A Travellerspoint blog

Calicut to Mangalore, 258 km

Thursday 12th April

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Knowing we had a long journey ahead of us we thought it best to set off earlier, unfortunately this meant no breakfast as the hotel didn't start serving until 7.30am and we had ordered taxi's for 6.30am.

Bags dropped at the tour hotel, we went to see if our rickshaws were mended before started our long journey. The others seemed to be but ours still had the handle sliding off. This apparently was an easy fix, as the mechanic turn the handles and then hit extremely hard with a hammer several times! Nick had decided he would like to drive and boy did it take to it, by a few km he was weaving in and out of traffic.

Setting off early had worked the roads were clear and by 9am we had made a fair distance and stopped for food, well we stopped and raided the supplies from yesterday as we couldn't see anywhere to actually stop.

Unfortunately around 12 midday we lost Team 15, after Team 14 and 16 turned left and they went straight on. After lots of map screenshots and WhatApps messages (thank goodness for Wifi) we realized we were on different roads which luckily will meet each other. While trying to find each other Teams 14 and 16 came across a stall selling fruit and another selling 10 liter plastic cans, no more filling up lots of bottle (which did not feel safe). We purchased 3 cans and took the chance to fill these up at the first petrol station we saw. Another 30mins and we were all back together again filling up our rickshaws and enjoyed a bottle of cold water each.

It was not long before we started to all breakdown which was becoming the norm now. Team 15 was starting to lose power every time they got up to speed and Team 14 was struggling too. Pulling over we discovered Team 14's jubilee clip holding the air intake to the carburetor had become loose this easily fixed with a screw driver and Team 15 problem also seemed to be air so they cleaned out the air filter.

Back on the road and we had to stop again. Team 14's jubilee clip had now just fallen off and was fixed with a cable tie (thanks to the South African teams who pulled over and had more heavy duty cable ties then us) Team 15 was still having trouble an this time thought it could be oil so cleaned out any access oil they could and sump.

Back on the road...

... well for 20mins when Team 15 said they couldn't go any further and needed the mechanics. After a quick phone call we were in luck as they were close behind us. They gave us Team 14 a new jubilee clip and drilled a hole in the petrol cap of Team 15 which apparently made a huge difference.

Our challenge for the day was to take a picture with a holy man, man with a beard or policeman. Where we had stopped there was a policeman, but he didn't seem to happy so we took a picture with the mechanics in stead.


The rest of the journey went well and we reached the Ginger hotel at 17:45. This was the first hotel we stayed at with the rest of the teams as we had chosen to book our own hotels. This hotel was very basic, had a shower and breakfast but was no where near as nice as the ones we had stayed in. It seems that the Tour company did not put much money towards the hotels and we yet again glad we had gone with the basic package.

Ready for food we got out our trusty Lonely Plant guide book to see what place there were locally to eat and drink. We came across the Spindriff a micro brewery in a shopping mall. Located on the top floor with a small conservatory and the brewery on show, this place looked very modern and western. Unfortunately my pizza was too spicy to eat but the cocktails and beer were good and everyone else had a lovely meal.


Relaxed ready for bed we quickly nipped into a shop to buy 3 silicon funnels to help us fill up from our petrol cans (at the bargain price of 28p for all 3) and grab a rickshaw taxi back to the hotel.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 05:36 Archived in India Tagged rickshaw challenge mangalore ginger_mangalore Comments (0)

Kochi to Calicut, 182 km

Wednesday 11th April

sunny 34 °C

After a good nights sleep we woke up early for breakfast at 7am ready for our briefing at 7:45am. Unfortunately it wasn't a good start, as straight off the bat Team 16's rickshaw (Gemma and Dan) wouldn't start. Team 15 (Tim, Tom and Nicole) went ahead and got all the information while Team 14 (Nick and I) tried to help get the rickshaw started and with the help of the security guards we were back on the road.

All 3 rickshaws back together we set off at 8:30am. Coming out of Kochi was very busy and the roads didn't get any better with us having to do lots of stop, starting as we had traffic pulling out at us and a lot of buses overtaking.

