The CEMS Blog

The official blog of Chennai Event Management Services

Day 15: Coutrallam To Tuticorin, April – 15, 2010 April 23, 2010

Filed under: Malabar Rampage - 2010 — aravindbkumar @ 7:45 pm
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Rickshaw Wallas team having a Moment

Rickshawallas team

Talking to the Teams: Edward Guy is one of the Rickshawallas team members, a group renowned for their impressive charitable donation to the Malabar Rampage charities. What is less known is that the funds raised came in large part from socks! These ingenious adventurers used their clothing wholesale connections in the UK to produce and sell limited edition charity socks called the Bombay Royale in the colours of the Indian flag. Combined with their own personal donations and the personal donations of the Tamil Nadu expat community in Dubai, their efforts have made an enormous difference to underprivileged and undersupplied rural schools throughout the area.

Edward explained to reporters that his experience back in the UK of charity events was that they tended to become a little repetitive, lacking imagination or excitement. There were only so many marathons anyone could run, even dressed up in outlandish costumes. However, the Rickshaw Challenge series was something completely different, unlike anything they had seen before, and immediately captured their imagination. This combined spirit of humanitarian aid, original thinking, and wild adventure is at the very heart of the Malabar Rampage!

The Rickshawallas were one of the teams caught in the Tamil New Year celebrations yesterday (Day 14), and whilst it did dent their score a little, it was a spectacular sight. Empty roads suddenly tuned into an explosion of sounds and colours and activity and elephants! That night they stayed on a Tuticorin fruit plantation and spent the evening sat in the pond just cooling off and relaxing.

Today (Day 15) Edward and crew used the stationary day in Tuticorin to explore the local sights and culture, wander around the old fishing district, chill out, and eat  a whole lot of the local Mud crab. The evening was as usual another party, and included watching the IPL cricket on what could well have been the biggest TV in southern India.

Talking to Andrew Thomas Crew of RickRoll Shaw (Team 6)

Rick Roll Shaw having a Moment

Rick Roll Shaw Team

Just for chuckles, we thought we would try a whole new approach to find out more about the fearless road-warriors of the Malabar Rampage with some questions that we thought might not have yet been asked of them by the ever-present media and reporters.

CEMS: If you had superpowers, what would they be?

Andrews: I already have superpowers. I’m immortal, or at least indestructible. Maybe immortal and indestructible. This rally proves that.

CEMS: How has being part of the Malabar Rampage made you a better person?

Andrew: Well it’s made me a better person by making me work with a team, and making me appreciate the abilities of others, or the lack thereof. It makes me step up to the plate and cover for them, make me more self-reliant. Also dealing with another culture that is so chaotic, and has such a constant ebb and flow of traffic and movement and noise. Dealing with the traffic that is full of everything from giant dump trucks to cows, either of which would totally wreck the little rickshaws in a collision. Traveling and working and playing in the amazing heat here without resulting to killing each other is also part of the challenge.

Today RickRoll Shaw spent the day like the other teams relaxing, recharging and soaking up the local culture. One of the team members is currently doing his best to recuperate from a bad cut across the heel as they leaned out of the rickshaw to stabilise it on a corner, so it has yet to be seen if he will be able to continue along the way. Fortunately the injured party is local to just a couple of hundred kilometres further along the route, so decisions will be made by the time he passes his home town. Andrew is more than a little concerned that He’ll end up being the only driver in the team for the next 1000 miles, which he is not looking forward to at all, especially with the heat “making you sweat out your brain”. For the meantime, however, Andrew and the rest of RickRoll Shaw are just taking it easy and hanging out with the Rickshawallas, having personally gone into town to fetch back the delicious local chicken biryani for everyone.

