Contributions to this post are also made by Jon-Paul Pritchard, Head of Executive Staffing in the Asia Pacific Japan and China (APJC) region.
This week, I and my Cisco colleague Jon-Paul Pritchard will be driving a TUK TUK – which is a small three-wheeled rickshaw-type buggy/taxi – with only 7 horsepower (equivalent to an average lawnmower) 3000km across India. We are on our own, with no support crew. We have only our wits to get us through (oh dear!)
We will be navigating through treacherous roads and vast uninhabited mountain ranges and countryside. The journey takes about 2-weeks (thank you to Cisco for the 5 days off to give back that we will each be using), however we will keep you updated as we go with emailed updates to this blog post. (Editor’s note: Check back each day!)
Why are we doing this? Well, one, it’s fun. And two, to raise money for some charities.
You see, last year one of my team Leaders sadly lost her husband to cancer. The charity she and her family supported was Doctors without Borders, or internationally known as Medecins Sans Frontieres. This organization does incredible work in providing urgently needed medical treatment to the those that need it most. Even the smallest donations will save the lives of adults, children & babies, as the most basic infections and illnesses in the developed world can be fatal to the world’s under-developed populations.
We hope you enjoy (and are entertained by) our adventures and updates from our race across India.
Update from the road, sent in on April 7, 2017. A recap of the first few days.
This is us (Kevin and JP) getting ready to start our tuk tuk adventure!
We arrived in Jaisalmer, a truly beautiful place. On a arrival at we met another “tuking” team in the baggage areaand we shared our taxi with them. Our first 5 hours seemed crazy, dodging cows blocking the road and dealing with the unpredictable traffic. After watching a sunset, we headed off to to find our Tuk-Tuk and become acquainted.
We spent the next morning learning how to maintain, fix, and fuel the thing before getting our hands on the keys and heading out on the dusty test track for some maneuvers. Deciding that the cushions weren’t quite cushiony enough we upgraded to a luscious fabric number that wouldn’t look out of place in the 1970’s; a few more stickers and some new handlebar grips and it looks a million bucks! We were assisted in our endeavors by a friendly Tuk Tuk driver and his mate who between them seemed to know everyone and was able to get us anything. He also helped us get costumes for the “commencement of the race” Adventurist party.
When we checked out our house to head off on our adventures, I left our hosts/owners with a couple of Liverpool signs for their reception but the owner was obsessed about me giving him one of my Cisco t shirts. These were designed for us and are the best in this kind of heat, and I couldn’t part with it, but he settled for a hoodie. Maybe I’ll send him one when we get back.
The parade ground at the palace where the race would start was rocking and everyone keen to get on their way, drums banging, honking and generally a carnival atmosphere. We rocked up and shot off, going the wrong way! What we hadn’t planned for day 1 was our way out of the city.
We corrected our path and we were on our way towards Barmar. We drove the tuk tuk for the next several hours in the baking hot sun through nothing but desert with the occasional town, this was defiantly the most remote part of our journey it would seem.
On day two of driving we were a little more ambitious than day 1 as we knew we needed to be within spitting distance of Surat to give us hope of getting to Mumbai for our fourth leg. Along the way we passed deserts and trees, then more deserts and trees, than some more deserts and a few more trees (you get the picture) 350km of not much to see except sand and trees.
The further south we got the more life appeared and by the time we had blasted through Palanpur there were farms and farmland springing up left and right. Our diversity count grew as we saw camels and monkeys to add to the ever present cows and goats.
The little girl (our tuk tuk) is holding up well despite some random gear changing and a temperamental clutch. Seems second gear is a lottery while neutral is a mystery! Talking of the little girl we were thinking that she hasn’t been named yet so we wanted to see what you thought we can call her? Leave suggestions in the comments below!
We also ended up driving in to a wall in the tuk tuk to avoid hitting a cow. Which if killed carries life imprisonment in Gujarat (I’m not kidding.) Not to mention that we were lucky we also didn’t hit the eight-foot tall giant stag that hurtled in front of us followed by the giant dogs that were chasing it.
We may have finally figured out the order of things on Indian roads: cows, buses, trucks, cars, motorbikes, goats, rickshaws (tuk’s), people and trucks going the wrong way. We also almost rolled our sweet baby tuk tuk… who knew joining a freeway, at speed, down a loose / fine sand dune was going to cause an issue with the steering ?!?!
For a while, we caught up and convoyed with the “Everything is Possible” after a hard trek over a mountain range, great They are a couple of guys from LA that work in the film industry and good lads too.
