Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The 3 M's - Mangalore, Mysore and Monsoon

During the evening Mangalore had decided to embrace the seasonal weather and let the heavy rain fall. So in true 'Little Miss Rickshaw' style we thought what better day then to dress up in our punk rocker costumes to visit a local school and 'of course' it makes the best wet weather gear...haha, Not quite! The other teams had been getting quite used to us appearing in matching T's, strange hairs styles and bizarre accessories, so they weren't too surprised to see us appear in hot pink skirts, fluro yellow fishnet stockings and pink leg warmers. However the hotel staff did find it entertaining atleast!

In a small convoy of 3 rickshaws we made our way to the local school. There we were greeted by the local teachers. They were very friendly and kindly accepted our unusual appearance. Some of the teachers were more fascinated than the kids and even asked to touch our outrageously bright coloured wigs. The school only had a handful of classes and quickly we were shown around the grounds and introduced to the children. All one hundred of them kindly stood and introduced themselves - very cute and a perfect time for them to practice their English. Thankfully it was a short stop over since today we have 250 kilometres to cover, hence the absence of the other 3 teams during the school visit.

Decked out in our punk rocker outfits we farewelled Mangalore and headed inland. Thankfully Team 5 had a GPS and with so many kilometres to cover we thought we better follow since we weren't in the mood to stop numerous times for directions and spend any longer on the roads than we needed to. With the national highway on the horizon we put the pedal to the metal and covered as much ground as we could. Before we knew it, it was time to refuel and who did we happen to bump into but Team 6! So much for that one hour head start, eh boys... well atleast they tried. After a quick exchange of friendly rickshaw banter we made our way on the road from hell... that's if you could even call it a road.

In guessing, since our odometer and speedometer hadn't been working the whole time, that the next 50 kilometres of our trip was driving along a road which looked more like a narrow stream litter with small boulders. There seemed to be more water than bitumen. For the majority of drive,  it looked like hundreds of miniature meteorites had plummeted to the ground, leaving craters varying in depths from 2cm to easily 20cm.

One memorable moment would have to have been when Pia was driving and very cautiously she drove to the side of the road to leave enough room for an incoming truck. Strangely we didn't notice the enormous pothole filled to the brim with the constant rain water. Before we knew it a tidal wave had covered the rickshaw, drenching all three of us! Unfortunately our rain protector on the right hand side had broken again, so we were braving the elements and I hadn't listened to my gut instinct and put my handy $2 poncho on. As drops of road water dripped from my mohawk wig, all we could do was have a good laugh about it, especially since I had obviously been watching the truck pass us with my mouth open, resulting in a good mouthful of nutritious road water, priceless!

With ponchos on and as dried off as possible we made our way along the rocky road which didn't resemble anything like what a national highway should. Whilst driving through one of the many small villagers I managed to drive a bit to close to a local rickshaw, or more like he couldn't drive straight! Anyhow we skidding passed him with only a few centimetres to spare... so like any good motorist we pulled onto the side of the road to check if all was okay with the vehicles and why we were at it, ask for directions and check if we were heading in the right way. However, this led to another situation of locals coming over to inspect the strange looking rickshaw... and unexpectedly copping a mouthful from the rickshaw driver I nearly hit who wanted to know if my brakes worked, haha, of course!

It wasn't until a good hour on the road from hell we heard a familiar horn toot behind us! The sight of Team 3's green rickshaw in the appear through the pelting rain was a reassuring sight indeed, it certainly meant we could rest assured we were heading in the right direction. Soaked to the bone and looking like drowned punk rockers, it was the perfect time to catch up on Team 3's morning adventures over a hot cuppa tea and freshly made chapatis.

With blood sugar levels replenished and circulation returned to frosty fingers we headed back onto the open road. It wasn't long before we encountered what would be classed as our closest near miss of the trip. As we were driving out of one of the many small villages we came across a small sedan on the side of the road which decided to not check their rear view mirrors before making a u-turn, completely oblivious to the pink rickshaw heading straight for it at 40 kms a hour. Now the logical thing to do is drive to the other side of the road to avoid the vehicle, however, of all the places a motorcyclist had parked his bike on the other side of the road, directly opposite the u-turning vehicle. And from there the road sloped into a rather deep gully... Decisions, decisions!!! Hit the car, hit the motorcycle or avoid both and end up in a ditch!?!?!?!

