Dubai residents embark on 5,000 km charity rickshaw ride across India

Dubai residents Conrad and Philip Theron will be taking on the grueling two-week Rickshaw Run in India, covering 5000kms on bumpy roads in a three-wheeler to raise money for the charity War Child in August.
Philip Theron, left, and Conrad Theron will embark on the rickshaw challenge with their friend Kevin Conabree in India. Sarah Dea / The National
Philip Theron, left, and Conrad Theron will embark on the rickshaw challenge with their friend Kevin Conabree in India. Sarah Dea / The National

For their first trip to India, Dubai residents Conrad and Philip Theron invested in a comprehensive map of the country and guide books to carefully plan their trip.

Then they were told that all of that meticulous advance work for their estimated 5,000-kilometre adventure in a motorised rickshaw across India – to raise money for the UK charity War Child – was futile.

Armed with video gear, a backpack filled with clothes, a medical kit, an eclectic music playlist, UAE flags and flashy lights for their three-wheeler, the South African brothers and their friend, Kevin Conabree from Canada, will leave behind their privileged lifestyle in the Emirates for two weeks to travel bumpy roads during the Rickshaw Run in India next month.

In the annual event organised by travel company Adventurists, teams take on the challenge of a pan-India trip in little more than a tuk-tuk, completing a journey of at least 3,500km with no set route.

The Dubai team is backed by the Tom & Serg Cafe in Dubai, which contributed to the cost of the trip and funds for the charity. The team, called the Tom, Serg & The 22gs, will chronicle their trip on the cafe’s social-media sites, with status updates and video messages.” Traditionally, people think raising funds for charity is quite a serious thing,” says Conrad, who works as a copywriter in Dubai. “We want to change that mindset, that charity is boring. Also, a lot of people are put off because they don’t know where the money goes. So we want to prove that you are able to do something good and get something out of it at the same time. Have fun with it.”

The team chose to raise money for War Child, which rehabilitates and provides support to children in war zones around the world.

“With all the issues happening on our doorstep in the Middle East, this is a charity that hits home,” says Conrad. “During our research, we found that there are a shocking six million refugees around the world and half of them are children. That pushed us to support this charity.”

The team has launched a JustGiving donations page to raise Dh30,000 for the charity. The three-man team paid Dh1,500 to register for the event, which provides them with a worn-out rickshaw that ups the challenge.

“The rickshaw is famed for being unreliable,” says Conrad. “We’ll be given a rickshaw that has been used a few times, with some things missing or not working to make it interesting for the participants. We’ve never driven one of these things before but have sat in one back in South Africa.”

They have been told to prepare for the worst.

“We’ve heard from former participants that planning this trip is useless,” says Conrad. “The only thing we can do is choose a direction. It’s impossible to plan a route because the rickshaw might break down or something could happen along the way.”

Philip says they will fly into Delhi, then head to Shillong to begin their intrepid journey. “We are trying to keep up to date with the weather and it will be the monsoon season, which isn’t ideal for the race,” says Philip, who works in logistics.

“We’ve been advised against going to the south and are toying with the idea of going north to Jaisalmer, Jaipur, that sort of way. We’ll see – it all depends on the day.”

“We’ve estimated our trip will be about 5,000km because we will be avoiding highways,” adds Conrad.

Armed with the knowledge that the location might make things difficult every step of the way, they have made provisions for entertainment to get through tough times.

“The first two to three days will go in pimping our ride with cool lighting and seats and putting in a music system,” says Conrad. “We are even taking a few UAE flags to decorate our rickshaw.

“It’s not a big space, so we won’t be carrying too much except the essentials and tents. The bulk is video equipment to keep our followers updated. Philip will have to leave his hairdryer home,” Conrad adds with a laugh. They have also decided on how to share the responsibilities.

“We all will be driving and when one gets tired we’ll swap,” says Conrad. “Again, we have to make sure Philip doesn’t play classical music or else we all will fall asleep.”

The team members say they hope the adventure will prove to be a learning experience that motivates their followers to support a good cause.

“The trip is about finding ourselves and interacting with the locals,” says Conrad. “But at the same time, it is about informing people here about our experience, letting them live vicariously through our travels and get them thinking about supporting the charity.”

* To support Tom, Serg & The 22gs, visit Follow their journey on the Tom & Serg Facebook page

Published: July 26, 2015 04:00 AM


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