Indian travel literature portrays the vast Asian sub-continent as a cross between utter chaos and pure serenity and based on our experiences of this incredible country, we couldn’t be more in agreement with this assessment.
Back in September 2010, we – Tom Hawes, Joe Norton, Alex Nicholls, Andy Thomson, John Smith and Dan Mason – set off on our intrepid adventure.
Although a few of us had previously been to India, none of us had any preconceptions about what the next 3 weeks were to have in store – and believe me, no-one could have possibly imagined the diversity and multiplicity which we were to come across.
After travelling to the start line way up in the mountains of the North Eastern state of Sikkim, we were greeted by a town dug into the steep slopes of the Himalayas.
Surreal experiences of emerging from poverty stricken streets to be met by a Dominos Pizza outlet merely feet away, were encompassed with a real sense of excitement and anticipation of the journey which was about to commence.
After beating a local football team convincingly at the provincial stadium, as well as enjoying the traditional Adventurists starting party, we were waved off on our way (starting 21st on the grid!) on an adventure which was to take 12 days, 13 nights and span 3000km across the Asian continent.
The beginning of the adventure was pre-flaunted as the toughest part of the trip, but this journey down a mountain – where any mistakes were surely to be punishable by death with sheer drops wherever you looked – actually turned out to be one of the easiest and most laid backed parts of the trip. A statement which surely only serves to indicate how the rest of our trip was to pan out!
Having completed our descent (1st and 2nd may I add, out of the 72 teams taking part!), morale was high and any fears or anxieties surrounding our decision to partake in this ridiculous adventure were fading away. These feelings though, could not have been shorter lived and the next few days certainly served to bring us heavily back down to earth and really bring the realities of what we were trying to achieve into perspective. This shock was felt in a number of ways – from a severe cultural wake up, to the pressures and strains of driving one of the world’s most incompetent and impractical machines!
However, despite problems including a series of not just flat but completely obliterated tires; snapped gear cables; wrecked pistons and barely being able to drive 1km without breaking down, our commitment shone through and with a little help from some old men and the army no less, we managed to survive this period of our trip, which was predominantly based in the notoriously unsafe state of Bihar.
Leaving behind us memories of being chased by rabid dogs; shot by BB guns; hit by sticks; driving in the dark and rain without lights, wipers and horns; being flagged down at various dangerous informal roadblocks; having so-called mafia raised “untouchables” stare us out; and genuinely fearing for each other’s safety, we took again to the “roads” of India’s vast countryside and headed further West.
Driving along almost impassable tracks and through potholes so vast you had to physically change gear in them, we even managed to find time midway through our trip to visit sites including the temples of Khujaraho and the astonishing Taj Mahal.
Once again though, with things looking up the troubles began. Word of tourist shootings in the now nearby city of Delhi, as well as torrential rain and floods – which when driving (or being towed by each other due to more mechanical frailties!) were comfortably gushing way above our feet in the somewhat unprotected Tuk Tuk – really re-tested our will to push on to easier times nearer the deserts of the West.
Undoubtedly though, quitting never once occurred to any of us, and after waterproofing the unwaterproofable (a new word for your thesauruses!) we left the rains of the states of Madhya and Uttar Pradesh and reached the beaming sunshine of the infamous region of Rajasthan.
Here we by far had the best time of our trip. Away from the mountains and jungles of the East this province provided nothing but plains and deserts and even managed to afford a variance on wildlife, with camels taking over from the previously enormous volumes of sacred cows.
With spirits high, the costumes were unleashed and daring driving moves including switching Tuk Tuks whilst moving and even changing driver whilst moving (to save time) were common to see.
Inevitably though, we were to push things too far and on the penultimate day of our rally after 5 of us had crammed into 1 Tuk Tuk,the other with 60kg of weight on the roof and none in the back turned too quickly and rolled with the driver inside.
Luckily though, within seconds he popped up wearing the now infamous chauffer’s sailor hat, sporting nothing but a minor headache!
The final day, with both Tuk Tuks now facing the right way up, saw us head for the finish and despite having to push 1 vehicle over the line due to running out of petrol metres from the end, we had made it in one piece and in the top 5 of the 75 teams taking part!
Looking back, not just over the days that followed – relaxing in the Rajasthan heat enjoying camel rides, fantastic hotels, cricket matches, parades and parties – but also even now, we certainly couldn’t be more pleased to have achieved our aim of completing this voyage and helping to raise money for two incredibly worthwhile charities.
Both Frank Water Projects and CRY do an unbelievable job and we just hope that the £4000+ that we raised can help contribute to their ongoing causes.
I’d just like to conclude by saying that although it may be a cliché, this really was an ‘adventure of a lifetime’ and it is most definitely an experience that I will cherish and remember for a long time to come. Finally, thank you to all those who helped us raise money – in particular to our official sponsors EXODUS, TRIDONIC and EFEX – but also more broadly to all our families, friends and friends of friends without whom none of this would have been possible.
Our charity pages are still online, so if you do wish to donate then you still can: http://www.justgiving.com/fancyanothertuk-cry