Unfortunately the braking system on 'Missy' wasn't as instant as you would expect in your series 5 BMW, so either one of the above three was going to happen or a miracle!! With about 10 metres before impact the driver had finally decided to look down the road and obviously stunned to see a horn tooting, mad, pink rickshaw bearing down on his precious vehicle he immediately slammed on the brakes, leaving the smallest gap in the road for us to squeeze between, narrowly missing his car and the parked motorcycle. Unconsciously all of us had been holding our breaths and as we scrapped pass 3 large sighs of relief filled the rickshaw. I didn't last more than one kilometre before I took that as my cue to get out of the drivers seat.. I don't' want to know what the outcome would have been if the blood sugar levels hadn't been topped up just 10 minutes earlier.

The further we headed inland we were greeted by less potholes and more hilly terrain, littered with coffee plantations. As we crept further upward it meant more rain and a big dip in the mercury. With all the revving uphill in low gears we managed to run out of petrol during an uphill climb. Little did we know as we refilled the tank with out emergency supply, we had broken down literally 200m from a petrol station. Reassuring indeed, since it meant no need to worry about not finding a petrol station before we ran out of fuel and again and that we had reached the town of Kushalnagar, ultimately meaning time to enjoy an easier drive on surfaced roads.

The remainder of the 80km drive went about as ordinary as you can get on Indian roads. Road kill, overloaded horse and carts, a family of 4 crammed on a motorcycle, overcrowded rickshaws and the occasional cow blocking the road. Once we arrived at the outskirts of Mysore we had caught up to Team 3 and began trailing behind them. Once we arrived in town they kindly took the lead of finding our way to the hotel. Often whilst at traffic lights (Yes, people in Mysore stop for traffic lights) we chatted with neighbouring cars and rickshaw drivers telling them what we were doing. Not quite the same experience you get at home at the traffic lights... but then again... we're never driving a rickshaw at in Australia, England or Dubai.

With nothing more than a smile and an odd coloured rickshaw the German lads managed to get a tuk tuk driver to show us the way to our hotel which left us 5 minutes shy of the flag down time, placing us in 2nd place behind the boys. To celebrate surviving 252 kilometres in a rickshaw we thought it was necessary to indulge in an array of mouthwatering Indian dishes on a roof top restaurant. This was close as we were getting to 5 star dining in India tonight.

The final coastal drive

What better than to start the morning taking a leisurely stroll along the beach. It really wouldn't be India if you didn't have to dodge the cow patties along the shoreline. As we made it back to the hotel to prepare for the drive ahead there was a strange sight. A man in a wheelchair had been wheeled into the sea by his family and at one point neglected and left to fend off the waves crashing over him. A tad concerning as it started to pour with rain, but hey.... This is India! Anything goes!

With no breakfast on the menu at the hotel we stopped off in town to collect a supply of bananas. Ruth headed out to the local fruit seller to purchase the necessary fruits and nearly got caught in a heated argument between 2 crazy coastal dogs. Thank goodness for those rabie shots eh, Ruth?!?!?

As we left Murudeshwar with a trail of bubbles for the school children we made our way to Mangalore in search of the days challenge. The most amazing moustache of India!! By now we had been in India for a fortnight and each one of us girls had a revelation. Nearly all the men of India have moustaches. It would have been a much harder challenge if we had been asked to take a photo with an Indian fella who didn't have a mo.... anyhow!! Onward bound we headed in search of the best facial hair seen since 1985!

In the morning we came across fishing farms and our mission was to find out what they were farming to earn some bonus points. Automatically we assumed fish, however, as Ruth and Pia headed down to the local huts to find out, I manned the rickshaw. In there absence 2 crazed dogs started approaching the vehicle and all I was thinking was perhaps those rabie shots weren't such a bad idea and if these dogs attack me, this red plastic poncho isn't gonna save me. Thankfully it didn't take long for the girls to gather the necessary information and hurry back up the path to save me from the wild dogs of South India. And I know you all want to know.... they farm prawns!!

