Rickshaw Run India – The Mayhem and The Miracles

I’m watching snow fall gently from the sky from Tyrhone’s Mum’s house in London, England, reflecting on the Rickshaw Run. I’ve spent the last few days in a winter wonderland, visiting the resident herd of deer in nearby Bushy Park and eating  pub-lunches by the Thames. Today we visited Stonehenge, and as I marveled at the ancient, mysterious ruins, rising starkly from the snow-covered ground, I almost forgot that just a few days ago, I completed an exhausting 3,000 KM journey across the beautifully chaotic country of India.

Boy, Gokarna, India

Little boy in Gokarna, Karnataka, India

Before flying out to London from Indira Gandhi International Airport, I spent a night at a hotel in New Delhi. If you want to find a good deal on hotels see this website.


Stonehenge in the snow

I wondered, “Did the Rickshaw Run actually happen?”

Did we visit a group of desert nomads in Rajasthan; sleep outdoors at a restaurant without a name; break down in the crazy traffic of Ahmedabad; change a tire by the side of the road at dusk in Goa?

Did we nearly get side swiped by a jeep as we pulled into a ‘Cafe Coffee Day’ in Gujarat (the first opportunity for coffee in days), laughing off our near-miss as being totally worth the caffeine hit?

Did we then meet a wonderful Indian family from Pune, who presented us with a book of spiritual teachings, filling us with such a sense of love and delight just by being in their presence?

Did we then blow a gasket, which was replaced by a mechanic who was brought  from a town 10 km away by a young student who was simply eager to help?

Did we find ourselves in paradise in southern Karnataka, at a beach-side resort where we swam in the ocean in the dark, gazing upwards towards constellations of brightly glowing stars?

Did we dine on a hotel rooftop in Northern Kerala, using an old curtain as a picnic blanket whilst the owner delivered delicious curries and garlic naan?

Did we pose for umpteen photos, sign the school workbooks of giggling children, and watch numerous strangers siphon fuel through the blocked lines of our auto-rickshaw with their mouths? Did we say ‘thank you’ countless times, for the kind deeds of too many strangers we shall never see again?

Rickshaw Run India

Did we shake our heads in disbelief at being saved from yet another jam; at the person who was there at the exact time we needed them?

Was my mobile phone, which I deemed lost forever, really handed in to the police in Udaipur?

Did we break down during a traffic jam in Northern Kerala in the heat of the day; did I think that the only sensible thing to do was drink a cold Pepsi from a stand across the road? Did the guy who sold me that Pepsi really get his friend to fix our rickshaw, getting us back on the road in a matter of minutes?

Did Kim start telling people she was from Iceland, because it was more fun to say than USA?

On our last night on the road, did a guy who was the spitting image of Carlton from The fresh Prince of Bel Air jump into our rickshaw to show us to a hotel that was ‘safe for women?’

And the answer is yes, all those things did happen, but also so many more things. And the wonder, awe, gratitude and laughter was interspersed with boredom, frustration, exhaustion, cold, heat and fatigue.

But very little fear.

I spent very little of the journey being afraid, whether behind the wheel or broken down on the side of the road. There were moments of uncertainty, of course, but throughout the course of this journey, through the many coincidences and gestures of selfless kindness we experienced, I was given the gift of faith.

In myself, in the goodness of people, in the utterly chaotic roads of India. In the fact that I’ll be okay, and that every moment has the opportunity to teach me something.

rickshaw run rajasthan

rickshaw run woman

The journey wasn’t without its struggles, and yet the things I thought I’d struggle with, I handled well – the driving, the breakdowns, the traffic, the constant attention.

Being away from Tyrhone for so long, as well as being without the things that make me feel human, like sleep and time to myself, I didn’t handle so well.

But we made it. Amidst the mayhem, the meltdowns and the miracles that I experienced, I did it. I learned to drive an auto-rickshaw like a pro, traversed India in it with the help of my teammates, and learned more about myself and the world than I ever anticipated.

rickshaw run kids

rickshaw run smile

And I’d do it all again; a little older, wiser and with a lot more faith than I had before.