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From the Highway to High Fashion – Rampage on the Catwalk April 19, 2010

Charity Fundraiser

The Malabar Rampage is now well into its third week, with the international teams having covered over 1100 kilometres across the Southern Indian Dravidian States. This latest route in the legendary Rickshaw Challenge Series has so far taken them up and down mountains, through dense jungles, across spectacular countryside, by ancient landmarks ,and in and out of a half dozen microclimates including roasting heat and torrential monsoon downpours. Having started in Chennai this band of adventurers gathered from across the world are now rounding the very southern tip of the continent, and about to start facing all new challenges as part of this unique rally.

The second half of the twenty day long rally is set to be absolutely action-packed, giving not only the teams but the attending world media a chance to see entirely unknown parts of India, and showing already familiar areas in a completely new light. Every possible activity to showcase this beautiful and underexposed part of India has been crammed into this monster of a rally somewhere along the line. As much fun as it all is, both the participating teams and the organisers of the Malabar Rampage appreciate that it is not enough just to experience and show-off this fantastic and unspoilt corner of the world, but that it is also important to give back to the local communities. The Malabar Rampage will represent not only the 5th year of the Rickshaw Challenge series, but also the collection and distribution of more than €50,000 of charitable aid for underprivileged local schools.

The huge wave of publicity that the Malabar Rampage has generated has not been lost upon Aravind Bremanandam and CEMS (creator and organisers of the Rickshaw Challenge series) nor other local celebrities and notables. Thanks to the world media that has been following the rally since Chennai the participants are already gaining something of a celebrity status as they buzz through the towns and villages, being greeted with cheers and applause as passers-by wave newspaper articles featuring their exploits. CEMS has joined forces with top fashion choreographer Karun Raman to harness this huge swell of popularity and attention to make a difference for much needed local charity work by way of a unique fashion extravaganza.

The thrill-seeking road warriors of the Malabar Rampage are going to be models in a spectacular fashion show hosted and produced by CEMS and choreographed by Karun Raman himself. Neither team of professionals are going to taking even a penny of the proceeds, instead making sure very single last rupee goes to the Love Care Centre in Kancheepuram, a foundation dedicated to helping the poor and destitute escape poverty. The event will be happening on Wednesday 21st , 8.00pm at the Savera hotel in downtown Chennai, with tickets going at only 700 rupees on the door – all of which will go to the very worth work of the Love Care Centre. The participants of the Malabar Rampage have come from every corner of the earth and every walk of life and together crossed an entire continent, but are going to be taking a step further when the stroll down the catwalk for charity.

The Rampage teams will not be alone out on the catwalk, nor will they be the only celebrity! Popular TV personality and presenter Paloma Rao will be acting as Master of Ceremonies, with the able assistance and comedy styling of Cary Edwards! Making sure that the teams look their best and don’t trail a thousand kilometres worth of road dust behind them will be Vikram Mohan and rest of the hair & make-up experts from Bounce Style Lounge. The tuk-tuk heroes will be modelling the exquisite collections of local designer Julie Vergis, Nalli Next , Lagan and with music being presided over by superstar deejay Vijay Chawla it’s going to be a night to remember.   All these big names coming together and giving their time completely for free to create this fashioned themed fundraising event highlights the dynamism and spirit of Chennai, and the powerful, infectious enthusiasm of the Malabar Rampage.

Be sure to follow the Malabar Rampage and its continued exploits to find out which of the budding local designers will have their work featured at this one of a kind show that is sure to put their work into the international spotlight, as well as generate valuable aid for the Love Care Centre

About CEMS:

Chennai Event Management Services (CEMS) is an award-winning international event planning and production company. We specialize in staging high-profile functions around the world, including events in Europe, Asia, and Africa such as the Malabar Rampage, Tech Raid and others. With offices in several countries in key locations across the globe, we are in a strategic position to create spectacular events with full multi-media support and first-class promotion.

