Driving the auto-rickshaw, known as one of the world’s most unwieldy vehicles, 18 tourists who are on what they themselves call a “weird but wonderful” rally reached Alappuzha on Sunday, the ninth day of the event that began from Chennai.

The Malabar Rampage, the latest route added to the “infamous” Rickshaw Challenge series that is into its fifth year now, has participants from as far as South Africa, Austria, England, Egypt, Singapore and Hungary and aims at covering about 2,800km across Tamil Nadu and Kerala in 19 days.

Starting from Chennai on April 4, the rally has passed through Tiruvannamalai, the coffee plantations of Yercaud, Coimbatore, Thrissur and Kochi, before reaching Mararikulam in Alappuzha. From Mararikulam, the teams, comprising six auto-rickshaws with jazzy paints and stickers on them, explored the coastal villages before embarking on a houseboat cruise arranged by event partner Marvel Tours. The night might be spent at a ‘friend’s house’ at Kottayam, where they plan to go on a bus.

From Alappuzha, they will head to Thiruvananthapuram, riding at about 30-40km per hour, but aiming to cover at least 150km every day. From there, the route-map winds through Kanyakumari, Tuticorin, Madurai, Thanjavur and Pondicherry before applying the brakes back at Chennai.

The event, according to Adrianna Tan, one of the participants from Singapore who is updating the rally news for those following the rally on the web, helps the participants get a helpful fill of heritage and old world charm from unknown places apart from getting to know the people better. Since the rally is organized in partnership with Chennai Event Management Services and the Round Table, there is the angle of charity too with local underprivileged schools to get aid.

“The amazing race for the clinically insane”, said a sticker on the auto-rickshaws, and as the participants drove along the NH-47, the driving “skills” of State Road Transport Corporation bus drivers and other drivers showed them that the sticker meant every word of it.

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