There is a one hundred kilometre stretch of (almost) road between Hassan and Mangalore referred to locally as “the road of death”. When a road in India gets a label like that, you take notice. Due to flooding and appalling road conditions we were only averaging around twenty kilometres an hour. This was probably a blessing because had the roads been dry we’d have taken to all out racing and this was not the place to do it.
In a ten kilometre stretch we saw four lorries upside down in the flooded ravines, a sheer drop off the side of the road. With over-taking on blind corners being the norm for these drivers it’s simply a question of when your luck runs out. We actually found one driver still inside the cab and mercifully unscathed. He refused to leave the cab however, instead staying to protect what little of his cargo hadn’t been washed away.
A few miles further on a sheepish looking bus driver loitered next to his vehicle which was balanced precariously over the edge of a bridge. This didn’t seem to unduly worry the passengers however who were still on board gazing glumly back at us. This was a stretch of road which also took a heavy toll on the rickshaws. Suspension breakages, windscreens shattering, and endless problems with the engines cutting out in mud filled ditches.
This also happened to be the moment Jim and Oz smashed their gearbox in.
There’s a peculiar phenomenon in India that whenever you stay in the same spot for more than five minutes, however remote you think you may be, people just start appearing from absolutely anywhere. Why would anyone be half way up a mountain seemingly hiding in a bush, just in case we turned up?
No sooner were we surveying the damage and giving each other the “what are we supposed to do now?” looks, than several locals had teleported themselves straight to the scene. Then a pick-up pulled up and it became a case of a crowd pulling in a crowd.
We made some hand gestures to explain our predicament. Someone picked up a plank of wood. Just as we thought something had got lost in translation, someone else rolled the rickshaw on to its side and the afforementioned plank of wood became a makeshift jack.
A middle aged man in flip flops dived straight under the vehicle and immediately set to work. Within thirty minutes we were ready to roll and all for the grand sum of five rupees, which was only incurred because that’s what Mr flip flop used to plug the whole in the sump, along with some strange gunky paste. From here on in we were quite literally, “on the money”.
Afterwards Mr flip flop, the plank holder and the assorted helpers all resolutely refused to take any payment for the work, but instead settled for a group picture as if they’d just landed a prize winning tiger shark. With a wave and a cheer off we all splashed. Neither of us held out much hope the repair would last since within a matter of yards the rickshaw was lurching violently again from side to side as it jarred from one pothole to another. And we still had sixty kilometres to go to the rest stop.