Website :
CEMS – http://www.cemsglobal.com/
Rickshaw Challenge – http://rickshawchallenge.com/
Love Care Centre : http://www.lovecareindia.org

Contact :
Aravind  Bremanandam – info@cemsglobal.com
+91-44-42849875

 

Day 14: Kaniyakumari To Coutrallam, April – 14, 2010 April 17, 2010

Auto rickshaw Fueling

Rickshaw Shuttle Fueling up

All the teams were at least a little reluctant to leave the comforts of the Kanyakumari Sparsha hotel, as it was certainly one of the most luxurious and opulent locations we’ve stopped in along the way- but it was back on the road for the heroes of the Malabar Rampage. With a 8am briefing and a flag-off a half hour later it was an early start to the day, but we would all need it to tackle the 189km route that day. Our destination is actually only 110km away, but today is the start of those infamous Challenges integral to any of the Rickshaw Challenge Series. These point-to-point and navigation challenges are non-compulsory, but will all add points towards making someone the King of the Rickshaws. The tactical decision that needs to be made by the teams is how many and which of the locations will they visit to gather points, as there is a strict flag-down at the end location which if missed will negate all points collected that day! The teams will have to be master navigators and shrewd tacticians today, despite the unbelievable heat, already appreciable by 7am.

Fortunately enough it’s a Tamil holiday today, and the roads are all but free and clear. This is just as well as some of the stretches covered today are notorious throughout the country for being fast, unforgiving, and magnates for road-rage. Instead, our intrepid teams cruised and buzzed along them unmolested and enjoying the sights.

Angry highways notwithstanding, today is all about the real start of going off the beaten track, and really engaging in the spirit of adventure and discovery at the heart of the Malabar Rampage. Teams will now have to expect the unexpected at every turn, which was nicely illustrated by those who headed for one of the point-scoring locations expecting an easy in and out only to discover the whole area in the throes of a massive local festival. The entire town was in total celebratory chaos and complete gridlock, with no one getting in or out in anything less than two hours. This was a complete time killer in terms of points, but at the same time exactly the sort of fantastic unexpected gem that this rally loves.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu are famed for their waterfalls, and this area in particular. Unfortunately the Rampage found it in a grip of a particularly fierce drought and the most spectacular of the falls were diminished to say the least. Less than a week ago we were all driving through torrential monsoon rains, hanging out the side of the tuk-tuks and soaking up the downpour like crazy people – but inside this microclimate the countryside looks positively crispy in places due to lack of rain!

One of the highlights of the day was being passed by local tuk-tuk users who showed us how the locals squeeze every last drop of efficiency out of the humble seven horsepower. Safely and comfortably traveling in teams of two or three, our teams today passed locals traveling with easily over a dozen passengers in a single rickshaw. Afterwards the little vehicles suddenly seemed positively spacious by comparison.

The organisers invaluable insider knowledge recommended a fantastic spot along the way – the Rahmath Restaurant, better known locally simply as the Border Shop. A restaurant that caters for passing truckers and haulage drivers doesn’t sound like a culinary gem, but it is home to some of the most mind blowing, excellent Indian cuisine available anywhere. In the words of one of the rally’s staff (and repeat customer) ‘they would not trade going there for any 5 star restaurants in the world’. A few brave members joined the staff for what was promised to be the real-deal in local cooking in a place that looked like a well-used school canteen. The place was typically packed, but the ever jovial proprietor walked amongst the tables, chatting to locals, remembering the rally staff from two years ago, entertaining people, giving advice and dares as how to eat the food, and displaying a magical ability to conjure up an entire tray heaped with sublime food to drop in front of new customers, or even ones who had only just finished the first tray!

Our evening destination was the Kuttalam Hotel, the swimming pool for which had proven a strong motivating force for the hot teams in the last miles. Upon reaching it and seeing the pool, we all quickly came to the decision that ‘duck pond’ was a better description than ‘swimming pool’, complete with weeds and mysterious green water. Betting went as high as £20 for whoever would actually jump in – there were no takers. Despite the lack of a pool that anyone was prepared to jump into, the evenings seem to be less fearsomely hot as they were before, and it was the first time that everyone was comfortable just sitting outside away from the refuge of the all-important air-conditioning, making it a beautiful evening for everyone.