After 80km and a petrol stop Nick suggested Tom took over driving our rickshaw as I was getting tied and the clutch was starting to play up again. I was having to use two hands to de-clutch and change in to first whilst having to quickly add a bit of throttle. With Tom driving Team 14's rickshaw I became navigator in Team 15's with Tim driving and Nicole on comms.

Due to road diversions the route was very slow going. We therefore decided to go through the next closed road, which was in the process of being laid (everyone else was driving down here too). As the rickshaws bombed down the uneven surface of the road with work men and trucks weaving between us they were getting worst for wear. This didn't put us off the next road closure we came across though. We just thought fuck it, we'll go through it, if the road workers let us. They were laying paving stones in lovely pattern and didn't seem concerned when Nicole and I asked if we could drive over their work. Once Nicole and I moved a barrel out of the way to let the Rickshaws through we were on our way again, along with a few bikes. Unfortunately when we reached the other end there was a pile of building material, some barrels and a concrete slab. Nicole and I jumped out and cleared the way again so the boys could take the Rickshaws through with one wheel just gliding the edge of a foot drop.

As we entered Calicut the traffic really started to build and we got caught out by a few one way streets (not that it probably mattered) so we pulled over to all look at our maps decide the best route. While Tim, Tom, Nick and I had a discussion. Gemma and Nicole were suddenly surrounded by a group of young boys wanting their picture. After prizing them away from their fans we hit the road again with a plan.


By now we were all struggling with the clutches. As the traffic starting to build and afternoon was slowing becoming evening, we were all feeling the effect of the heat and lack of food, having not eaten since breakfast. It was understandable that as we approached a horrible railway crossing, which was blocked with traffic, that Tim got cramp in his foot and had to turn off the road in pain. After a quick stop I took over for Tim (well for all of 10mins) and with Tom in the lead and Dan behind we carried on down the small extremely busy road, to another cross the railway further down.

Now here I feel I need to explain these crossings. They are not like the UK where the tarmac road continues and the train tracks are embedded in so its a smooth drive across. These crossing are literally across the tracks, sometimes they are surrounded by small pavers but most of the time it's just small rocks between the tracks meaning you get a very bumpy ride.

Turning on to the tracks we realized the reason for the hold up and traffic, there was a small hatchback stuck on the tracks with its wheels spinning and several people attempting to push it off. Tom for team 14 just went for it, crossing quickly as possible, I started to go over as fast as I could and as I passed the stuck car it span it's wheels throwing small rocks, with one hitting my arm and another hitting the side of the rickshaw missing Tim's face! We were glad to get to the other side. Team 16 however had the unfortunate luck of the clutch going in the middle of the crossing! Now there was a car and Rickshaw stuck on the tracks, our hearts were pumping. Nicole and Nick ran over to push Dan and Gemma's rickshaw off the tracks to safety before stopping to access the damage. Sadly we couldn't get Team 16 moving and Team 15 couldn't change gear so it was another call to the mechanics for help. Luckily we were only 1.7km away so a mechanic could walk to help us out.

Knowing we had a huge day the next day 258km we took the decision that Tom and I would go ahead fill our 1ltr plastic bottles (19 in total now) with petrol ready for the next day, so we could fill up and get moving as soon as possible in the morning. After filling up, Tom and I headed to the tour hotel to wait for the others.

Team 15 and 16's drive back was not fun. The mechanic drove Team 16's Rickshaw with no clutch back over the railway lines with Tim following behind not able to change gears easily or get in neutral and driving at dusk. (Well done Tim that must have been scary!)

All together again we happily left the rickshaws at the tour hotel to get fixed and got 2 Autorickshaws to our hotel. Thank goodness the Woodies Blesisure Hotel was good with a huge bed and great shower. They had a restaurant so we headed there for food to save finding some where. Fed and hydrated we went straight to bed.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 04:23 Archived in India Tagged calicut challenge richshaw woodies_blesisure_hotel Comments (0)

Alleppey to Kochi, 53 km

Tuesday 10th April

sunny 36 °C
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The night before we were told that the drive today should be much easier as it’s only 53k and once we reached to Kochi we had the rest of the day to chill out. After breakfast and dropping our bags at the Tour hotel we hit the road around 8.30am.

