Beauty in the breakdowns: driving 3,000 kilometers through India in a rickshaw

by Kim on January 20, 2013 · 32 comments

We’ve all been somehow sucked into this theory that you go out to the airport, you get on the plane, and you end up at the place you’re supposed to be at and there is nothing that interferes. But if you stay on the ground a lot of things would interfere. And they would be what life is all about.”

-Car Talk, National Public Radio

I have a bucket list. I’ve got 83 things on this list. Big things and I add to it often. I want to hike the Appalachian Trail. I want to buy a campervan and drive it across Australia. I want to do an ironman triathlon. I want to write a book.

Never once in the history of my bucket list have I ever considered adding: “Drive a three-wheeled rickshaw 3,500 kilometers down the sub-continent of India.”

That is why I am glad that life often turns out bigger and more beautiful than what we are able to imagine for ourselves.

Kim in rickshaw

I never dreamed that I would putter through India in a tin box with a two-stroke engine. But you know what? I am so glad I did.

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I should have known from the beginning that my rickshaw run team, Namaste Outta My Way, was destined for breakdowns. During our three days of pre-rickshaw run test-driving we sputtered to an unexplainable stop at least once a day. We ran out of petrol. We couldn’t start the damn thing to save our lives. Other teams zipped around the grassy parking lot and through the roads of Jaisalmer like they’d been doing it for years. Our little orange rickshaw barely made it down the street.

But we were optimistic. On start-day my teammates, Hannah and Sarah and I, pulled up to the opening processional full of confidence. We believed that our rickshaw was on our side. We showered her with compliments and adoringly assigned her pet names.

Seventy pimped-out rickshaws pulled away from the start-line and into the city streets, blasting music and honking horns. An Indian band played bagpipes and clashed cymbals in our honor. We cheered. And then, ¼ a mile down the road, our tire popped. This is what we call foreshadowing.

Start of rickshaw run 2013

__________

You know that old line “there’s beauty in the breakdown”? It’s true. In fact, I’ve decided to tell my favorite rickshaw run stories around the theme of breakdowns. Our rickshaw, which we naively named Sunny, broke down every single day. But each time that she did we encountered the most astounding people who helped and cared for us.  Indeed, my most wonderful memories are because of the breakdowns.

That flat tire on day one was promptly changed by a group of about twenty-five over-zealous Indians who flipped our rickshaw on its side, bolted our spare into place, and had us on our way in NASCAR-like fashion before we’d even had a chance to blink.

Flat tire rickshaw run

We drove the rick away from Jaisalmer and onto the dusty desert streets, pointed south. The finish line in the southern state of Kerala twinkled in the distance, a massive goal we weren’t quite sure we’d reach.

Goats and cows walked lazily down the highway. Camels extended their long necks like giraffes to eat leaves from the trees on the side of the road. Weathered men in bright pink turbans turned to stare as we slowly rolled past, clocking in at twenty-five miles an hour.

Camel eating leaves

For two hours Sunny ran like a dream. “Isn’t she pretty?” we cooed to each other. I could feel us relaxing, settling in for the long haul. I stuck my head out of the rickshaw and let the sun warm me. The Indian desert was stunning, all dust and open space, the largest sun I’d ever seen was sinking towards the horizon. This is going to be wild, I thought to myself.

Then, just like that, Sunny broke down.

And that was when the magic started.

India sunset

Click here to read all of my posts from the Rickshaw Run.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyrhone January 20, 2013 at 11:31 am

What happened next?! Well I kind of know, but it will be interesting to hear your point of view. Way to keep up the suspense :)

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Kim January 20, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Whhhaaaa haaaa haaaa… the suspense!!! More coming soon :)

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Jill @ ATrailLife January 20, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I love that hiking the AT is on your bucket list! We lived on it for 3 years and have hiked thousands of miles on it, including thru-hikes. Congrats on your rickshaw adventure – it was fun following along!