In search of the  most amazing moustache, Ruth spotted a man on the otherside of the road and like any good moustache hunter would do we u-turned, drove over a pile of pot holes in pursuit of the moustache of the century. Only to be told he didn't want to be photographed!!! What!!! Well back in search we go!!

On route we stopped at Kundapura to visit the temple. There we finally saw an Elephant, unfortuantely not as free as we would like, but still looking adorable. After a quick confirmation of the temples name for challenge requirements and some decoration purchases for pimping our rickshaw later down the track we made our way further southbound.

As we stopped to refuel our trusty mode of  transport we happened to have stumbled upon moustacheville. There standing amongst the employees was the ultimate Tom Selleck moustache, Indian style. Once again we encountered a camera shy gentleman, but when we were doing an impromptu photoshoot with the younger employees, the camera shy guy got snapped in the photo, having no idea he had accidently made an appearance.... hehehehe!

The remainder of the drive was encountered by our frequent road counterparts.... 'Moooooooooooo' and 'woof, woof, woof!' Along the way we
managed to have an entertaining photoshoot with a bus wreckage! Bus vs Rickshaw! 1 to the rickshaw ;) haha!

As we arrived in Mangalore the monsoon rains started to roll in. For some reason my driving shift had come around again. (By this time of the trip we had been rotating drivers every hour.) As we drove downhill we were trailing behind a hatchback and a local bus. In typical Indian style the bus pulled out to the far right, just when the hatchback and I wanted to overtake it. This meant both of us had to slam on the brakes, more so 'Missy' as she skidded downhill and drifted to the left. Thank goodness for the barricade in the middle of the road which clipped our back right wheel and knocked us back on track. Ooooo a heart stopping moment... All of us thought it may have been game over. Bravely the girls endured my driving as we kindly had a tuk tuk driver guide us to our final destination! Phew!

All that was left to do was take our last moustache photo. Thinking outside the box Pia and I agreed to a makeover. Oh the fun you can have with an eyeliner pencil, Team 2's rickshaw and a camera.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012


No complaining today! We had, had a day of rest so we were bright eyed and ready for the adventure that was ahead of us. As usual we were off to the local petrol station to refuel. I never get tired of the employees faces when they see a pink rickshaw roll into the pump as the lads laugh and nudge eachother in the ribs. With 'Missy' refueled and Ben10 bubble machine replenished, we were off rolling through the roads of Goa showering the region with Little Miss Mania and bubbles galore.

Todays challege was to produce 5 calendar photos at different locations. Being that we were travelling through Goa we were hoping to get some gorgeous beach photos... ahhh but what were we thinking during the monsoon season. More like off-white sand and choppy seas. Anyhow, onward we continued and it was when we ran out of petrol, we thought it would be a perfect spot for a photo shoot, on the side of the road... or was that when we stopped and asked for directions for the many times already that morning.

Even though we had over 200 kilometres to cover today, the majority of the teams decided to make a short detour to a little beach town called Gokama. Perhaps this could be the spot for our prize winning photo. As we arrived in the town, it felt as though we were driving through streets we shouldn't be driving through as they became narrower and narrower. Luckily no one kicked up a fuss with a little pink rickshaw rattling down the main thoroughfare. As we arrived at the beach we were greeted by Teams 2, 4,3 and 5 along with a crowded beach filled with people and never far away a cow or 2.  After a quick inspection of the beach we all agreed it wasn't the tropical oasis look we were aiming for so instead Pia jumped into the rickshaw and posed for the photo she had been wanting to do all along. Check out Miss October in the pics below :)

After a quick detour via the shops we headed back into town to see if Gokama Beach was looking any prettier. Off we went weaving through the back streets trying not to have much social interaction with the numerous packs of dogs found in Goa. For your information, dogs of Goa are a tad crazy... maybe the area has a high number of rabie infested dogs, either way we weren't hanging around long enough to find out. 

