DUBAI // If you were thinking about taking a relaxing journey across India, your first choice of vehicle would probably not be a motorised rickshaw. Now consider if you had to use the same rickshaw to race 3,000km along some of the country's most precarious highways and bone-jarring backroads. Yet that is precisely what four friends from Dubai plan on doing next month.
"Everyone thinks we are completely mad," said Pippa Daniels, a PR executive, who along with Helen Ahern, a lawyer also from Britain, and two American businessmen, Jason Lewis and Jeff McMahan, have formed a team called Lucknow Be 2 Ladies that will compete in a charity event dubbed the Rickshaw Run. The four will spend two weeks starting on April 11 racing one of the 150cc three-wheeled vehicles against 63 other teams from around the world from the northeastern city of Shillong to the southwestern coastal area of Goa.
"I can tell you now, we won't be driving at night," said Ms Daniels, 27. The race, which is organised by The Adventurists, a British company and website, and is being held three times this year, costs each team £850 (Dh4,350) to enter, which covers rickshaw hire, paperwork, help and advice. The teams also have to raise £1,000 each for the event's charities: SOS Children's Village, a child welfare charity; Frank's Water Project, a clean water scheme; and Carolina for Kibera, which works in Nairobi's slums.
However the teams have to navigate their route on their own; no formal one is mapped out for them. They can expect to average nine to 10 hours on the road a day, setting off at dawn. Along the way teams can perform tasks to gain extra points that could help their final position. "If you do a human pyramid, for example, then you get extra points. There is no real sport involved though. We are not expecting to win. This is a real life experience that will really change you," said Ms Daniels.
Organisers issue a stark warning to participants on the website: "Your chance of dying can be very high, some past teams have been seriously injured. "These adventures are not a glorified holiday. They are an adventure and so by their very nature extremely risky. You really are on your own. If it all goes wrong, that's it, tough." Asked if that made her nervous, Ms Daniels laughed: "I'm absolutely terrified.
"My boyfriend did it last year and some of the stories were just terrible, like 18 trucks coming at them on the wrong side of the road and you're in this tiny rickshaw. And you're in the back of beyond. Even if you plan the route some roads will close. I'm a bit worried about getting lost because I have to get back for work." Asked why they are participating, Ms Daniels said: "To be quite honest, I haven't done anything really challenging in a long time. I wanted to do something that tested me.
"I have never been to India and I think it is quite a hard place to travel around. We are so spoilt here it's easy to think this is how life is when in reality the majority of people don't have the luxury we are used to." firstname.lastname@example.org