Fund-raisers travel 3,000km across India in a tuk-tuk

The team at the finish.
The team at the finish.

They’re not fast, are prone to falling over when driven round corners, often break down and a day behind the wheel leaves you feeling rather sore. So imagine travelling thousands of kilometres across the subcontinent in one.

But that’s exactly what three hardy fund-raisers endured when they tackled The Rickshaw Run; a challenge described by organisers as ‘easily the least sensible thing to do with two weeks’.

The tuk-tuk travels through India.

The tuk-tuk travels through India.

Travelling in a light three-wheeled tuk-tuk – branded by the gang as a ‘7-horsepower glorified lawnmower – the intrepid group journeyed 3,200km across India.

In the words of team member Flight Lieutenant Dave Pierce, from RAF Boulmer, the adventure was ‘absolutely crazy’.

But thankfully, the trio lived to tell the tale! And they raised £1,746.46 for the Great North Air Ambulance Service in the process – which is one of RAF Boulmer’s nominated charities this year.

Not for the faint-hearted, The Rickshaw Run first started in 2006 and is held a number of times each year.

Flt Lt Pierce was joined by schoolfriends Peter Hutchins and Tony Randles for the challenge, which started in Jaisalmer, North India, and ended in Cochin, South India.

Along the way, they travelled at 40km an hour, driving around 10 hours per day.

It was certainly a memorable journey for the team.

Flt Lt Pierce, an aerospace battle manager and father-of-one, said: “We’re all in our early 30s and maybe going through an early mid-life crisis, but we got an itch to do something a bit different and decided to take on this challenge.

“It was absolutely crazy, but the most fantastic experience. India was a friendly country.”

An adventure of a lifetime, the trip left the team with some incredible memories.

Flt Lt Pierce said: “It was an amazing experience. Two events stick out in my mind.

“The first was on the second day, when we were stopped at the side of a dust road in Rajasthan letting the engine cool down as it was about 40°c!

“We’d bought some water from a small road-side shack and a woman in colourful traditional dress invited us for tea in her village.

“After about a 1.5km walk, we were welcomed into the centre of a small, traditional village to meet everyone while we were hosted in the communal village meeting room with traditional Chai tea and shown the village’s craft of producing ornate gold necklaces for Hindu wedding ceremonies.

“We also got to meet all of the kids from the village and they loved me showing them pictures of my daughter.

“It was a special moment and we spent about an hour with them exchanging different stories about our two cultures before they waved us off to continue our journey.

“The second was during a breakdown when we had a puncture and went to put the spare wheel on, only to find that was also flat as the repair job done the previous day hadn’t worked.

“Stranded, we waited an hour before our salvation came in the form of Indian hospitality at its best when a local man on a Royal Enfield motorbike (Indian version of the Harley Davidson) arrived and saw that we were in a spot of bother.

“After a greeting and finding out what on earth three western guys were doing in a broken rickshaw at the side of the road, he told me to hop on the back of his bike with the spare wheel. He sped me down the road to the local town to get the tyre fixed before taking me back again, wishing us a happy journey and riding off into the sunset like a hero!”

A rickshaw is a common form of transport in many countries around the world, especially those with tropical or subtropical climates.

The most common type is characterised by a sheet-metal body or open frame resting on three wheels, a canvas roof with drop-down side curtains, a small cabin at the front for the driver with handlebar controls, and a cargo, passenger, or dual purpose space at the rear.

The team’s tuk-tuk certainly attracted attention. Flt Lt Pierce said: “We had to send the paint design for our tuk-tuk in advance and then local Indian artists interpreted it and painted it on the vehicle before we arrived.

“Once there, we had two days to get to grips with driving it and also to ‘pimp’ it out.

“We replaced the seat covers with a snazzy new covering made by a local craftsman and applied all manner of decorations to make it look good for the opening day.

“Everywhere we went people would stop us just to say hello, get a selfie with us and ask about our journey, what we were doing and wish us well.”

Flt Lt Pierce was delighted to support the air ambulance.

He said: “I have nothing but praise and admiration for those who work for the Great North Air Ambulance Service and I know how crucial it is.

“In my spare time I have been a First Responder at RAF Boulmer so I’ve seen first-hand how important it is getting their expertise to people that need it quickly.”

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