As we made our way to Gokama Beach, it involved alot of weaving though side streets which weren't getting us any closer to our final destination. As we reached an impressive lookout point we made an excessive decision. Below we could see the beach.... which looked...ummm like a monsoonal affected beach and with some serious grey clouds rolling in. At this point we thought it may be better to take a quick photo and make our way to Murudeshwar (A tiny town not listed on our map) 'Missy' had endured some minor injuries which meant we had no rain or wind protection from the right-hand side and our side mirror on the same side was pretty dysfunctional since it mainly pointed to the ground, which isn't very helpful when your checking to see if a bus is coming up fast, ready to ram you off the road. So being as gracious as I am and always up for a laugh I agreed to what has to be our 'silliest' calender photo yet and from there we headed to our final destination: Flag down @ Murudeshwar... approx 70 kilometres away.

With just 3 hours left to get there and find this teeny tiny town it was time to see how fast our little tuk tuk could go. As we zipped along the coastal road we encountered more wild dogs and waved to many interesting characters. The closer we got to the town we kept our eyes peeled for signs to the RHS Regency Hotel. There were lots of places starting with RHS and still we don't know what it means, but unfortuantely we weren't our astute selves and managed to miss the turning off to Murudeshwar. This involved back tracking a good15 kilometres. Ruth expertly executed a smooth U-turn on the main highway and asking at least 5 people for directions to our final location and by sheer luck we took the right fork in the road which lead us down the ever familiar Indian potholed road. As the sun began to set on the horizon we managed to enter a small fishing town all hyped and ready for the evening festivities. In the distance was our hotel.... well pretty much one of the the only hotels in town, next to a huge statue of Shiva.

For the first time we were amazed to see Team 6 had managed to make it to the hotel before any other teams. With huge grins from ear to ear Ric and Keith greeted us and made it known that this was just the start of their comeback... 6 days of checking in late from running out of fuel and numerous breakdowns was a thing of the past. Hmmmm! Let's see. ;)

In all our exploring today, we had managed to forget to eat lunch. So quickly Missy was parked alongside the champs of the day, Team 6 and we headed into town to consume our fair share of Dosa Masala. Over dinner we watched the fisherman finish up work, methodically pulling in their prized assets, their fishing boats. A relaxing way to end the day.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


Day eight meant relaxing day - no need to be up early ready to rickshaw our way across the country side. After a leisurely breakfast we decided to chilax - Ruth and I headed out to the town of Panaji to go exploring while Pia headed out with the boys from Team 3 to find a beach and go exploring Old Goa. They certainly had an eventful day bringing all the locals out to the beach to admire three white bodies wading in the surf. In the meantime Ruth and I managed to head a good couple of kilometers into town along the coast. On our way back we thought walking through town would be the way to go! Hmmm, all our sense of direction was lost as we winded our way through the neighbourhood streets of Panaiji. We knew we'd taken a wrong turn when we ended outside a massive temple and all we could see in the distance was rice fields. In the end we made it back 3 hours later and with no sports equipment we had intended to buy for the boys orphanage.... Eeks!

By late afternoon the majority of the teams met in the hotel lobby to visit the boys orphanage. We all piled into luxurious air conditioned cars where we arrived 15 minutes later at our destination. Much quicker then what it would have taken in our rickshaws.

We were greeted by at least 25 happy faces playing soccer outside. As we drove in they looked at us with hesitation, but as soon as you gave them a smile and a wave they waved back with beaming smiles. Instantly, Team 6 who were dressed as Elmo and the Cookie Monster were attacked by the boys. Jumping, pulling, lifting and hugging were all part of the deal. Gradually the boys approached us and introduced themselves and shook our hands. One of the older boys stopped to talk to Pia and I. He was fascinated about what we were driving and the places we were visiting. Around our necks we were wearing our lanyards, which included our itinerary, plus name and passport photo. Unfortunately if I'd known the passport photo I'd given would be around my neck as I travelled India I would have sent them a new one. The reason why is summed up in this young boys response. 'Is that you? ... You look like a criminal.' ... as Pia and Ruth reply - 'Hahaha, we agree kid. We've been telling her the whole time!' Ahhh, priceless moments.

While we were at the orphanage the boys showed us where they lived and shared with us what they do. They even managed to sing a song, but that was quickly replaced with their awesome dance moves as a couple of the boys put on some dance tunes. It was such a great time spending the afternoon with the boys - they were so appreciative of where they lived, compared to the dangers of the streets. There was a strong sense of community and support for one another in the home. A reassuring sight indeed.

