The Twelve Drives of Christmas - 03. The Rickshaw Run.
It was spring 2007. In the previous year, we'd completed the Mongol Rally, and driven the Fiat 126 through the Arctic Winter. Time to rest on our laurels? Not at all. And predictably, the next stage of the journey to Pub2Pub began in a bar - specifically, Bar le Baccus in the French village of Milly-la-Foret. Because it was while we were sat there, sipping on demis of Pelforth, that we booked a place on the summer 2007 Rickshaw Run.
The Rickshaw Run is organised by the same folk who make the Mongol Rally happen, and so with the minimum of preparations on our part, we flew into Calcutta, where our mighty steed awaited us:
Vehicle: 2007 Bajaj Auto-Rickshaw
Cost: (new) £1200
Horsepower: Erm, eight.
Modifications: A rather jaunty paint scheme
Route: Calcutta to Manali, near the Kashmir border. Via West Bengal, Darjeeling, Nepal, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
Breakdowns: A blow out in the first ten miles, but that was pretty much it.
Ben's rating: 6.5/10. Marked down for its total lack of performance, but if you're going to cross India, then this is the only way to do it.
Our journey across the subcontinent covered 2,000 miles in two weeks, and faced a few obstacles. In Nepal, Maoist rebels were blocking roads, and we had to negotiate several burning tyre barricades, then make a dash for the border before the rebels managed to get them shut down. In the Himalaya, we teetered along on rough tracks, which were bordered by abrupt drops to the valley floor, thousands of feet below, and reached altitudes of over 4,000m above sea level. And in the cities, we battled with the crazy driving which India seems to have made one of its trademarks, while we got used to the rickshaw's place near the bottom of the automotive food chain, somewhere below the sacred cows which have right of way.
You can find out more about the rickshaw run at www.rickshawrun.com, or by ogling the pictures below: