Rickshaw Challenge — Classic Run 2014 takes off with eight teams from Europe and Australia on a multi-city tour ‘to understand the real India’

The hawkers and the motorists were bewildered seeing foreigners behind the wheels of brightly painted autorickshaws in Coimbatore on Sunday morning. Well, the onlookers didn’t know they were part of Rickshaw Challenge — Classic Run 2014, which will see them attempt to cover over 1,000 km on autorickshaws.

As many as eight teams from the U.K., Germany, Australia and Norway were flagged off from Residency Towers, and they will proceed to Puducherry before travelling to Thanjavur, Madurai and Tuticorin. The 10-day challenge will conclude in Thiruvananthapuram.

Revamped and harder!

The participants didn’t quite comprehend the complexity of challenge until the organiser Aravind Bremanandam gave them a low-down on what to expect from this year’s edition, which, he says, has been revamped to make it even harder. Aravind read out tips on how to ‘survive’ the arduous journey. Starting with a warning to expect the worst they could imagine, Aravind reeled off a string of what not to do, such as ‘Don’t expect others to follow lanes’, ‘don’t try speed because you just can’t’ and so on. After listening attentively to Aravind, it perhaps began to sink in for the participants that they agreed to do something ‘crazy’, something which most Indians would pull off.

“I am petrified and don’t know what to expect,” said a middle-aged Lucy from the U.K., who is participating along with John Green. Along with the couple, another English family of four has also embarked on this journey. Asked why they wanted to sign up for the event, most of them replied that they wanted see the real India — the real people in small towns and villages.

Norwegian duo Kim and Bengst applied for this challenge after they watched a programme on BBC. “I have been on similar trips, but on a bike. When I found this was on an autorickshaw, I thought it would a lot of fun,” said Kim, who has seen a bit of India on his professional visits.

Are they anxious about the people? “I have always found Indians to be quite friendly. So, we hope it goes well for us,” says Bengst. While safety is a concern, Wolfgang and Andreas, the two engineers working for BMW in Germany, taking part in the challenge along with Katharine, were hoping to quickly re-orient themselves to driving on the left side of the road. Andreas hoped the autos wouldn’t break down. “We are communication engineers. If the radios break down, we can do it ourselves. But we can’t repair autos,” joked Andreas.

Most of the participants were aware that India was a vast country with various cultures, languages and tradition. And the one thing the participants wanted was to to understand the real India.