a pimped up rickshaw

Adventure Travel: The Rickshaw Run

Long hearalded as the land of adventure travel, there’s a new and thrilling way to experience India. Get ready for the Rickshaw Run!

The land of Bollywood and spirituality is a huge draw for those looking for adventure travel. But the country’s size and diversity are also its downfall for those who only have two weeks off work, but want some thrilling Indian adventure travel. The Adventurists believe they have the answer…the Rickshaw Run.

Travelling the length of India in typical tuk-tuks or rickshaws, the Rickshaw Run covers nearly 3000km of India’s west coast, with the start line in Cochin and finish in Jaisalmer in January (the April run goes the other way). Entrants are simply given the start and finish and the rest is down to you…

Experience the real India

There are only two obligatory rules: ‘get off the tourist trail’ and ‘experience the real India’. It is hard for participants not to oblige, given driving in rickshaws means sticking to major roads isn’t advisable and breakdowns in random places way off the beaten track are inevitable.

Using rickshaws for the Run isn’t just because they’re fun to drive, although that definitely helps. Travelling such massive distances in a car or on a bus often means the world would passes by in a blur, but do it in a rickshaw and you find yourself immersed in a different world. The traditional vehicles are remarkably well received by the locals and the lack of windows mean you are properly absorbed in every situation you encounter, whether you like it or not. 

Photo by Akshay Nanavati on Unsplash

Do it your way!

The Rickshaw run kicks off with a party at the start and another at the end, but apart from that, you and your team are on your own, which is all part of The Adventurists ethos…

”planning your own route gives you the freedom to go at your own pace and take in the sites that interest you. Want to look for tigers, rhinos and elephants in the nature reserves? Go for it. Want to check out hilltop temples and hidden yoga retreats? Why not? Prefer to do a local homestay and cook with a local family? Good call. The rickshaw is the perfect tool to take you to your definition of adventure.”

There are some pointers and advice given before you set off, to ensure you at least know how to use a rickshaw and do some basic mechanics.

“The first two days of the Run are spent test driving; this enables you to learn to drive the vehicle in the relative safety of the test-driving arena. By the end you will be able to start, turn and stop your rickshaw with relative ease; the more proficient amongst you will even be able to change from one gear to another smoothly and without stalling, almost every time. We also give mechanical demonstrations of what the most likely things are to go wrong and how best to right those wrongs. Once you’ve got the hang of your trusty ride – or decided you will leave all the driving to your team-mate, you can also finish customisation of your vehicle by adding things you really need like sparkly hubcaps”

Adding extra colour to the Run is the fact that all of the 85 rickshaws, which carry up to three people, are ‘pimped up’; with teams given the opportunity to create their own designs back home, before local artists in India bring the rickshaws to life with said designs.

Stories to impress

The stories that come back from the Runs are even more colourful, with tales of glorious sunsets over the Ganges, enjoying traditional festivals and spending lazy afternoons teaching local children to play golf, mixed in with more unusual tales of racing around go-cart tracks, over sexed cows and the gentleman bonding with locals over moustaches.

The feel-good factor is boosted further by the fact participating teams have raised over £2,500,000 for charity since the Rickshaw Run’s launch in 2006; truly topping off what, for many, is the adventure of a lifetime.

How much is the rickshaw run and where do I sign up?

The Rickshaw Run has three planned editions in 2020, one in January, one in April and another in August. For more details visit https://www.theadventurists.com/adventures/rickshaw-run/ , where you can also find out about Rickshaw Runs in the Himalayas and Sri Lanka.

It’s an affordable escape too, with a entry for a team of three just £1995 in 2019/2020. This includes:

  • Your own fully customised rickshaw
  • Permits and paperwork for driving the rickshaw
  • Test driving and basic training, as well as the launch party and finish party
  • Essentials including a jerry can and a few spare parts plus the tools to change them
  • 2 weeks of some of the most terrifying adventure travel possible in a rickshaw

It doesn’t include flights, Indian visas (which you’ll need) or accommodation though…

Looking for more adventure travel inspiration? Check out our review of the best adventure tours for busy travellers

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