The un-route is a simple yet devastatingly effective concept. There's a start line and a finish line. Everything in between is up to you.
Proper adventure only happens when you do a follow-through fart right in the face of the tourist trail and wobble off the edge of the map. No hand-holding, no arse-wiping, just you and all the magnificent chaos the Indian sub-continent can muster.
To attain this nirvana-like state of ignorant adventuring bliss you must resist the temptation to shove the complete works of Lonely Planet into your telephone. Pay no attention to the hordes of travel bloggers posting boring-bombs all over the internet about what they ate for dinner and the top ten reasons why they are fucking awesome. Ignore it all. The less you know the better. If India unexpectedly appears on the telly quickly jab your eyes with a fork to avoid any advance knowledge seeping into your unsullied brain.
It's not just about protecting the sanctity of the unknown either. Trying to tame the beast that is the Rickshaw Run is just not going to work. Crafting a daily route is pointless. Trying to work out where you'll stay every night is pointless. Detailed planning of any kind is highly likely to go completely to shit by the second day on the road. India will see to that.
So if you're the kind of person that likes an itinerary for the love of all the gods bugger off and never come back to this website. If you like having no idea what will happen next and a vague sense of direction based on the position of the sun read on...
All three un-routes will tickle your adventure balls (or lady balls), make you snort chai out of your nose then slap you in the face with disaster. Probably all in the space of an hour. But there are differences, each one has it's own blend of spicy seasoning.
Shillong to Cochin
Cochin to Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer to Shillong
The Long Run
3,500km - 3 weeks
The entire length of India. Top to bottom. Plus a bit more. We've thrown in a couple of extra days so you have enough time to get into trouble but it's still do-able in under three weeks including test driving and your flights.
Start in the far north east in Shillong, capital of Meghalaya; one of the last places on earth where the ladies are traditionally in charge (a matrilineal society). It's tucked up way beyond Bangladesh in the hills so hardly anyone ever gets up this way - perfect for launching a Rickshaw Run then.
Head north via the shitty road to Guwuhati then stop in to the Himalayan foothills, have a cup of tea in Darjeeling or go the really long way round through Nepal. Onwards towards Bihar: don't talk to strangers with guns or masks here or you could find yourself butt naked on the side of the road with nothing left except your scuppered hopes and dreams.
Next bit - the whole of the rest of India. Swing south and keep the sunset vaguely on your right hand side and you can't go wrong. Finish up with a jaunt over the Western Ghats and arrive smelling like shit and covered in dirt at the finish line on the Keralan coast. Top to bottom. Done.
The Party One
2,500km - 2 (and a bit) weeks
Party on an island in Bolgatty Palace on New Year's Eve. Take a chaotic drive north. Party in Goa. Drive through the Rajasthan Desert. Party in another palace in the Golden City. Done.
Ah yes, and add in 2,500km of remote rural villages, off-road tracks, the world's most dangerous highways, stunning coastal roads, mountains and a bit of jungle. And cows. There are lots of cows.
Things start off in 'God's own Country' Kochi. Either go straight and take the coastal route or turn right and you can force your glorified lawnmower up the hills and through tea plantations in the Western Ghats (also home to Planet Earth's greatest concentration of handlebar moustaches). Once you get beyond the monster state of Maharashtra it all gets a bit parched what with it being a desert up there. You'll still be finding Rajasthani sand in your arse crack when you're back home and wishing you were lost.
Two weeks on the road plus test driving means this one takes two and a half weeks all in, leaving a bit of leeway for relocating your mind. In case you lose it in Goa.
The Spicy One
2,700km - 2 weeks
Drive all the way across India's widest bit. From the Rajasthani desert to the Meghalayan hills in the far east corner beyond Bangladesh. This one's a bit shorter so it all fits inside two weeks including test driving but it's just as ridiculous.
Once you've thundered across the desert in your rolling turd there are some serious three-wheel mountaineering opportunities to your left: The Himalayas. Head across the plains of northern India or take a left into Nepal and find out if you can force high altitude motoring miracles from your 145cc tin can.
You've got the tributaries of the Ganges, tiger reserves in the jungle and more tea plantations than you can shake a kettle at.
And it all finishes in the 'Scotland of the East', Shillong. Nestled cosily in between Bhutan, Burma and Bangladesh. Way off the beaten track in a bit of India unsullied by gap year students and acid casualty ex-pats.
How do I go about getting there, then?
It's normally easier to get a return flight to one of the major cities (either Mumbai or Delhi generally work best), and then do your onwards travel from there. Internal flights are pretty cheap generally, especially if booked in advance
Cochin is a breeze for most as handily it has an international airport. It's about an hours taxi journey away from where the magic of the Run happens in Fort Cochin (traffic permitting). If you can't find a flight directly in or out of Cochin that suits you, then you can easily get a flight to a bigger transport hub such as Mumbai. An airport taxi will cost around £10, or there's a rather marvellous AC bus you can take for about £1.
There's an airport in Shillong itself - though services there are limited, a little pricey, and very often delayed or cancelled. A much safer bet is to get a flight to/from Guwahati. Shillong is a mere 4 hours away by taxi. You can get a shared Jeep or even a bus if you're on a budget. The taxi will cost you about £30, a shared Jeep around £2 per person, and the bus a little less than this. You may have heard rumours of a helicopter service between Shillong and Guwahati - though this has been scrapped at the moment as they kept crashing.
The airport in Jaisalmer has been under construction for the past forever and looks set to remain like that. The easiest way to get there/away is probably via overnight train to Delhi, which is extremely reasonable depending on what class of ticket you get. There is a ridiculously detailed website about Indian rail travel here. Trains should be booked in advance as they do tend to fill up. The nearest airport to Jaisalmer is in Jodhpur, which is around 5-6 hours away by road. A taxi will probably cost you around £40, or you can get a train or bus also for much less.