The Rickshaw Run – Driving from Rajasthan to Gujarat

The Rickshaw Run is the craziest adventure I’ve ever attempted; the first few days of the Rickshaw Run we discovered that one of our rickshaws, Morning Glory, had a well worn engine and was going to continue giving us trouble.  She had a fuel tube and ignition cable come loose multiple times and needed a weld job in the first 2 days.  Even with the issues we were still able to cover 150 km the first day and 180 km the next.  But, if we wanted to cover the 2600km of the journey from Jaisalmer to Cochi AND take some fun detours we’d need to have a few big days of driving.

Driving Through Rajasthan

Rajasthan is one of the most popular states in India.  Visitors enjoy exploring the many forts from Jaipur, the pink city to Jodhpur the blue city and Jaisalmer, the gold city.  Don’t forget Udaipur, the city of love.  Come to explore the desert on a camel safari and stay because the food and people are simply amazing!  The April Rickshaw Run began in Jaisalmer as a testing ground for all the teams and machines.

Luckily the open highway turned out to be easier to navigate than we expected.  The further south we drove the fewer camels, goats and cows were on the road but buses and trucks still stole our lane as often as they could. The road was well paved for the first stretch of our journey.  On either side the desert seemed endless with windmills and villages scattered in the distance.  We passed a few mines and sand dunes.  One hill looked perfect for rolling down but we decided not to stop.  Surely there would be others.

A few kilometers down the road Tristan was trying to pass a car in Afternoon Delight when he spotted a truck coming straight for him.  Not wanting to play chicken he immediately drove into the sandy shoulder getting the tires stuck.  Another car saw and immediately stopped and  8 Indian men hysterically piled out of this little sedan.  They all ran up to help push and in seconds our Rickshaw was back on the road, but we didn’t drive off until they all took a selfie with us!

Our steed puttered to a halt again an hour later but luckily she just needed to be refueled.   Thankfully the rest of the drive through Rajasthan was uneventful.  We soon crossed the border into Gujarat on our way to Ahmdebad.  With any luck we’d be there in the evening and could meet up with Raj (my new friend I made on the road the day before) and his family.  He was offering us all a place to stay and surely it would be a wonderful experience to stay with an Indian family!

Driving through Gujarat

Gujarat is famous among Indians as the birthplace of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and to foreigners as a “conservative capital where booze is illegal.”  Many of the teams were able to acquire foreigner liquor permits at hotels selling alcohol and a few ran into border trouble and had bottles confiscated.  

The police checkpoint at the border was a joke.  We got stopped and expected to show all the required documents but simply had to pose for a selfie and enjoy a chai with them.  Driving along we noticed more greenery in Gujarat.  Trees and bushes were popping up as the livestock roamed a little less freely.

 

I saw a gorgeous canal that would have made a sweet photo op and slowed for a U-turn, stalling out with a loud bang and bringing on another Morning Glory morning (as we came to call it whenever she broke down).  The second we stepped out of our vehicles a dozen curious locals appeared hoping to help.  We were warned no to let the roadside locals work on the engine since they were more likely a farmer than mechanic but one of them pointed out our ignition cable was disconnected and popped it back in.  We drove off with the crowd cheering only to putter to a halt a few meters down the road.

The cable popped out again and again and our combined mechanical skills were no use.  We decided to use Afternoon Delight to tow her 5km back to Thardar where we were told a mechanic could be found.  (Towing with a rope is harder than expected and snapped early on.  If you are doing the Rickshaw Run I recommend getting a proper tow cable!)  We swapped Tristan in as the tow driver, trusting his steady hands on the throttle, retied and managed to make it back to town.

Finding a mechanic turned out to be harder than expected but after running into a half dozen shops I finally found someone who knew how to work on auto rickshaws.  He quickly discovered a busted weld and took us around the corner to his welder buddy who lived near a family of monkeys and the Thardar bazaar.  

With hand signals as our only way to communicate I thought they were telling us it would be ready by 8am the next day but after 5 minutes under the hood it was ready to roll.  I wanted to carry on and get a few more kilometers under our belt but conceded to the team vote and the 180 we had already covered.  We prepped for an early morning departure and the 6 of us squeezed into a single room at a random Thardar guesthouse.

