MISSION COMPLETE: The Mumbai Xpress Has Arrived
MUMBAI – It has been a challenging two weeks for the 27 participants of the Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge. Since the beginning of August, 13 teams from 8 different countries have been travelling across India in their customized autorickshaws, stopping at various locations along the way including Bangalore, Mysore, Panaji, and Pune. Now, after nearly 2,000 kilometers of rickshaw driving, repairing, and refueling, the participants of the 2009 Mumbai Xpress have arrived at their final destination, Mumbai.
For many participants, the challenge was exactly what they expected: the unexpected. Though they were well advised of rickshaw breakdowns, monsoon rains, unreliable roads, and stubborn cows, the 13 teams of the Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge have come through with a newfound appreciation for India and for all of the elements that put the word “challenge” into the event title.
Starting in Chennai on August 1st, participants were given a “crash” course on avoiding crashing. They were taught how to drive, refuel, and repair their rickshaws. In a matter of hours, each of the participants transformed from apprehensive goras to rickshawwallahs. By the time they reached Vellore on August 2nd, each of the teams had experienced a breakdown, a petrol station refuel, the craziness of city streets, and the glorious freedom of the open road.
Perhaps the most challenging part of the route came in Mangalore. Due to the rain and road construction outside the city, Chai Rollah was the only team to arrive before the scheduled 17:30 flag down time. Still, all of the participants agree that the conditions throughout the route were favorable, especially considering the monsoon season. “We got lucky it really didn’t rain that much,” says Nicola Dunn of The Birds team.
Among the most rewarding aspects of the Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge was the firsthand view of the ‘Freedom
Through Education’ initiative of Round Table India. Along the route, participants were invited to tour schools, watch classes in session, and preview projects in the works as well as accomplished projects such as the Workshop for Handicapped Women in Vellore. Matt Bass of team Crud Bug donated several boxes of regular and colored pencils to the students of the Round Table School in Bangalore. Jocelyn Turner and Christy Denike of team Mystery Machine received a great deal of sponsorship before embarking on the Mumbai Xpress. Joe Ferlazzo of team Tuk Tuk Wallah Wallah Tuk Tuk was so inspired by the initiatives of Round Table India that he has decided to purchase his rickshaw to take back to Australia, where he will offer rides at a small fee, which will in turn be donated to Round Table India. Other teams have collected many donations as well. Throughout the event, the spirit of charity was just as prevalent as the spirit of adventure.
Each day, participants were challenged with a series of point-worthy tasks. Such tasks included a team photograph with a cow in the road, playing a game of carom with a local Indian, showcasing a dhoti or a salwar kameez, and several visits to various forts and temples along the way, including Daria Daulet Bagh and Pratapgad Fort. These tasks combined with certain scoring elements determined by event organizers, such as the most flamboyant rickshaw or the most sportsmanlike team, were worth a varied amount of points. The team with the most points at the end of the event will be considered the Mumbai Xpress Rickshaw Challenge World Champion and will receive an incredible, one-of-a-kind trophy, winners’ jackets for each of the team members, and free entry into the 2010 Caucasian Challenge, also an event organized by Chennai Event Management Services. The winner will be announced in the coming days.
As the two week adventure comes to a close, participants remember fondly their apprehensive driver training days,
asking each other what they got themselves into. Now, as Alexis Keech of team Beast Crew put it, “We are all sad about having to return back to our normal lives.” The general sentiment is the same among the teams. Says Lynda Lawrence of team Tuk Tuk Wallah Wallah Tuk Tuk, “You are never too old to let go of what you believe in and find out what’s really there… and you gotta have fun, or else it’s not worth doing. Life’s too short.”
“It’s been an amazing, insane, unbelievable adventure. You gotta see it to believe it,” says Peter Treeby of team Crud Bug.