But first… SLEEP!

Thank you all for your positive words, messages and donations to Frank Water throughout the Rickshaw Run. It means more to me than I can say! 

And thank you to everyone who subscribes to Sarah Somewhere, the story of my journey in the world. I have been experiencing some technical difficulties with my subscriptions, but hope to have everything on track again soon. Feel free to send me your feedback and suggestions!

Sarah x 



Rickshaw Run India – The Mayhem and The Miracles — 47 Comments

  1. You probably didn’t have time to be afraid! Amazing what pushing your limits will do to your fear.

    I love that Kim decided on a new nationality just because it sounded more interesting. Gotta love her. :)

    That photo of the two women with the scarves is breathtaking. I’m also now not surprised when people don’t think my mom is Mexican, but rather from somewhere in the Middle East or closer to that region. The woman on the left looks a lot like her!

  2. This is a quote from a book called Shantaram and I think it sums up your experiences in India and it’s why I one day hope to go. Love the pics and congratulations on completing your amazing journey!

    ‘That’s how we keep this crazy place together – with the heart…. India is the heart. It’s the heart that keeps us together. There’s no place with people, like my people, Lin. There’s no heart like the Indian heart.’
    Sarah recently posted..From the Galley: Parmesan and Parsley Crumbed FishMy Profile

    • Thank you Sarah, such a fitting quote to describe a country that simply can not be explained with logic or reason. I think Gregory David Roberts (or Prabaker, perhaps) hit the nail on the head with that one :)

  3. Congratulations on completing the race, an incredibly courageous adventure and what an accomplishment! I enjoyed following vicariously, especially because it is something I would never take on. What a gift you gave yourself!
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  4. Hi Sarah, the intrepid traveller. Congratulations and what a wonderful physical and spiritual journey. The rewards will be forever with you. Love Di xxx

  5. Hello my Love such an amazing journey and you did it so well
    I am so proud of you. The memories for that trip will last a life time what an incredible thing to do. I hope you have caught on on your sleep…….

    All my love XXXX

  6. I love India for all the things you have shared and more. It’s so different, crazy and fun. I love nothing matters and it will get done, but on India time. I’m so happy for you. I have now added doing a rickshaw race to my bucket list, so thank you for your inspiration.
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    • Thanks Kimbo, as usual I had no idea what was going to come out when I sat down to write it, but this is what did. I know, that quote is PERFECT, is it not?!! Hope you’ve added it to your quote book :)

  7. What a beautiful post Sarah! What an adventure is has been. I really enjoyed following you gals and am a bit sad that it is over now actually. So please do it again! Ha ha, only kidding. You enjoy your break back home in the snow with all your loved ones! Looking forward to finding out where you are headed to next!
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  8. Someone just told me last week that Prabaker was a fictional character, great quote yes! What a unique accomplishment that I may never be able to really imagine. The endless episodes must have been so unique that they’ll will stick with you. Congrats!
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    • Cheers Mike, I suppose that makes sense, but I love his character so much and cried like a baby in certain parts of that book (don’t want to spoil it for people!) :)

  9. What an extraordinary adventure you had, Sarah, criss-crossing the sub-continent! This is a beautiful experience you’ll forever be able to file away in your memory box. :-) I could relate to your mention of the great contrast between the two countries, as it reminds me of our transition back to Germany after spending a month in India. I’m not sure any two countries could be more different.

    How much longer will you be in London and where are you off to next?

    Safe travels!
    Tricia Mitchell recently posted..Dizzied by a Dazzing Array of Dirndls in BavariaMy Profile

    • Thank you Tricia! It definitely was an adventure, and will take some time to reflect on and process… We’re spending some time with Tyrhone’s family here before making our next move… But Mexico beckons! All the best to you and Shawn for 2013 :)

      • Hope your time with Tyrhone’s family is relaxing as you plan that next chapter! We’ve just decided to head to the Balkans for a few months, so Croatia is in the cards for us very soon.

