Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Watch out Mumbai!!!

The morning was spent jumping in hired rickshaws and roaming the streets of Mumbai for sports equipment for the schools we plan to visit. Thankfully, a helpful young school girl directed us to the perfect place to get started on our collection of sports gear. Our first purchase was but what else a bunch of cricket bats and tennis balls. With 2pm creepy around quickly we headed back to the hotel to meet up for our first official drive on the streets! The only way to do this in the end was to forgot carpark drills and get straight onto the roads - it was only a matter of time till we had to do it so why not just jump in head first and do it straight away. Tired of the numerous rocks, where ever bump was causing havoc on my lower intestine, I drove out from our security blanket area and down the road into reality. Well, actually only 200m where I then U-turned and returned back to the car park and let the girls have a turn. However at this point one of the local taxi drivers Gihan, who had been helping us yesterday decided to give us that extra bit of encouragement. He jumped on his motorbike and indicated for us to follow him... With a personal guide we jumped at the chance! As we weaved on and through the backstreets the look of people's faces were a mixture of 'What the...' and laughter. Passengers in rickshaws were poking there heads out, curious, smiling and waving. Some tuk tuk drivers would drive up beside us, eyeing our vehicle but as soon as we made eye contact their faces would break into a big smile. At a set of lights a group of homeless kids wanted to come for a ride even after Pia stalled and it took her a good 8 times to restart the engine.

Now we knew we could actually drive a rickshaw we were ready to take on the first challenge Aravind had set for us! Off we drove to fill up our tank at the local petrol station. The perfect mix for our little machines is 1 Litre of petrol to 50ml of oil. All went without a hitch. Next to the Marriott Hotel - the reason we were sent here is because rickshaws are seen as the lowest of low of the driving foodchain in India and Aravind was curious to see what the employees reactions would be. To no surprise to us, the majority were happy, smiling and more than cooperative. As Ruth ran in to get a napkin to prove we'd been, Pia and I parked our rickshaw behind the 2 other teams who had arrived. At this point, Ruth returned and we jumped back in to complete the next challenge but about 6 photographers came running out from inside the hotel lobby and started taking photos - The Indian paparazzi had found us!

My engine starting skills weren't yet mastered and having cameras itches away from my face and flashes going off wasn't anymore helpful. Although we did feel like we were Bollywood stars. In our travels we bumped into Gihan again and he kindly showed us a bottle shop for the next challenge and a better stocked toy store. All in all it was a much more pleasant experience than we anticipated. Time to relax and get prepped for the real thing!!!

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