We agreed that due to the travel time we would use the quieter coastal road stopping off at a beach if we felt like it. The start of this road was very winding, which would be fine if it wasn’t for the large buses coming towards, at the same time you were being overtaken by a bike. Eventually though the traffic eased and the sea started to appear on our left as we drove.

It wasn’t long till we came to the beach and could have a little paddle. This beach was much nicer than the day before with less rubbish and whiter sand, which was extremely hot.


After our stop Nick decided he wanted to take over driving and drove the last 2hrs to Kochi and the tour hotel.

This time we were the first team to arrive at 1pm. Again we were in a different hotel so once we grabbed our bags, we filled all three rickshaws and drove 5 minutes around the corner to the Tea Bungalow. This hotel was a lovely Heritage building dating back to 1912 and used to be head offices for a spice company. The rooms were spacious and staff so helpful. Gemma and Dan's room had the best shower which was made to look like an out door shower with a conservatory type roof, we were all jealous.


While everyone took the chance to shower or sit by the pool, Gemma and I asked about boat tours (Gemma loves a boat). We were in luck, there was a boat tour to a local island at 4pm. The tour included a few demonstrations on old trades; fishing, sorting clams, making ropes and baskets, plus an hour trip on the river and then dinner with the sunset. This was more like it and what we thought we could do everyday (this was the first and last trip unfortunately).

As the tour wasn't until 4pm we all did our things, Gemma doing washing, Dan sleeping, Nicole chilling by the pool before all 3 went to a local spa for full body massages. (much to Nicole and Gemma's surprise it was a FULL body massage boobs and all) Tim decided he would have downtime by the pool while Tom, Nick and I went for a walk to see the small village and answer some of the challenges.

The town was tiny and very Continental with small streets full of restaurants and spice shops and a small port of fisher men, using Chinese fishing nets and fish market. Our challenge called for us to find our what the local spices were and while asking in a little spice shop we got to discover some lovely smelling spices and I picked purchased some local loose leaf tea. (strangely enough the Tetley Tea factory is in Kochi).


We even pasted a few of our fellow teams in town


At 4pm and all chilled out we were picked up from our hotel to start our tour. The drive was a good 45 mins as we were visiting one of the islands and to drive south to get a bridge which would cross over to the island. Once we arrived we were show a few of the old local trades by our tour guides.

The first was for cooking and sorting clams, the fisher men caught them in large nets, which the women cleaned and then cooked in a large pot with just sea water, these were then scooped out into a hand made basket with small holes. This basket was then shaken and the cooked clams fell from their shells leaving the cooked fish in the bowl and the shells in the basket. The speed the lady worked at was amazing.


Next on our tour was the basket weaver, using banana leafs cut in to think strips which had been left in the sun to dry, we weaved little baskets for all purposes with amazing skilled accuracy.


Last up of the trades was the rope making which was amazing, using husk of the coconut they took the this (which looked like sheep wool) and weaved it into a small thin rope. These thin ropes were then weaved into 3 to make them stronger leaving you with a very strong rope. The girls were invited to try this. My lady helped me a lot to come first. And then the boys test the strength which proofed to be extremely strong. They even let us have the rope which we are sporting lovingly below as hats. These were placed on our heads.


It was now time for our sunset boat ride which Gemma was very excited about. Sat in our wedding chairs we were taken smoothly along the backwaters and all of us instantly felt at peace.

We got to see the local children playing the water, who waved and practiced their English. All around us were Chinese fishing nets and the little shacks the fisher men used to sleep or chill between catches.

After taking lots of photos the sun finally started to set and we took lots of pics before heading back to shore for dinner.


