Name: Monsoon Madness
Destination: Mumbai, India
Distance: 2,180 kms (1,360 miles)
Vehicle: Auto rickshaw 125cc
It’ll be like last time. Only wetter
Walkie-talkies – brilliant when on
Goes by the name of Death
Stick a finger in it
The Highway Code is AWOL
So diesel is the green one
Drinking whisky driving risky
Safety on road is safe tea at home
Midway in to the trip and certain patterns were beginning to emerge. First the daily drenching from the monsoon rains. By now we were heading up the West coast into Goa and the rain was relentless. Oz and Jim’s smugness at having one of the few rickshaws fitted with an electric windscreen wiper soon faded when it lost the will to live and decided to flop upside down and polish the headlight for the remainder of the trip.
Then there was the filling station rigmarole. At the fuel stops it seemed at least four attendants were required to perform a fill up. One to pour the fuel in, one to measure out the oil, one to count out the money, and one to watch what the other three were doing. Just one fill up could take half an hour.
On one occasion Oz and Jim decided to take matters in to their own hands and promptly filled their own tank. The attendant stood quietly and respectfully until they had completely filled the tank and then informed them that they’d just put diesel in. Since when has the green pump been diesel?! It took half an hour to drain seven litres of diesel from the tank and another half an hour to get the attendant to fill up again. Oh how we laughed.
A bad omen
At any point in the average day a familiar sight was coming across fellow teams parked up at the side of the road with all manner of mechanical problems. From punctures, to exhaust failures or snapped cables. And then there was Team Smokey and the Pandit. Better known as Team Catastrophe. Not content with the proud accolade of first crashers they then took things up a notch by colliding head first with a motorcycle.
The outcome was fatal. For the rickshaw. Thankfully the motorcyclist just slowed down through friction as he made his way thrugh the front of the rickshaw. He finally came to a rest when the front wheel of the motorbike came in to contact with the back seat of the rickshaw. The rider suffered a few cuts and bruises. The motorcycle a snapped wing mirror. The rickshaw was now only driveable Fred Flintstone style.
Of more concern to the motorcyclist was the fact that he was on his way to his own engagement party. He settled for 1,000 rupees and made a rapid exit. Unfortunately for him, by Hindu tradition, the crash was a rather bad omen for his pending marriage. Team Catastrophe enjoyed another day in the press car.
Drinking whisky driving risky
Goa as you no doubt know, is a favoured hang out for dreadlocked die-hard hippies who say “cosmic” far too much. It is also a great place for spotting comedy road signs. “Control your nervy on the curvy” and “This is a Highway Not a Dieway” were just some of the gems. How much more fun driving would be back home if we followed their lead.
Menus also had some interesting translations. We never did sample the “Lamb Hot Pout” or “Banana Filters”, instead tucking in to freshly caught Red Snapper. With a cold Kingfisher watching sunset on the Arabian sea, life was good.
We spent the next few days driving up the coast and thankfully the rains abated for a time. Time was spent on the beach playing cricket with the locals and nights were spent in beach-front shacks drinking what the locals had made.
Fish eyes and fag butts
During one night in Panjim, the local crazy juice led to a night of one-upmanship. Feni, a Goan brew made from coconut sap was doing the rounds and things gradually escalated. First it was two shots of Feni, then “Fish eye Feni” leading on to “Fag butt Feni”. This of course led to the inevitable pool party, which someone always ruins by blowing chunks in the shallow end. Not helped that on this occasion it was littered with fish eyes and fag butts.
The next morning was a slow process of sobering up. At least it allowed our aching bodies time to recover. Then we were back on the road again. This time heading north along the coast to our final destination, Mumbai.
Mumbai is India in microcosm. Ancient yet modern. Fabulously wealthy yet achingly poor.
Surprisingly, this was the only place on the whole trip where we experienced any form of begging. Even then it wasn’t threatening, although it was persistent.
A pair of genuine fake Ray-Bans was knocked down from 280 Rupees to 70 Rupees in the space of ten minutes. This is about how long the sunglasses lasted until a lens fell out. We arrived at the finish line complete with a Police escort and a melee of press photographers and TV crews on our heels.
It really was that bonkers
After plenty of self congratulation we had a long overdue shower in the hotel, got changed and headed out to the closing party. Needless to say the conversations were littered with tales of wheels falling off, engines blowing up and assorted near death experiences. The thing was none of it needed to be exaggerated. It really was that bonkers.
The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Team Pink Panic (Trifle’s very own Jenny and Gabi). They managed to trump Team Catastrophe in the crashing stakes. Three days earlier their rickshaw overshot a corner on a mountain road. It came to rest hanging upside down in some vegetation high above a ravine. After crawling free, Jenny promptly dusted herself down. It looked like a miraculous escape until Jenny noticed the exposed bones of her left foot. As the rickshaw overturned her foot was trapped between the rickshaw and the road.
A few hours of surgery and one skin graft later and she’d made it back to Mumbai in a wheelchair. Battered, bandaged, but ready to do it all over again. Now we just need to wait for another email…