I skipped over the finish of the Rickshaw Run in the blog. It was inadvertent, but the ending was so anticlimactic for us. First, let me rehash a little. In the planning phase, the Rickshaw Run seemed like the craziest, most adventurous thing we would ever do. Everyone thought we were nuts: other cruisers, our parents, our friends from India, even random people we would meet. Then we arrived in India. Our first taxi ride from the airport in Kolkata to a hotel for the night was certainly crazy. We saw cows blocking the road in the airport. Traffic didn’t seem to follow any rhyme or reason. Oncoming cars missed each other by a fraction of an inch. Dave and I looked at each other and wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. Perhaps everyone was right.
Spending a few days in Shillong finding our way around, acquiring SIM cards for our phones, finding decorations for our rickshaw, and even finding our way to the Rickshaw Run staging area helped us acclimatize to India. However, it still did not prepare us for our first few days of driving ourselves around in the rickshaw. Day one was short and we knew where we planned to spend the night (Guwahati), so it was easy once Dave drove us out of the congestion of the city. Day two was the hardest. We were afraid of getting food poisoning and wanted to be careful where and what we ate and we didn’t know how to find reputable restaurants. We also didn’t know how to find a hotel and ended up driving until 11:00 at night. And THAT was crazy! We couldn’t see with our measly lights and everyone coming towards us drove with their high beams on or flashed us continually. The roads were bad and we couldn’t see the potholes.
By day three, we started finding food and learned how to look for a town with a hotel. By day five, we grew accustomed to the traffic, the attention, and the roads. We were pros at finding food and I got the hang of taking photos while in motion. That doesn’t mean they all turned out, but many did. The strange, scary, and intimidating became normal. Nothing shocked us any longer and we wondered why we were so nervous in the first place.
But Dave did an excellent job of driving! We babied our rickshaw and, other than flat tires, we didn’t have any problems. Sure it started to run rough at times, but that is to be expected when you are driving 8-10 hours a day everyday in an old vehicle. Some rickshaws were not so lucky.
So, the finish. I’m not entirely sure what happened there. We arrived in Fort Kochi two days early and even though it was only 11:00 AM, we went straight to our hotel and checked in. We parked our rickshaw and used a rickshaw taxi to run some very important errands. While out driving, we stopped by the finish line. Everyone looked at us like, Oh no! What happened to your rickshaw? Haha! We told them not to worry. The rickshaw is fine, we just didn’t know where to go. Had we driven over the finish line then, we would have been 2nd to finish. Well, after shooting the breeze with the officials, we promised to bring it the next day. But then we went on a tour of Fort Kochi that lasted all day, so we still didn’t finish.
On the final day, we finally got motivated to drive across the finish line.
We posed for a ceremonial picture before proceeding to the registration booth to turn in our keys.
We signed in as number 30. But there was no cheering squad, no photo finish, no stage to pose on, no marching band, no champagne popping, nothing exciting about finishing.
I think we put off finishing because we didn’t want to acknowledge the end. We had a fantastic time. We met fantastic people. We ate delicious foods and never did get sick. We were set free in a country so totally alien to us with the mobility to go where we pleased. Why would we want it to end? Our only regret, which isn’t even a true regret, is that we focused on finishing on time and passed up a lot we would have liked to have seen. We wanted to complete the challenge, which we did. But if we had it to do all over again (and we might), we would take our time and focus more on exploring.