  10. Sarah your sister mentioned your win so I took a sneaky peak at your blog and I am so glad I did. I loved everything about your site and I will look forward to further updates. I have had an ongoing desire to do something similar and have just put tenants in our house and packed 3 kids and a husband up for hopefully 12 months of a working holiday in Europe. It may not work out but I would rather give it a go than live a life of regret. Congratulations on your win – well deserved and keep living the dream. Teghan

    • Hi Teghan, thanks so much for your message! Good on you and I’m telling you, it WILL work out, and your family will blessed with so many wonderful experiences! It’s not easy to step out into the unknown, but the rewards absolutely outweigh all the stress of trying to make it happen. All the best!

  11. Hi Sarah, I had a crisis that kept me off the blogosphere for several weeks and I missed following your rickshaw run as it happened. But I was so glad to know that everything turned out well. I knew a lot of crazy but profound things were bound your way. The way you summed up your experiences touched me deeply. I particularly love this line; made me teary.

    “… I was given the gift of faith….In myself, in the goodness of people, in the utterly chaotic roads of India. In the fact that I’ll be okay, and that every moment has the opportunity to teach me something.”

    Enjoy catching up with Tyrhone and your sleep:)
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  12. Another beautiful post, Sarah! It really sounds like RR was a transformative experience for you, and I tip my hat to you for tackling such an enormous feat… and absolutely trouncing it! I think the best thing about travel is that it can challenge us in ways we never expected, and also show us that the things we fear for ourselves are perhaps not the ones worth worrying about. Getting lost, running out of money, these are things that can easily be dealt with… but missing a loved one and a place to sleep, well, those just show us what our real priorities are! 😀
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  13. Dear Sarah
    This blog made me laugh. Incredible India.I work outside India but I come back for recharging.I am happy that you enjoyed India.Thank god your experiences were good. Most people are simple, innocent and helpful.As the boy went 10 Km to help you, people may go out of their way just to help. This one attribute is rarely seen in other countries.Most places people count time lost is money lost. Santaram was really good as it really wrote about Mumbai though it is a book. But your blog is good and all good is written about India. Thank you Sarah.We love you

    • Thank you Uma! I have had so many wonderful experiences in India, I could write a book… in fact I just might!! Thank you so much for your kind words, I love India and will return again and again over the course of my life, God willing :-)

  14. Hey Sarah! I am so glad to hear about your amazing adventures. Congratulations on finishing. It must have been difficult, but I’m sure that it was worthwhile. I am currently a college student and I dream of going on an adventure like that someday with my group of friends- specifically doing the Rickshaw Run. I always had concerns about the safety part of it though, being a young women, but it’s nice to see that other brave women have done it before. Thank you for your inspiration!

    • Hi Nina, I hope you do! We experienced nothing but kindness. The Indian culture is very different, so staring is something you may need to adjust to. It’s not agressive or even considered rude but it can be a little disconcerting. Keep in touch if you would like any info! All the best!

  15. Hi,
    I have friends that want me to go. We are all 57.
    Did you see any others this age on your journey. I am fit but my pals are not.
    WOuld you be able to email me?
    Chris Best

    • Hi Chris! Don’t let age stop you, yes there were some more ‘mature’ participants when we did it and they seemed to handle it very well! One guy stayed in fancy hotels all the way which I thought was fantastic. It is rather grueling, so lots of rest and good eating beforehand!! Take your time and enjoy the ride :-) If you send me any questions you may have through the contact form I’ll get right back to you.

  16. I am an Indian lady and I am glad to read that you travelled the length and breadth of the country in an auto and never once felt afraid. Glad to hear that.

    Yes of course, we may not help each other but we definitely will help a guest. I am not sure you are aware of “devo atithi bhavo” – the motto we Indians believe in. In sanskrit it means “The guest is equivalent to God” :-)
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