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Day 12: Kovalam To Kaniyakumari, April – 13, 2010

Rickshaw Pit-stop

Rickshaw Pit-stop

Despite having a fairly respectable amount of kilometres to cover today, it was taken at a relaxed pace. Maybe some of the teams have learnt from their burst of enthusiasm yesterday! There was no official flag-off time, and no rigid agenda along the way – just the beauty of the countryside rolling past and whatever adventures the day brings our way. Tomorrow the Malabar Rampage Challenges will start in earnest, so it’s a good idea for everyone to enjoy this last day of pure cruising.

Yesterday we arrived into the Uday Samudra Hotel, and as advertised the location is an absolute palace. The pools, the views, the architecture are all just fantastic from the moment you walk in to the lobby. The teams could hardly believe their luck when they rolled into the parking lot, plastered with the dust and sweat of the day. Everything was truly excellent until our parched participants ordered themselves something to drink and eat in the hotel’s restaurant. Orders for drinks placed at 10.15pm still had only partially materialised by 10.50, and when questions were raised at 11pm our road heroes were greeted with only dumbfounded puzzlement that we had ever ordered at all. Looking around, it seemed everyone else in the bar and restaurant was having a similar experience, and any of the teams that had actually managed to get some service were just horrified by what was passed off as food – the burger was apparently especially unidentifiable! After some huffing and puffing we eventually got the attention of the Duty Manager, but apparently the process for actually complaining was completely alien to them. Insult was finally added to injury when the particularly reluctant waiter who epically failed to serve us called us all liars to the Duty Manager! He knew of no food order! Who are these strange tuk –tuk driving people?! Whoever they are I’m sure they ordered no food, and if they did, they must surely have ordered it late when the kitchen was closed! And so on.

Our advice as the Malabar Rampagers to you the reading world: The Uday Samudra Hotel – beautiful facilities, nice pool, but if you’re planning to stay, bring canned food.

But don’t get the idea that the service along the way has been anything less than great for us with only a couple of rare exceptions. The locals simply haven’t been able to do enough for us every step of the way. For the future runs Aravind has already scouted out the stunning Estuary Bay Hotel. Even getting there requires a ferry boat through spectacular ecosystems of bird life over sparkling clear bay water. Its location is truly-mind blowing, on the southern tip of the continent where a clear lake flows into the sea. The service was friendly, the food delicious, and it’s a pretty good bet that all subsequent Rampages will be staying here instead!

In the afternoon the rally passed over into Tamilnadu, and it was a long easy cruise frequently punctuated by breathtaking scenery and very welcome stops for chai and coconut water. We took a detour to check out the Padmanabhapuram Palace, an amazing ancient granite fortress over four kilometres long, considered to be the hallmark of classic Kerala style building art. It was magnificent to look at, but on the other hand closed for reasons that were obscure. Such are the fortunes of being on an adventure, so we all hit the road again.

It’s a happy birthday to Ed of the Rickshaw Wallas from all of us on the Malabar Rampage and from all the folks at CEMS too. Other good news is that we have both Brett and Sarah back with us full time after a day or two of taking it easy, both back on their feet and determined to be unstoppable! They’ll need their wits about them as we’re getting into Tamil Nadu proper, which means all new levels of heat and potholes. Tomorrow, the official challenges start – and a entirely new dimension of the Malabar Rampage is about to come into play.

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Day 11: Mararikulam To Kovalam, April – 12, 2010

Filed under: 1 — aravindbkumar @ 4:03 pm
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Team Rickshawwallas

Team Rickshawwallas

Yesterday Aravind made use of his local expertise and took The Rickshaw Wallas to a Toddy shop to pick up some of the local drink for the teams. Also known as Palm wine, Toddy is is an alcoholic drink made from the sap of various species of palm tree such as the Palmyra, and coconut palms. They brought home a load for the other participants, all at the princely sum of 25 rupees for each half-litre bottle. Everyone agreed that it was very unusual, very tangy, and very effective at cooling you down in the heat, which was already beginning to mount even early in the day. Aravind also warned everyone of the side effects, which was that a few hours later we all found ourselves sweating profusely, but that was welcome enough in this heat. Remember, stay hydrated!