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Kim January 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I am so totally going to do it someday… hopefully someday in the next few years.

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Dalene January 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Yay! I’ve been so excited for you to start posting about this journey here. Can’t wait for more. :)

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Kim January 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm

I’m excited to share the stories. It was a wild ride!

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Hannah January 20, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Ah, memories! They certainly are the best ones, and the ones I will treasure for the rest of my life. Beautiful post honey xxx

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Kim January 20, 2013 at 11:07 pm

It seems like it happened so long ago already. I can’t believe it…

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Gillian @OneGiantStep January 20, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I cannot imagine what a high this was! Can’t wait to hear more!

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Kim January 20, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Ha, I never thought to describe it as a high but I suppose it was!

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) January 20, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Once again, you take the words right out of my mouth! Several times since leaving to travel, I’ve remarked to Tony that my life seems so much bigger now. And more than that, it has so much more room to grow than it ever did before. Given space to flourish, I find that my life and the possibilities that I can consider for myself are so much grander than the ones I used to hold. It’s so invigorating and exciting to break down these barriers you never even really knew were boxing you in and unroll a limitless canvas on which to paint the rest of your life’s story!

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Kim January 21, 2013 at 3:13 am

Yes, absolutely Steph. I love that we seem to be having such similar experiences. I truly do not look at life in the same way. As that famous quote goes “travel is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” What is strange now is that I sometimes have anxiety about all of the options. Like, which shall I choose??!?!

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Jessica January 21, 2013 at 2:21 am

Nice rickshaw bling. ;)

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Kim January 21, 2013 at 3:14 am

Thanks Jessica. We put “rickshaw pimping” high on our priority list.

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Craig flashpacking January 21, 2013 at 8:21 am

We arein indianow and We managed a four hour rickshaw journey up to the hills of wayanad… I dreamed of doing a longer journey after that experience. Well done a truly epic journey

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Kim January 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Craig, I sort of want to buy a rickshaw and travel the world in it! They’re the perfect mode of transportation and easy to fix if they break down.

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Rhonda January 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Wonderful post!!! I can smell the desert (and camels) and feel the sun on my face as you “raced” along as though I was there. lol….can’t wait to read more as the journey continues

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Kim January 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Thanks Rhonda :) I’m excited to tell the stories.

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Sarah Somewhere January 21, 2013 at 2:28 pm

And so it began! There’s almost too much to put into words hey? But as usual, you do a beautiful job and I can’t wait to read more of your reflections xxx

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Kim January 21, 2013 at 7:08 pm

It is SO HARD to sort through it all. I can’t wait to read your take on the whole thing.

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TammyOnTheMove January 21, 2013 at 9:49 pm

I can imagine how awesome this trip must have been. Can’t wait to read more you tease!

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Kim January 22, 2013 at 3:34 am

Such a cliffhanger ;) More coming soon!

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Sofie January 22, 2013 at 2:34 am

Aaaaah!!! Don’t stop telling now!!!
I want to knoooow!!!
What happened? Did it fold out its wings and flew you across India? It did, didn’t it?

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Kim January 22, 2013 at 3:35 am

You guessed it!!! Seriously though, that would have been badass (and saved us a lot of trouble)

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Richard Crest February 5, 2013 at 12:03 am

It’s always feels nice to experience something for the first time, though unfortunate circumstances come along the way still you had fun.:)

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Kim February 6, 2013 at 2:41 am

Oh yes, we had a ton of fun! And the breakdowns really did create the best memories, though they weren’t always the most enjoyable to live through.

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Lucie February 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Beautiful post! I am like you, I have a huge to do list, but sometimes, completely unexpected, I do something that wasn’t on my To do List, but turns out to be the best experience ever…
Hopefully, there will be more of that for you and me ! ;)

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Kim February 25, 2013 at 3:55 am

Yes, I hope so (I bet there will be).

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