Meeting at the rickshaws at 6am we discovered a cow (or maybe dog) found Afternoon Delight’s cushions a tasty snack.  The good news is we were able to mostly put it back together and took off southward.  We were aiming for back roads and a river.  Hopefully we’d be able to find a boat in the nearby city of Khambot and ferry the rickshaws across.

Leaving at dawn proved to be well worth it as the engines ran cooler and there was less traffic on the roads. By lunchtime we’d already covered more distance than in either of our first 2 days and we gladly pushed onward.  The highway disappeared when Joe navigated a more direct route than Google could plan.  You see Google was giving us car driving directions but our max speed was about 40km/h so slower backroads wouldn’t matter.  

We drove past farms and through tiny villages as every local gawked at us, curious and entirely clueless about the crazy adventure we were attempting.  Before long we found ourselves closing in on Khambot.  In the span of the day we’d gone from a desolate wasteland to lush rice paddies.  India’s diverse ecosystems were peaking our interest and I called for a fun photo shoot with all this green!

As we neared our destinations we had a system setup.  Refuel and fill up our 35L worth of jerrycans and assign someone to sort out accommodation.  This night Sarah found a guesthouse online but physically finding it turned into a game of hide and go seek.  We eventually found one with enough space for us and checked in but it was definitely not a 5 star resort.  I had a bucket shower reminiscent of my post Holi celebration in Mathura and we grabbed a bite to eat before an early night to bed.  Tomorrow would be yet another early start.


Where to eat in Khambot

The Little China Restaurant
(Cansari Restaurant to a local)
My team positively raved about this restaurant in the smalltown of Khambot.  If you go please comment below and tell me how it is because I opted for a light snack and early bedtime in Khambot.


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Book using my unique code MS101EXTRA for an extra 100 minutes or 1 GB of da

The next morning we left Khambot before the sun came up and were on a mission to find that boat.  Early morning rickshaw driving is quite fun as there are very few vehicles but you’ll definitely be sharing the road with livestock.  On more than one occasion we had to dodge a herd of cows while the locals stared in disbelief.

Before long the rice fields faded and we found ourselves on a dirt road riveted with massive trenches.  We thought about stopping and turning around for a split second but then a smile grew on Tristan and my faces.  He was in the lead with Afternoon Delight as I drove Morning Glory along this off road stretch.  At the first massive gulch I got a little worried the tuktuk would tip over but she held steady each and every time along this bumpy ride.    We drove slowly and honked like mad around blind corners while taking in the scenery.  A few kilometers down, the road re-appeared and I think all the passengers sighed with relief.  I probably would have too but as the driver it just made me want to find more backroads to explore in this glorified lawnmower!

Driving through village after village we eventually found the river.  The only semblance of a port was 5 flooded fishing boats and one larger one on the shore.  The big one looked like it could hold the weight of 2 rickshaws but we didn’t see anyone to even ask.  The beach was empty except for 2 priests living in a temple on the hill above us.  Just as we were about to leave a construction crew pulled in ready to build a new temple.

One of the workers walked over and asked if we wanted to cross the river.  I excitedly told him that we did but we were solely talking with hand signals.  I thought he was telling me that the owner of the big white boat was coming when he called his friend but a few minutes later another guy appeared and walked to one of the flooded fishing boats.  We would have to drive back east and find a bridge to cross with.

A little disappointed but not discouraged we got back on the backroads for another 20 or 30 km before hitting the highway again and cruising for as long as we could.  With any luck we’d be out of Gujarat by sundown and could celebrate these last few days of turmoil with a cold beer.

Want to know if we ever got that cold beer?  Well you’re just gonna have to send me a message over @LiveTravelTeach on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  Or you could always follow www.LiveTravelTeach.com by adding your email address at the top of this page.  I’m off to bed since we’re waking up bright and early again tomorrow to drive our hearts out but stay tuned for more updates!

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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded www.LiveTravelTeach.com as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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