Flair takes on The 2019 Rickshaw Challenge
1000 kilometres, 2 less-than reliable rickshaws, and 1 great cause.
On April 6th four of our colleagues from Flair HQ began a 1000km journey up the coastline of Southern India all to raise money for MacMillan Cancer Support, but this wasn’t just any journey… Neel, Ram, Dinesh and Shekhar had a week to get from Trivandrum to Panaji Goa on just a three-wheeled rickshaw. The four competitive colleagues split into two teams, Dinesh and Shekhar became Flair Force One and Neel and Ram became The Fast and Flairious. The rickshaws had been decorated and they were ready to go, with only one slight hitch – how do you drive a rickshaw?
Day 1 – Training Day
With no previous rickshaw experience the two teams spent their first day getting to know their opponents and getting to grips with their new mode of transport – some found it easier than others. Neel and Ram quickly became comfortable with the controls and opted for speed over safety, doing doughnuts and speedily overtaking Dinesh and Shekhar, who were a bit more nervous with their rickshaw which wasn’t in the best condition! After all this racing it was time to fuel up. Rickshaws run off a combination of petrol and oil, a combination that their drivers have to mix themselves, so it was time for the team to get their hands dirty. After filling up a litre bottle of petrol the teams had to mix it with a sachet of oil by shaking the bottle, which on their first time the teams did carefully and with expert precision – later in the week with time ticking against them this precision became a thing of the past and Neel and Ram opted to mix the oil and petrol combination by shaking their whole tuk-tuk instead, a technique that Flair Force One chose not to adopt! Their Rickshaw Challenge opponents included a 50th birthday party, a stag party, another charitable team raising money for dementia charities and some doing it just for fun.
Day 2 – Training Day
Today was the day that they’d be let loose on the roads of Trivandrum for the first time and they already had two challenges to undertake, the first was to visit a temple and the second was to make it to a local mall for a rickshaw photoshoot. Remembering the advice that the organisers had given them the day before; “in England you drive on the left-hand-side of the road, here you drive in the spaces that are left on the road” the teams were let loose on the roads of India.
Although they began tentatively Neel and Ram were soon on their way, racing through the hectic streets, until they arrived at the temple, behind two of their competitors. While their opponents looked around the temple the Fast and Flairious team decided to get up to some mischief, moving their rival’s lightweight rickshaws, and then making a quick getaway to the mall. Dinesh and Shekhar took a bit more time at the temple, soaking in the local culture, Shekhar went back later in the day for a traditional ritual. After the Rickshaw photoshoot the teams had some time to kill so they headed off to a local beach to practice their driving and to grab some lunch, but they weren’t the only ones feeling a bit peckish. While they were busy enjoying lunch on the beach two ladies decided to seek shelter from the sun in the Fast and Flairious rickshaw and enjoy their pre-packed picnic!
Day 3 – To Alleppey
This was what everyone had been waiting for, after days of practice the four eager challengers were ready to officially begin their Rickshaw adventure and travel to their first stop: Alleppey. At 190km this was one of the longest legs of the journey, and the Fast and Flairious and Flair Force One were about to be thrown in the deep end. The challenges had been set, find a holy cow and make some traditional tea. The rickshaws were fuelled up and it was time to get going. The day started well, Neel and Ram got off to a head start which gave them an advantage when it came to completing the first tea-making challenge, apparently Neel is the person to go to if you want a good cuppa! After this they stumbled on a group of local children who showed them their dance moves and loved getting a ride in the brightly coloured rickshaw. With their lead in the race still firm the Fast and Flairious team stopped for lunch on a helipad, but they couldn’t mange to hitch a lift to the finish line! It wasn’t long before they were back on the road racing to Alleppey when they felt something wrong with the Rickshaw, panicking that they were stranded it took them a while to realise the simple issue that brought them to a halt: they were out of fuel. The day of activities had caught up with them but luckily they had taken the advice of the rickshaw challenge instructors and had spare bottles handy to get them to the nearest petrol station. Dinesh and Shekhar took their first road day a bit more steadily, taking in all the sights on route to their destination, in hindsight they should have got a move on as they were one of the last teams to arrive at the hotel in the evening.
Day 4 – To Kochi
The journey to Kochi was the smallest leg of the journey so it afforded the teams the opportunity to explore Alleppey for a little longer. In the morning they went on a boat trip where the teams tried their hand at some traditional fishing (it’s safe to say that they’ll all be sticking to their day jobs).
When the Fast and Flairious began the 70km journey to Kochi they were stopped by local children and passersby who were fans of the bold design however not everyone took delight in the bright Falmouth-inspired pattern… While on the roads the team were handing out pencil cases to local children by the road, however with elections close and police becoming stricter it wasn’t long before Neel and Ram were pulled over and searched for illegal substances, after they were finished and had reassured the officers that they were taking part in a charity race the Fast and Flairious team were finally free to go and complete their journey.
The Fast and Flairious team weren’t the only ones getting into trouble on their journey. Dinesh and Shekhar faced a near miss with a bus speeding along the narrow roads in the opposite direction, luckily they escaped only slightly more wary of the narrow roads ahead.