Dinner was amazing and did not disappoint. The food was served traditionally on banana leafs with a small pile of everything; spiced pineapple, chopped tomatoes with cucumbers, a chickpea salad, vegetable curry and bread. We were then invited to eat it traditionally with our hands, after we washed them of course. Luckily for me none of it wasn't too spicy and I could get eat it all. Which I'm glad I could as it was the best food of the whole trip! When were finished eating we simple pushed our left overs to the top of the leafs ready for dessert to be served and when all done we folded the leaf ready for disposal. No washing up and the most eco-friendly way you could possible eat, thumbs up from Tim and I.


This really was a brilliant end to the day, eating great food, watching the river and having a laugh with friends.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 05:18 Archived in India Tagged kochi rickshaw tea_bungalow Comments (0)

Trivandrum to Alleppey, 150 km

Monday 9th April

33 °C
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Thiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum) is the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. It's distinguished by its British colonial architecture and many art galleries. It’s also home to Kuthira Malika (or Puthen Malika) Palace, adorned with carved horses and displaying collections related to the Travancore royal family, whose regional capital was here from the 18th–20th centuries.

At 7.30 am we headed across the road to dump our bags and get our briefing. We were told the night before that the press would be there to cover the story of 18 rickshaws teams travelling to Goa for the local TV and newspaper. It was also requested that all the teams start in fancy dress and people did not disappoint. We had 3 characters from wacky races, air hostess, an airline pilot, some pirates, three evel knievel's and a few Mr motivators.


Obviously we all dress as Robin Hood, which at the time seemed a great idea, however wearing felt tops and hats was HOT!!!!


During in the briefing we were also told that some hotels were on strike and we may struggle if we wanted to stop at any for food on the way. As we were not staying in the tour companies hotel (thank goodness as some of their hotels were dives) we thought it best to ring our hotel to check it would be open when we got there. Luckily it was, so we could hit the road with Tom driving for Team 15, followed by Gemma for Team 16 and a nervous me for Team 14.


Once we were out of the madness of the city the road wasn't too bad and we were en route to the beach for the 1st challenge. We didn't get the answer but did have a paddle and stopped for a cold drink. After an hour we thought it best to get back on the road, however Team 16's rickshaw did not want to start. As look would have it the mechanics van was in the car park, but before we could go find them a few locals jumped in the rickshaw and got it started (India people are so lovely and happy to jump in and help)


Once we were moving again we started to hit a few heavy traffic spot before coming along to an area where the road was covered by people stopping cars and bikes as they tried to drive past. It turned out there was a protest going on and we needed to navigate our way through to keep on going. As soon as we go to the middle there was a police offer and once saw westerners he just waved us through.

As the hours went by we soon realized that none of the petrol stations were open due to strike, we had no choice to keep going and hope to find one open soon. It wasn't long before we all needed to get petrol and fast. As chance would have it the Dutch and Swiss team over took us and we said that we needed some. They were lovely and pullover to help us, giving us 2 liters joking that they should charge ₹2,000 each (£20) for them. (it cost us that to fill up all 3 rickshaws with a little to spare).

Now as you may know I'm not a Facebook person but I will have to say here that it came to our rescue. Nick had messaged to see if anyone knew of a petrol station that was open as we were getting a little desperate. Princely and David saw the message and happened to be passing us so pulled over and contacted the mechanics who had some spare. They had heard that the stations would open until 6pm that evening, so a lot of teams were going to need this. we had to only wait for 30 mins for service car with petrol but it was 30+. All full and ready to go when another team pulled up in a taxi with bottles to fill as they had ran out of fuel too.

Back on the road and after an hour or so we came across an open petrol station so filled up and got 15 liters spare in 1liter bottles. We did a quick air pressure test which seemed to let air out rather than in and had to ask for help with the machine. Now ready off we went...

... well for 100 meters before I lost power and couldn't get the rickshaw moving. Team 14 had broken down. We opening up the engine to see if we could figure out the problem but nothing was obvious so it was a call from our India phones to ask for help. Luckily the service car only 10 mins away fixed and as soon as they opened it up they could tell that oil had leaked into the carburetor flooding. A quick clean out and draining of access oil we were back on the road and had paid attention in case it happen again. From this point on once we filled up we shook the rickshaws violently to make sure the oil was mixed with petrol before starting the engine.

