Recovering from a hectic New Years party, our teams spent most of the day in bed, while the braver members of the Rickshaw Challenge Classic Run 2015 explored Madurai’s colourful temple. After taking it easy on our rest day, the convoy of rickshaws headed down to the fishing town of Tuticorin on the coast. Mostly an uneventful day, but uneventful on the rickshaw challenge means getting your rickshaw fixed by a kangaroo and yet another accident from team Dukes of the Green.
Day 4, Madurai, Tamil Nadu
Seeing in the New Year in Madurai left few straggling survivors after we took the after party back to the Bob Billies’ room. Some of the teams crashed early, others partied hard into the night, leaving the breakfast room very empty come the morning.
However, some of the groups made it down to town before midday to visit the famous Meenakshi Amman Temple, dedicated to the triple-breasted goddess Meenakshi. Madurai’s temple, complete with 12 tall gopurams, decorated with multi-coloured depictions of gods, goddesses, heroes and demons. The temple complex takes up 6 hectares that spreads out in the middle of the city, surrounded by a street of leafy trees and shops.
Getting into the temple proved a challenge on first glance though, since a queue of people packed the entrance at the South Tower, but a kindly man led us to his shop opposite the West Tower.
“You can leave your shoes and anything forbidden for entering the temple,” he told us, “then you can come back, have a look at the temple from the rooftop and see the whole view of the temple and we’ll have a cup of saffron tea.”
As we unpacked, leaving our shoes on a little shelf, placing cameras into the backpack we elected to leave behind, the shop owner looked at the men in our party, who were wearing shorts.
“You’ll need to cover yourself up, they won’t let you in the temple looking like that,” he said as he pulled out two sarongs, wrapping them around Ross and Rob from teams Sickshaw Sailors and Bob Billies, who looked very fetching indeed.
We crossed the road over to the temple, queued up, got through security and made it into the temple. While the inner shrine is for Hindus only, and on New Year’s day it’s packed with a line encircling the perimeter, we took a walk down the long colonnaded halls decorated with brightly coloured ceilings and patterned floors, stopping for numerous photoshoots for curious locals.
We found our shoes safe and sound in the shop after we got back, and took up the shop keeper’s invite to have a saffron tea on the rooftop with a panoramic view of the gopurams. Even though we were under no obligation to buy, the shop keeper’s hospitality helped seduce us into leaving with pashminas and jewellery.
Aside from a trip to the temple, most of our teams took it easy, and some eventually ventured out at night to sample some local cuisine and try out the local ice cream made with seaweed, but no one wanted to indulge in any festivities after the crazy antics of New Year.
Day 5, Madurai to Tuticorin
Well rested, the teams headed out in the morning to a local school that has been funded by our partner charity Round Table India. The participants got to play with the kids, although most of them got scared by Aussie Tobias from team Mighty Mouse and the Triangle, who was dressed as a giant kangaroo. The participants from the Rickshaw Challenge donated their gifts to the children and played with them before heading off to the coast to the small town of Tuticorin.
While on first impressions the road is straight and smooth, we had our fair share of breakdowns. British lads from the now infamous Dukes of the Green toppled their rickshaw on its side and lost their windshield again. These guys are certainly out to win the most crashes award ever in the Rickshaw Challenge.
The Bob Billies engine gave out completely, and team Mighty Mouse and the Triangle stopped to help them out. It was a surreal sight to see a kangaroo fix an autorickshaw.
Other teams had fun on the way, Rice to the Challenge got to play in corn fields and even played a taxi service, cramming six locals into their rickshaw, making their total passenger number up to nine!
South Africans Hakuna Matatu got mobbed by goats on the way, but for most of the other teams it was a relaxed day.
Everyone made it to Tuticorin in one piece, more or less, with most stopping by the Lady of Snows basilica and the Sri Sankara Rameswarar Temple to snap a photo.