomic energy. Damn you, Google Maps”

We passed a few of the guys on the road, Wacky Racers gave us a toot, and Dukes of the Green had broken down, not for the first time. We’re sure these guys will have some stories to tell at the end of the trip!
Our Bavarian Barbarians got the idea about the Human Positioning System, asking the locals for help, when they invited a local into their rickshaw to direct them to Sadras.
Kilted lads from the Kilted Ring Sting took a boat ride with some local fisherman at the ruins of Alamparai Fort on the route down to Pondicherry.
Photo by Brett Clark from the Kilted Ring Sting: "Boat ride sir? Sure, why not!"
Photo by Brett Clark from the Kilted Ring Sting: “Boat ride sir? Sure, why not!”

All our teams made it in one piece to the former French colony of Pondicherry in time for the welcome party in Priya Deluxe Bar, where the drinks were welcome. However, the toilets provided much topic of conversation between the group. Most of the teams returned to the hotel to continue the festivities, so let’s see how well they handle the route inland to Thanjavur.


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