Day 5 – To Calicut
By Day 5 they were fully fledged rickshaw adventurers and had dreams of being the next best Top Gear presenters, but all these dreams came crashing down for the Fast and Flairious team when they nearly lost one wing mirror and two drivers… Neel who had established himself as one of the fastest drivers in the competition suffered his first injury of the trip: his wing mirror, however with some engineering skill and a bit of duct tape, the rickshaw was back up and running with two semi-functioning wing mirrors, although who knows if they were ever used… Later in the day it was Ram’s turn to take the wheel, surrounded by huge container trucks it can be quite intimidating for a small rickshaw, however that didn’t stop him from trying to overtake one truck into the oncoming path of another, nearly squashing the Fast and Flairious team! With their near-death experience behind them it was time for the team to start thinking about the challenge of the day. In India rickshaws are traditionally used as taxis, so they were challenged to give someone a lift and it wasn’t before long they were hailed down by a gentleman wanting to head down the road. With Neel driving and Ram entertaining they completed the challenge with ease and the hardest part was getting back on course. On the Other hand Flair Force One were taking their time and enjoying the picturesque beaches of India, peacefully recovering from their own near-miss the day before.
Day 6 – To Mangalore
Day 6 of the challenge gave them an opportunity to have a second go of some of the activities they took part in earlier in the week. First on the list was fishing, this time on the beach, and shockingly enough this time round they managed to catch some! Next was another run in with the law, this time instead of being searched they managed to get a selfie, even though not everyone looked to keen to get snapped!
Now it was time to settle the biggest debate of the holiday, who was fastest, Neel and Ram or Dinesh and Shekhar? The teams lined up ready to race and as Flair Force One took the lead, the race seemed over for Neel and Ram who had claimed non-stop that they were the fastest drivers, however the odds swung in their favour as a last-ditch attempt to overtake put them in first place, with ram waving as they left Flair Force One in their dust.
As they got back on to the road, the torrential rain had managed to fell a tree across the whole of the road that they were trying to continue on, however with an adventuring spirit Neel and Ram decided to leave the rest of their opponents waiting in the traffic and find an alternative route. They found a route on an old farm track covered in ditches and flooded holes, a path that you might only want to attempt in a 4x4, but after a long time navigating through the rocky terrain in just a small rickshaw the Fast and Flairious team were relieved to arrive at their hotel in Mangalore, only to be joined just a few minutes later by the Dinesh and Shekhar who waited for the tree to be cleared by the local community shortly after however they were further held up by political rallies en-route to the hotel.
Day 7 – To Murudeshwar
After the previous days trials and tribulations the team decided it was important to get blessed but not by just anyone… by an elephant, who would only take notes, smart boy! Back on the road, it wouldn’t be long before they began to question how legitimate this elephant blessing was as they once again came to a grinding halt after running out of fuel – but their luck began to change as they found a fuel station just 10 metres away, maybe this elephant had some skills after all… Taking it easy the teams decided to meet up and spend an afternoon relaxing after a busy few days on the road, although jetskiing might not be the most relaxing of activities, it turns out that Shekhar from our Indian Office is quite talented on the water, especially for his first time, it’s just a shame that they were racing rickshaws!
Day 8 to Panaji Goa
With 160km of Indian roads left to discover the teams set out together in one long line, Neel and Ram third in the line soon got impatient of the slow pace and veered out of the uniform to speed ahead, signalling the start of the competitive side of the race.
In fear of running out of fuel…again, the Fast and Flairious team fuelled up with reserves but were overtaken by the rest of their opponents. In a bid to regain their lead the team sped off and it wasn’t long before they found a group of their opponents stranded by the side of the road, the Cool Runnings-inspired team who were all donning the bobsledding kit in the hot weather were struggling to push their out-of-fuel rickshaw to a petrol station so Ram and Neel helped the out with their reserves and soon both teams were back on the road and the Fast and Flairious had overtaken the group, where they made a detour to the beach followed by the rest of their opponents. After enjoying lunch together one by one the rickshaws began to depart leaving Neel and Ram to enjoy the beach for a further 20 minutes. Confident that they could overtake they began their journey again where they soon caught up with the pack including Dinesh and Shekhar, and after a quick dash they crossed the finish line. Although they didn’t win the overall prize for most challenges completed, they did win the ‘bonkers award’ for wildest driving technique and livening up the group activities (they can thank Neel and his shots for that).
Summing up what the two teams had learnt during their adventure Dinesh described how taking part in this adventure had not only raised money but also taught them that the winning of the race is not important, but the enjoyment within the journey to get to the finish line is.
How it’s helped
So far this adventure has helped to raise over £5600 which will be doubled by the Flair Foundation, with all proceeds going towards MacMillan Cancer Support in memory of our much-missed colleague Garry Marsland. Macmillan supported the Marsland family throughout Garry’s battle with cancer so it’s so important for us to support the hard work of Macmillan so they can continue to support other families during the most difficult time of their lives. If you would like to donate head to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/garrymarsland
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