The evening was spent enjoying a team dinner compliments of the rickshaw challenge. The prospect of karaoke got everyone excited, but the dj didn't have any of the songs we requested... What! No Celine Dion, crazy!! Princely certainly let his hair down on the dance floor. Watch out,

Going to Goa

After brekkyfast we sped pass the hotel gates along the coastal road to Goa. The rain set in for awhile, but it wasn't enough to dampen our spirits as we bopped along with the music. Once again we were playing cat n mouse with team 5. In the end we relented and let them lead the way ;) It had nothing to do with us having 3 peeps in the rickshaw compared to there 2! At Rajapur we carelessly didn't trust our gut instinct and followed team 5 into the city, when we could have driven round the outskirts. This put our sense of direction off and it didn't help when a local pointed us in the opposite direction. About 10km later I saw a sign for Panvel, which was where we had been 2 days ago. So we flagged down a motorcycle to double check that we needed to u-turn. In return the young guy asked for a photo and as accommodating as we are we agreed.. if only we knew! In preparation of the photo shoot he firstly took his jacket off and fixed his hair then jumped on the drivers seat next to Ruth, a little too close for her liking. Then he asked for a photo in the backseat which was a typical request however I didn't anticipate him reaching over and cupping my chest. Immediately I pried his hands off and as in shooed him away, he then had the cheek to ask for a kiss! Excuse me!!! You may leave the rickshaw now. As he left he did at least apologies but that didn't stop him from asking Pia and Ruth for a kiss - persistent fella. Quickly Pia jumped into the drivers seat and sped off back to Rajapor. However our new little friend decided to accompany us on the 10km journey back to town and once we were back in town and heading in the correct direction to Panaji he continued to follow. At this point we ran out of petrol and excitedly Ruth and I jumped out to use the jerry can we had bought on day one. Rummaging through my bag I found my Swiss army knife and a plastic water bottle and from there I headed to the back of the rickshaw to make a funnel. At this point whilst Ruth was getting the fuel can ready and I was hacking into the plastic bottle with a knife, our new friend rides pass asking if we needed any help. The look on Ruth's face and the knife in my hand said it all.... 'No, we're fine!' Thankfully he got the hint and 20km later he returned back to town, leaving us to continue our journey to Goa.

Approximately 40km from Panaji we caught up with Team 3 who had been pulled over by the first unfriendliest police officer we'd come across. Obediently we retrieved the paperwork from the flooded glovebox and slowly peeled apart each piece of paper for the officer. After he had a close inspection we were given the thumbs up and off we went. The closer we got to town the more road kill we seemed to encounter. Stray dogs seemed to be the usual casualties, but cows and even a rat had made an appearance on the roads.

Once we arrived in Panaji we freshened up and all the teams congregated downstairs to enjoy an Indian feast at a local restaurant. Butter chicken seemed to be the favourite on the menu that night. The evening went well into the night sharing stories and trying the local liqueurs.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Mountain ranges to the coast

At the crack of dawn we made our way out from Mahabahweshar in the miserable weather. Pia was a brilliant driver getting us down the mountain with limited visibility. Definitely the more cautious driver out of the 3 of us. The upside of the monsoonal rain was the many cascading waterfalls spotted along the road, which didn't make Ruth and I feel so bad in our stylish red and yellow ponchos. Once we got to the other side of the mountain the rain began to subside which was a much welcome relief. This provided the perfect opportunity to complete out challenge of the day - photo with police officers. Along the highway the police had road checks put in place - mainly due to the recent bombings in Pune. A group of officers at a road block kindly posed in some photos for us. One gentleman even got in our rickshaw and pretended to drive it. Of course they had to have photos taken with their phones, so after a mini photo shoot we jumped back into our rickshaw and made our way Ratnagiri.

The only other eventful incident was when I drove us through a small village and in the middle of the road was a tiny puppy. I pulled along side it for the girls to see but instead in ran under the rickshaw, sheltering itself from the rainy weather. Pia was volunteered to retrieve it from the back wheel where it was huddled in a small ball. When we look back it should have been Ruth, since she is the only one vaccinated against rabie infested animals. During the drive we caught up with Team 5, Soren and Eva who had a seriously speedy rickshaw. For a while they were in our sights, but as the roads fluctuated between uphill and downhill slopes we were no match. By around 4pm we arrived at our hotel, located on a beach view cliff. After a quick snack we made our way down the path to the beach below. Unfortunately the snack didn't sit too well with my digestive system and an emergency pit stop was needed. Oh, how I love you, Delhi belly!! The beach certainly had character, red brown sand and scattered along the shore was a shoe shops worth of sandals. No need to go shopping now.