It was an open flag off this morning, which meant that the teams could get themselves in gear as they saw fit. We all figured this would mean a late start in a leisurely way, but it turned out that the appeal of the awesome beaches and pools reported at the next destination had a highly motivating effect. By the time Aravind or any of the other organisers had made it downstairs to look around for some breakfast, it was full Action Stations with most of the teams running around making last minute preparations and hitting the road. Enthusiasm is at the heart of the Malabar Rampage spirit, but this has never been an event that rewarded speed. Sure enough, after a leisurely breakfast and relaxed start, Team 007 (Travel Scientists) found Team 001 only 15km up the road with a snapped clutch wire. The support vehicle was on the scene and had everyone running again quickly, but over-enthusiastic driving became a theme for the day! Despite having departed very much last, Team 007’s cool and laid back approach meant that they were actually the second team to arrive at the end of the day! That great giddy rush of excitement had gotten everyone else lost, overheated (either themselves or at least the poor tuk-tuks), down wrong turns, or out of fuel.  The old stories about the tortoise and the hare probably aren’t true most of the time, but on the Malabar Rampage it’s all about playing it cool and living the spirit of adventure and exploration.
The beleaguered Brett of Team 003 (Team Oz) and Sarah of Team 004 were both not feeling 100% today, so rather than grind on and ruin themselves for the rest of the rally they rode shotgun with the supply vehicle. Kudos to the Rickshaw Wallas who stepped up and heroically provided drivers for the depleted teams and vehicles!
With the huge international and local media coverage the Malabar Rampage has generated, our reputation is starting to precede us.  In addition to the usual cheering and waving as we roll through towns, the locals are beginning to wave newspaper articles about us as we pass. Stopping to ask directions or chat over coconut water, the residents already know where we are heading to!  Will the teams be able to stay cool and grounded in the face of such newfound fame?  I asked Romy of Team Oz, but she told me to have my people talk to her agent.
Tommorow it’s the tip of India, and an epic section to go with it!
 

Day 10: Mararikulam, April – 11, 2010

Filed under: Malabar Rampage - 2010 — aravindbkumar @ 3:54 pm
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Malabar Rampage Rickshaw Race

Malabar Rampage Logo

The teams were all up until late again last night, none of us retiring until at least 2 or 3am. We shared a fantastic dinner of the local cuisine, and watched the sun go down on what has effectively been our private beach.

It was an easy going rest day today, and with everyone assembled at the civilised hour of 10am we got to the vehicles and headed for Alleppey for a rendezvous with our houseboat. This particular day’s activity was not even advertised to the teams when they joined up, and this amazing opportunity is all thanks to our rally partner at Marvel Cruises. The Malabar Rampage is one of the world’s foremost showcases of Kerala and Southern India, always looking brings to light the best and most beautiful aspects of the region, but still the participants could hardly believe their luck that they had managed to get one of the legendary houseboats all to themselves for an entire afternoon.

A short 15 minute ride down the road and the participants had to run a gauntlet of reporters before getting anywhere near the dock. Even though it’s technically a day off for the rally, it turns out that celebrity comes with a price and everyone had to go through several interviews with both press and broadcast journalists before being let go. At its height, the teams and their tuk-tuks were surrounded by as many as two camera crews, 5 photo-journalists, and a difficult to count number of fast paced reporters.

