Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The 3 M's - Mangalore, Mysore and Monsoon

During the evening Mangalore had decided to embrace the seasonal weather and let the heavy rain fall. So in true 'Little Miss Rickshaw' style we thought what better day then to dress up in our punk rocker costumes to visit a local school and 'of course' it makes the best wet weather gear...haha, Not quite! The other teams had been getting quite used to us appearing in matching T's, strange hairs styles and bizarre accessories, so they weren't too surprised to see us appear in hot pink skirts, fluro yellow fishnet stockings and pink leg warmers. However the hotel staff did find it entertaining atleast!

In a small convoy of 3 rickshaws we made our way to the local school. There we were greeted by the local teachers. They were very friendly and kindly accepted our unusual appearance. Some of the teachers were more fascinated than the kids and even asked to touch our outrageously bright coloured wigs. The school only had a handful of classes and quickly we were shown around the grounds and introduced to the children. All one hundred of them kindly stood and introduced themselves - very cute and a perfect time for them to practice their English. Thankfully it was a short stop over since today we have 250 kilometres to cover, hence the absence of the other 3 teams during the school visit.

Decked out in our punk rocker outfits we farewelled Mangalore and headed inland. Thankfully Team 5 had a GPS and with so many kilometres to cover we thought we better follow since we weren't in the mood to stop numerous times for directions and spend any longer on the roads than we needed to. With the national highway on the horizon we put the pedal to the metal and covered as much ground as we could. Before we knew it, it was time to refuel and who did we happen to bump into but Team 6! So much for that one hour head start, eh boys... well atleast they tried. After a quick exchange of friendly rickshaw banter we made our way on the road from hell... that's if you could even call it a road.

In guessing, since our odometer and speedometer hadn't been working the whole time, that the next 50 kilometres of our trip was driving along a road which looked more like a narrow stream litter with small boulders. There seemed to be more water than bitumen. For the majority of drive,  it looked like hundreds of miniature meteorites had plummeted to the ground, leaving craters varying in depths from 2cm to easily 20cm.

One memorable moment would have to have been when Pia was driving and very cautiously she drove to the side of the road to leave enough room for an incoming truck. Strangely we didn't notice the enormous pothole filled to the brim with the constant rain water. Before we knew it a tidal wave had covered the rickshaw, drenching all three of us! Unfortunately our rain protector on the right hand side had broken again, so we were braving the elements and I hadn't listened to my gut instinct and put my handy $2 poncho on. As drops of road water dripped from my mohawk wig, all we could do was have a good laugh about it, especially since I had obviously been watching the truck pass us with my mouth open, resulting in a good mouthful of nutritious road water, priceless!

With ponchos on and as dried off as possible we made our way along the rocky road which didn't resemble anything like what a national highway should. Whilst driving through one of the many small villagers I managed to drive a bit to close to a local rickshaw, or more like he couldn't drive straight! Anyhow we skidding passed him with only a few centimetres to spare... so like any good motorist we pulled onto the side of the road to check if all was okay with the vehicles and why we were at it, ask for directions and check if we were heading in the right way. However, this led to another situation of locals coming over to inspect the strange looking rickshaw... and unexpectedly copping a mouthful from the rickshaw driver I nearly hit who wanted to know if my brakes worked, haha, of course!

It wasn't until a good hour on the road from hell we heard a familiar horn toot behind us! The sight of Team 3's green rickshaw in the appear through the pelting rain was a reassuring sight indeed, it certainly meant we could rest assured we were heading in the right direction. Soaked to the bone and looking like drowned punk rockers, it was the perfect time to catch up on Team 3's morning adventures over a hot cuppa tea and freshly made chapatis.

With blood sugar levels replenished and circulation returned to frosty fingers we headed back onto the open road. It wasn't long before we encountered what would be classed as our closest near miss of the trip. As we were driving out of one of the many small villages we came across a small sedan on the side of the road which decided to not check their rear view mirrors before making a u-turn, completely oblivious to the pink rickshaw heading straight for it at 40 kms a hour. Now the logical thing to do is drive to the other side of the road to avoid the vehicle, however, of all the places a motorcyclist had parked his bike on the other side of the road, directly opposite the u-turning vehicle. And from there the road sloped into a rather deep gully... Decisions, decisions!!! Hit the car, hit the motorcycle or avoid both and end up in a ditch!?!?!?!

Unfortunately the braking system on 'Missy' wasn't as instant as you would expect in your series 5 BMW, so either one of the above three was going to happen or a miracle!! With about 10 metres before impact the driver had finally decided to look down the road and obviously stunned to see a horn tooting, mad, pink rickshaw bearing down on his precious vehicle he immediately slammed on the brakes, leaving the smallest gap in the road for us to squeeze between, narrowly missing his car and the parked motorcycle. Unconsciously all of us had been holding our breaths and as we scrapped pass 3 large sighs of relief filled the rickshaw. I didn't last more than one kilometre before I took that as my cue to get out of the drivers seat.. I don't' want to know what the outcome would have been if the blood sugar levels hadn't been topped up just 10 minutes earlier.

The further we headed inland we were greeted by less potholes and more hilly terrain, littered with coffee plantations. As we crept further upward it meant more rain and a big dip in the mercury. With all the revving uphill in low gears we managed to run out of petrol during an uphill climb. Little did we know as we refilled the tank with out emergency supply, we had broken down literally 200m from a petrol station. Reassuring indeed, since it meant no need to worry about not finding a petrol station before we ran out of fuel and again and that we had reached the town of Kushalnagar, ultimately meaning time to enjoy an easier drive on surfaced roads.

The remainder of the 80km drive went about as ordinary as you can get on Indian roads. Road kill, overloaded horse and carts, a family of 4 crammed on a motorcycle, overcrowded rickshaws and the occasional cow blocking the road. Once we arrived at the outskirts of Mysore we had caught up to Team 3 and began trailing behind them. Once we arrived in town they kindly took the lead of finding our way to the hotel. Often whilst at traffic lights (Yes, people in Mysore stop for traffic lights) we chatted with neighbouring cars and rickshaw drivers telling them what we were doing. Not quite the same experience you get at home at the traffic lights... but then again... we're never driving a rickshaw at in Australia, England or Dubai.

With nothing more than a smile and an odd coloured rickshaw the German lads managed to get a tuk tuk driver to show us the way to our hotel which left us 5 minutes shy of the flag down time, placing us in 2nd place behind the boys. To celebrate surviving 252 kilometres in a rickshaw we thought it was necessary to indulge in an array of mouthwatering Indian dishes on a roof top restaurant. This was close as we were getting to 5 star dining in India tonight.

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