Visiting the kids!!

Today the Round Table peeps met us at the hotel to direct us to the school they sponsor. At 8:30am a convoy of unique rickshaws made their way through the morning traffic of Pune. We certainly turned heads in our bee/ladybird costumes and the hundreds of bubbles exiting our tuk tuk. About 14km later we arrived at the school, just before Pia nearly hit a cyclist in the middle of an intersection. Close call!

At the school the children were patiently waiting in the courtyard and as soon as we drove in the drummers began to beat their drums signaling the group of children to start marching. Thirteen girls, dressed in beautiful saris greeted us in the traditional way with incense and flowers. Before we knew it we were whisked into different rooms in the school. I ended up with Team 4 in a classroom of parents - dejavu! While Pia and Ruth checked out the little cuties in KG. The classrooms were so sparse compared to ours at home and packed with twice as many kids.

Downstairs they put on an assembly, where a group of the cutest 3 year olds in bare, muddy feet sang a song. Speeches were made, food was eaten and tea was drank. Then before we knew it we were back on the road making our way south to Mahabaleshwar.

As we left the school we followed Team 3 whilst behind us was Team 6. As we battled it out on the road against vans, trucks and cars we realized we were heading the wrong way on the national highway. As we merged onto the highway all of the teams were in a panic since everyone was really low on fuel and typically all the petrol stations we saw were on the otherside of the highway... The way we should be going. As we drove further in the opposite direction, team 3 headed down a muddy gravel road whilst we took the advice of a local fellow and headed further north, until we found a huge blue
building which meant turn of the highway and below there was a lake sized puddle blocking the one car wide underpass. With some momentum behind us from coming down the hill, we accelerated through the underpass hoping no major large vehicle were around the bend coming straight for us. Hooray!! All clear, which meant we were now on the right side of the highway and only about 2km away from a petrol station. As we descended down the hill on the other side of the highway we could see Team 6 parked on the side. Our attempts to inform Keith of the U turn up ahead was drowned out by the numerous vehicles passing by. In arrival at the petrol station we miraculously saw Team 3 had made it and so had half of Team 6 (Once again they were out of petrol)

With petrol tanks full Team 3 and I ventured onto the national highway, bound for Mahabaleshwar. On the road we came across Team 4 who were struggling uphill. As we overtook them we gave them an encouraging smile and wave. Just before the toll booth the boys pulled aside to have their photo taken, as we waited for them we also we included in then photo. Typically we made our way through the toll booth, hoping to take the side road since rickshaws don't have to pay, but they made us wait with the cars. Once we made it to the booth a group of lads were having a joke about how much we needed to pay, but laughingly they released the toll bar allowing team 3 ahead and signaled for me to go... But little did I know the toll bar would come down in front of me as the front window smashed the bar out of its place... Oops! I quickly braked the car as Ruth and Pia screamed behind me. Thankfully all the lads were laughing and smiling at me. As I shrugged my shoulders and gave a look of apology, they head bobbled me and directed me to keep going... No complaints from me, I was out of there!!

As we headed further south the highway began snaking its way through the mountains. The higher we climbed the cooler the weather became. Before we knew it we were surrounded by clouds and torrential rain. As waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs our little rickshaw pushed on through the steep inclines at a rapid speed of 25km per hour!

Approximately 10km from base camp Ruth didn't know her own strength as she broke the handle of our manual windscreen wiper. As we drove on, soaked to the bone, Pia kindly would stick half her body out of the rickshaw to wipe the window for Ruth. Team effort!

Once we arrived at the hotel we could barely see 2 metres in front of us due to the fog and rain. Unfortunately the hotel wasn't as 5 star as we hoped and the damp ridden bedroom would have to do! The night was spent battling it out over the ping pong table and teaching the guys and gals some new card games.