Our India Rickshaw Run – The Big General PART 1 (Friends and Food)
The idea behind the rickshaw run is to get people out of the “regular” lives and going out and doing something crazy, careless, adventurous, different, insane (choose your adjective, they all fit). There are not real rules, other than India’s laws (of course), and it is not a race. It is a challenge to get your sorry arse from one side of the country to the other in a 3-wheeled auto rickshaw. There is a START point and a FINISH line; everything in between is on you. You are the one that has to choose your own route between those two points, you choose whether you travel with others or solo, you are the one that has to find (and pay for) your own food and lodging, and you are the one that has to figure out what the heck effed-up on your rickshaw today (whether you are mechanically inclined or not).
It is a complete gong show and we loved it. I have so many stories to tell about our adventures there but its hard for me to get my thoughts in order and know where to start. So I will go with where my brain is at today: Partners in Crime, and Food.
Partners in Crime
This rickshaw run there were 84 rickshaws at the start line, and most rickshaws had 2-3 participants in them; we were a whack load of crazies! Some people had come with preformed groups that they would be caravanning with, others, like Eben and I, just went on our own and had no real plan of where we were going, or with whom, once the run started. We had 3 days leading up to the start of the run, where we had time to pimp our rickshaws, practice driving those impractical things, and get to meet the other teams. In that time we met another team that we were keen on traveling with. Suk and Avi are both India nationals that now live in the UK. Suk is a kind and gentle soul and is a great teacher, willing to answer all of our cultural questions. And Avi is a connoisseur of food, history, and religion. Both have a great sense of humour and melded with us perfectly. We didn’t know anything about one another before agreeing to travel together, so it could have been a real mess if when it came to lodging they would not sleep anywhere but a 5-star hotel, but luckily for us (and them) we all had similar standards.
At first Eben and I felt like we may be “cheating” a little, teaming up with two Indians to cross India. It was like having our personal tour guides who could translate everything and show us the sights, which really defeats the whole purpose of the rickshaw runs’s “Figure it out yourself” vibe. But we soon found out that they were just as bad as us with road directions, they had no desire to guide our adventure, and that we were all in this mess together and all had our personal strengths (mine was staying warm in the back of the rickshaw, very important!!). One of the main advantages that we pulled from our trip with these guys (outside of the awesome friendships and the forming of the “Chai Committee”) was the food. We would sit at a restaurant and let the guys do all the ordering. We would eat as a group and these two made sure that we got to experience as many different indian foods as possible. This brings me to…
With these guys we got to try lots of new things, like Paan. Yuck!
Don’t know why all the other teams were complaining, there were no line-ups at the Raj Mahal when we went!
We drank a crazy amount of Chai
All members of the Chai Committee present
My taste buds were in heaven. I wasn’t 100% sure how I would feel about India food for every meal of the day (I am quite the creature of habit when it comes to breakfasts, and usually like mine on the sweater side) but I was happy to discover that I managed just fine with having a little kick of spice in every dish. For the 13 days that we were driving, most of our meals were vegetarian, this is from a mix of religion, the states we were driving through, and the simple lack of refrigeration in some places. We had no issues with the lack of meat as the Indians have found endless ways to make peas, lentils, paneer, and veggies, into different and delicious meals. (I became a slight paneer addict, hence why I didn’t lose any weight on this trip!) Suk and Avi made sure we tried it all, that we understood what was in it, and we would even get the “Avi Cooking Show” where he would walk us through how to cook all these incredible things. All this to say that I already knew, before this trip, that I liked Indian food, but now I can say that I love it, and next time I go to an Indian restaurant I can order more than Butter Chicken!
Then there was Chai. Our group of 4 would average about 8 chais a day, each. We would find every and any excuse to stop on the side of the road for a chai. We need to stretch out, CHAI. We need to let the rickshaws cool off, CHAI. We need to have a group talk about our route, CHAI. We’re lost, CHAI! This is how the “Chai Committee” was created, by our group of four that became quite the critics. And even though we could easily point out which chais were better than others, we were still willing to stop at every roadside shack, big or small, and give them a try. We remember all these stops fondly and think they are what made our trip so awesome. Over these shot-glass sized drinks we got to know our driving buddies better, had some great discussions, and learned a lot about Indian culture.
Another chai stop
a typical kitchen
chai and snacks
chai in clay cups that you get to smash after you finish