A relaxed day on the road, but a heated storm in the kitchen. As our participants explore an idyllic tropical fruit plantation, little did they know that they have saris, fire and hot tempers to contend with.
Day 7, Tuticorin – Tirunelveli
With only 97km to tackle on the road today, our teams thought they were getting off lightly, however, they had some other challenges in store – one involving saris and fire.
The last night in Tuticorin went on really long for some people, and while most of the participants vacated the rooftop party in the hotel for an early night, some of the more hardcore drinkers had an after party and an after after party. The latter was so loud, it woke the publicity team up next door! Unfortunately, no one was sober enough to remember what exactly happened, although one account vaguely recalls the Bavarian Barbarians knocking on people’s doors shouting “the Germans are coming”.
Fortunately for our party animals, we gave them an extra hour in bed in the morning, and a relatively easy drive in the morning to a plantation owned by Chief Scientist and organiser of the Rickshaw Challenge, Aravand’s father.
I rode in the service truck to get all the road side gossip, and on the way, most of the teams got lost trying to find the farm, so we made a convoy that turned down the small dusty road to the farm.
Platters of tropical fruit freshly picked from the tree awaited us on the already hot morning, as well as fresh coconuts as a welcome drink. Aravind’s father gave us a quick intro to the fruits on offer before taking us on tour of the plantation.
Lined with towering coconut trees and short and stubby bananas palms, the plantations is what you come to expect from paradise, where you can pick fresh guavas, figs and mangos straight off the trees and even sniff out curry and bay leaves. I also learned a new fact today that star anise is the fruit from the bay tree!
Upon our return, the locals cut up a jackfruit for us to try, before we each got our flower garlands and traditional dress. Then had to get tied up in their dhotis and the women each got saris.
Because we were all clueless about how to put on a sari, the women from the farm helped us wrap, tuck and pin our saris. I certainly felt elegant in a sari, but not quite sure I knew how to walk, but to make life a little harder, it turns out we had to undertake a Pongal cooking festival.
Pongal is an Indian harvest festival, which from what we saw involves an earthenware pot, rice, lots of palm sugar, spices, cashews and raisins, that’s all boiled up under an open fire. Considering it was baking hot, and I was wearing a rather flammable looking sari I elected to play the part of the backseat cook, as my team mate struggled to light the dried palm leaves.
But we were not the only ones to suffer, since there was more drama than on Hell’s Kitchen as Wacky Racers‘ François stormed off effing and blinding once his fire went out again. Charging off, charging back, almost kicking the pot over. He certainly gave Gordon Ramsey a run for his money.
The judging took place and the local women tasted the beautifully presented Pongal dishes, who picked the Bavarian Barbarians as the winners.
The rickshaws sped off to Tirnelveli after a large Tamil feast, but one of the Team Shawmacker girls got unwell, so stayed at the farmhouse to rest until she went by car to the hotel. Fortunately, she was OK in the end, making it onto Kanyakumari on the rickshaw the day after.
No crashes or breakdown to report today. I rode with the service car expecting drama and nothing. I also travelled with a rickshaw yesterday and no breakdowns either – am I a lucky charm?