When the press mob was finally cleared, it was time for the teams to all finally board one of the famous local Kettuvallam boats. Originally designed as heavy lifting rice barges, the Kettuvallam gets its name from two Malayalam words – ‘kettu’ means tying and ‘vallam’ meaning country boat. The boats are so called because coir ropes tied in knots are all that hold together the entire structure of the boat! Not a single nail is used in the whole construction, which predominantly consists of huge planks of local Jack wood coated with a caustic black resin made from boiled cashew kernels. Whilst the boats remain extremely ecologically friendly and sustainable in their traditional construction, the modern 80 foot boats have also been adapted into luxuriously furnished houseboats. A modern kettuvallam can have up to five en-suite bedrooms, an open plan lounge, sun deck, and a kitchenette complete with your own cook. Meals on-board are supplemented with fresh fish pulled straight from the backwaters. The materials which go into the making are all local, such as eco-friendly bamboo poles, coconut fibre ropes, bamboo mats, coir carpets etc. One effect of all these natural organic fibres is that even in the hottest part of the day, the interiors of the boats remain cool, as the rally participants found out much to their relief.

The team’s boat was a full three bedroom model, a full kitchen, a lounge and copious sun decks. Everyone had a great lunch on-board, took naps on deck or in the rooms, played cards, or watched the scenery serenely float by at the stately speed of five kilometres an hour.

When we had returned to dry land the rest of the day was spend relaxing in town, picking up a few basic supplies. The whole rally parked up at the end of a street, put on some music in Team 007’s high-end stereo system and just relaxed surrounded by the hum of the Sunday traffic. Pretty soon we had attracted the local tuk-tuk driver too, who gathered around to check out our crazy rickshaws and listen to our most excellent tunes as well. Before we knew it, there was a full-on impromptu street party going on centred around the Malabar Rampage!

Tomorrow it’s a 190km push, so all this rest and recuperation is going to be needed! Unfortunately the ever popular Brett of the antipodeian Team 004 was not feeling up to participating today, which is one of the hazards to participants of traveling through so many distinct microclimates in such quick succession. Always keep yourself hydrated on the road, adventurers! Fortunately Brett will be back with us, zooming around with characteristic grace by tomorrow.

 

Team Interviews : Charlie ( Team 003 – Rickshawallas) April 12, 2010

Filed under: Malabar Rampage - 2010 — aravindbkumar @ 8:02 pm
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Rickshaw Wallas team having a Moment

Rickshawallas team

Taking a different approach to the Malabar Rampage is Team 003, The Rickshawallas. On this Malabar Rampage they have raised more than £4,000 in charitable aid for Round Table India, and are augmenting that figure by saving on the rally hotel package – deciding instead to rough it and improvise.

Armed only with a 2005 copy of Lonely Planet to give them a general idea of what a place is like, at the end of a long day on the road they do not rest but instead head into town and start hunting for any local hotels or hostels that have availability and the lowest prices possible.  After as much as 180km on the road and through the heat, this is not an option for the faint of heart!
Led by Charlie, the team has so far managed to find a place (eventually) every night that would put them up for around 800 to 1000 rupees. The accommodation is often rough and sparse to say the least, but they have seen more of what goes on in the town, the real hustles and bustle, than they could have otherwise. Charlie and his teammates feel that the air-conditioned luxury that the listed hotels provided by the Malabar Rampage insulate them too much from the local flavours and experience by provide exactly the relaxing retreat and space they were designed for. Team 003 is right in the heartbeat of the local communities, and say that they can see, hear and smell the real character of each town, finding out what each towns own cuisine is like, what are the predominant races, religions, and customs. They say that they occasionally get just a flicker of regret after a really long and hard day when they have to go scouting for accommodation, but after a shower or at least a wash-up they are ready to hit the town!
Their experience with the locals has been just as glowing as the other teams report, if not even better. The entire team was flagged down by the side of the road by a friendly old man who took them all back to his own home to meet his wife and children (who spoke perfect English) and made us all coffee and tea, and told us all about their customs and culture before sending us back on our route rested and refreshed.
Charlie’s tips for anyone thinking of trying this approach to the Malabar Rampage is to bring anti-bite, and lots of it, maybe your own sheets, your own washing gear, and a small essentials backpack. Their advice for the road: chill out completely, get there when you get there. This isn’t bad advice wherever you are.
 

 
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