After all the stopping and break downs we arrive at tour hotel last. Well only just as Team 17 took the opportunity to over take us as I stall on a busy bridge trying to cross a junction. This was due to the fact that the rubber handle had started to come away from the clutch meaning instead of changing gear I was moving the handle.

As I've said before we had booked our own hotels so one we got to the tour hotel we picked up out bags popped them in one rickshaw with Tom and Nicole and the rest of us walked round to our hotel just 6 mins away.

Now we were impressed with the Ramada Alleppy. A man in traditional Indian dress opened the doors for us and the manager was on hand to get us welcome drinks, with beers by the pool when we were ready. But then it was down hill from there. To get through a corridor which was being done up so there was no window and exposed to the outside so by night had filled with a LOT of bugs so we all got bitten. The rooms needed some TLC, Tom's room was on a slant and you had to go up hill to the shower which had a phone with exposed wires. All of our rooms struggled with water pressure so it was impossible to have a shower until they sorted it out (after this the fountain in the foyer hand been switched off hehe). Gemma and Dan's toilet got blocked and when it was fixed they left dirty toilet water in the bathroom. The food was ok but the service was not good with Dan having to argue with them about a Mai Tai, much to our amusement.

It was early to bed again ready for the next day.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 04:36 Archived in India Comments (0)

Training Day 2

Sunday 8th April

sunny 31 °C
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Another 9am start gave us a little lay-in and a chance to get breakfast in the hotel without rushing. However Nick didn’t feel like eating and I attempted to have a piece of toast with a boiled egg but the nerves were getting to me making me feel a little sick. Our other team mates said they didn’t feel too confident also and that we had been thrown in the deep end. I therefore decided I was definitely going to tell Princely and David when we went to the briefing.

As it turned out the briefing was very short with a small list of challenges; a question about the area, to get a ticket from the train station and to get a picture of the rickshaws outside the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. After this the day was ours to do what we wished, this was exactly what we needed to help with the lack of sleep we had.

We asked if our rickshaws had been fixed, which they hadn’t so while we waited I explained to Princely and David how I was feeling and that this truly did feel like too much of a challenge at the moment. They were great and offered personal training with a mechanic, on one of the quieter side roads. This also appealed to Gemma and Dan as they too felt like they hadn’t had enough time to get to grips with the vehicle. Tom had mastered it from the start having own a bike, but Tim felt like he could benefit from trying the smaller roads.

Therefore while the other 15 Teams went off to do the challenges and pimp their rickshaws some more, we went off with 2 mechanics (whose names I have forgotten sorry) and 3 rickshaws to do some much needed practice. The practices was great, the roads were busy but not panic busy and we had a chance to weave through traffic and get used to U-turns (which it turned out we needed to do a lot). By the end we were starting to really understand how to use these rickshaws and our confidence levels rose.

The day before had made us realize we needed to get organised; have the radio’s charged, get the WiFi codes for the rickshaws and go buy phones to put our India SIM cards in. Luckily being in India 3 phones were easy to find and with a total cost of £28 a bargain. Our problem was remembering how to use a non touch screen phone. Writing a text message took us ages and trying to send it took 3 of us to figure out.

We didn’t have to do the challenges unless we wanted to so we all headed back to our hotel to get a bit of aircon and chill out. After an hour however we decided we should hit the road again and go see the temple, to practice driving around on our own and to see a little more of the city.

The journey there was actually uneventful, we got there in one piece and didn’t get lost. We even navigated down a street full of market stalls and people walking along the centre of the road which meant beeping our horns and weaving our way through.


The challenge was to get a picture of the rickshaw, us and the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the background and Nick managed to get the perfect shot, with all our rickshaws in number order. Nick did such a good shot that the tour company wanted to use it as the cover shot on the blog. Bonus points for us Boom.


Once back we showered, chilled out, went for food, popped the radios on charge and packed ready for an early start the next day.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 13:15 Archived in India Tagged india challenge richshaw Comments (0)

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