We are turning in to the final half of the trip now. Our tuk is doing amazing and is holding together so well compared to others.
Don’t forget to leave comments with tuk tuk names below! More updates soon!
Lots of love.
JP n Kev
Update after the trip, sent in on April 26, 2017.
Perhaps we spoke too soon about our girl, as heading through the mountain range took its toll. It was obvious she wasn’t right, down on power and struggling on the hills. We decided on a quick pit stop at a mechanic to give her the once over, and two hours later she had a new piston, new gear plates, new clutch cable and some running repairs on the exhaust. This work kept us sweet for around 150km before the bolt holding on the exhaust sheared off and she started sounding like a Formula One motor car. We limped along through the mountain passes scaring wildlife and deafening the locals.
We headed in to Goa, which has the most incredible drive views coming in from the North and we probably got to see sights your average Goa tourist would never get to see, which included three encounters with the police, they seem really professional in Goa and check all our documents. Everything’s in order, thank goodness.
We made a decision to take off from driving. The tuk was sounding terrible and we needed a rest. We’re not trying to actually win this race (not even sure if you ca !) but we wanted to get the hard yards done (mountains and deserts.) We needed a place to stay, and our only requirement at this point was that we wanted a pool. JP found a nice Hilton in Baja beach and we knew the guys from LA and Oz were heading to that area so we landed on that. As we both have Hilton accounts it made sense to book individually through our Apps. JP booked his, a little pricey but it looks nice so sod it.. next up I go to book, 3x the price … what ?!?! Seemingly JP had booked the last standard room and the only other room available was the best suite in the hotel! We couldn’t cancel JP’s room, so I got a night of luxury.
A party was planned in Goa for all the teams, and we arrived earlier than most with a few other teams, so we got a few days of R&R. The tuk needed it, too.
We then set off 70km down the coast to our next stop in the beautiful Palolem beach area. More police, more document checking. We get the opinion that there might be special incentives for finding someone without the right paperwork.
We were at this point looking at 170-200km days to make our target of Kochi by the night of April 13th. It seemed like a good idea to put a big dent in the distance left and set a target for Udupi which was about 250kms away in the next state after Goa which is Karnataka. Our only other experience of Karnataka is from visits to Cisco Bangalore so our viewpoint was a little distorted and expecting hustle and bustle of the major city. What we actually got on the coast road though was some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen, swapping jungle for beautiful bays and beaches. Although a long day it was a very enjoyable ride. And our tuk tuk is holding up nicely, no signs of fatigue.
Speaking of signs, we found a few on the road that we found quite funny. Wouldn’t you agree?
By now we were looking forward to the final few legs into the finish line, excited for a lay in, and ecstatic to know we will have made it!!
As we woke on the final morning of our adventure the sun was rising over the Arabian sea and we had around 40km to go to the finish line. We stayed the night in a beautiful beach-side villa with sea access and some of the nicest fresh seafood we had seen through the journey, although mixed with authentic Kerala heat it was a little spicy for some! As we drove out from the compound we were still sporting the hammer and sickle flag that we had purloined from a lamp-post on the way through a village, it is fair to say we weren’t entirely sure what it meant but we got some very welcoming cheers and claps from passers by. Only once we got to the finish did we learn more about the ruling political party and some of their less orthodox methods; still it all adds to the legend that was our rickshaw run.
They say the most likely time you will be involved in an accident is within 10km of your house, in our case it was within 10km of the finishing line. We took a typically risky overtaking maneuver and nearly ended up as the meat in a bus/car sandwich. The final day also included a brief ferry journey from the island of Vypin to Fort Kochi, and as we arrived at the ferry terminal it was clear we would be in for a bit of a wait as a throng of moped drivers and passengers swarmed the quayside waiting for the next boat to dock. As it happens we waited only an hour and decided that we would head to the finish line and see if there was anyone already there, if not we would stop and get some photos.
Driving into the parade ground it was all relatively quiet and there were a few shocked faces, it was 12pm on the 13th April and no other teams were even close to the finish line, surprisingly and totally by accident we had finished first!!
We had the best of plans to summarize our journey into a brilliantly written, Pulitzer-worthy last paragraph, but alas, we’ve given up on blogging for a bit. Suffice it to say, we had a great time, raised money for a great charity, used our Cisco paid time to volunteer and grew closer along the way. PS: We never were able to stop calling the tuk tuk “our girl” – so that’s her name!
JP n Kev
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