Coming back for more - An interview with Chris Plough

In 2010 Chris did the Mongol Rally, in 2012 he did the April Rickshaw Run. 2014 will take Chris to Siberia to take part in the Ice Run and some time after that he's got his sights on the Mototaxi Junket. Glutton for punishment or hardcore adventurer? We sent Rachel from Chillisauce to interview Chris to find out why someone would want to keep coming back.

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How would you describe your Rickshaw Run adventure in three words?

I can describe it in one: overwhelming.

Other than uncomfortable, what were the perks of driving across India in the Rickshaw? 

The fact that you’re exposed to everything without any barriers was incredible – you feel the heat, the wind, smell every scent, watch the road (and opposing traffic) whiz by. When you stop, you’re not separated from the population – in fact you’re a spectacle and often people chat you up or reach in to greet you -- even when driving. You simply feel… everything. That’s why it was so overwhelming.

Any injuries?

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When I hit the bus on day 2, the front of the rickshaw caved in like a tin can, but luckily I only suffered a scratch on my head. We really were very lucky and I’m incredibly glad none of our team had any significant injuries.

What was the funniest part of the whole trip?

Twice during the trek, I towed other rickshaws that had broken down. Imagine driving a rickshaw, with the throttle completely pegged, while towing another team via a makeshift rope, while climbing up a mountain doing about 10kmph (if you’re lucky) – AND passing trucks along the way. Now that is a sight!
Matter of fact, the final 60km of the trip, I towed a team up the mountain to Shilong in the soaking rain and across the finish line. The whole way, none of us knew if we were going to make it and Vanessa often had to get out and push to keep us going. (She was one hell of a trooper, btw.) At times we were going only a few km per hour and it took several hours – but when we finally crossed the finish line together, the feeling of triumph was… euphoric. I gunned it across the line and around a steep curve, nearly tipping both rickshaws, all while we yelled out in victory.

What was the worst?

The night driving, especially with our incredibly long hours behind the wheel. During the daytime, you can see far enough ahead to avoid the ginormous potholes and treacherous speed bumps. At night, you seem to hit every single one of them, because the lighting on the rickshaws was so poor. More importantly, you can’t make out the edges of oncoming traffic (especially trucks and buses), so the narrow-misses that you get used to in the daytime become razor-thin at night and just scare the crap out of you.

What did you learn from this adventure?

The utter joy of camaraderie. From developing trust and friendship with a team that I had never met before, to helping broken-down teams make it to the finish line. No rickshaw left behind!

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What are you least looking forward to about the Ice Run?

Losing fingers and/or toes.

How long will it take?

I believe 10-12 days, but I really haven’t done much research yet. Honestly, other than doing a bit of cultural research (so that I’m not a jerk), I don’t prepare much for the adventures. I try to remain flexible, rather than attached to a particular strategy. I found that was invaluable during both the Mongol Rally and Rickshaw Run.

What are you most looking forward to?

This may sound odd – but the utter difficulty of it. The endurance test. Just, simply to see if I can do it and what my limits are.

What types of food will you be eating while you’re out there?

I’m really not sure. When doing the Mongol Rally, we went through Russia and we were trained by a Russian friend of ours as to what to expect. It involved bread, butter, meat and lots (I mean lots) of vodka.

You’re planning to do the Mototaxi Junket in 2014 too, what makes you keep wanting to participate in such ridiculous adventures?

It’s a bit of a personal story, but I don’t mind sharing. Back in 2006, I left Oracle and started a company with a friend of mine (Sam). In those first few years, you end up working insane hours and the company can consume much of your life. Then, at the end of 2007, I lost both of my parents. I really didn’t know how to deal with it and had a lot of guilt for being so busy and not spending more time with them --- so naturally I threw myself further into work, rather than dealing with it. Then, a year later the economy crashed and my company, and all we had worked for teetered on the edge. So – I pushed even harder, often working 16-20 hour days. I couldn’t keep it up forever and hit severe burnout. Fortunately, I had an incredible team and we made it through the rough patches. Once through, though, I realized that I needed something to break me free and allow me to recharge. A friend had told me about the Mongol Rally and it just seemed. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I was just stepping back or running away – but I did feel it was the right thing to do. So – I spent the next 9 months preparing everyone in my company for my 8-week absence. In the end, it made the company stronger by removing me as a bottleneck and allowing the team to step up and reach their potential.

Most importantly, during these adventures, there’s a lot of driving time – which for me becomes thinking time. During the Mongol Rally, I made peace with several demons and laid the memory of my parents to rest. (Literally, I buried an image of them in the Gobi desert, about 250 miles from Ulaanbaatar.)

So for me the adventures are a reset; a reminder that life is more than work and our modern conveniences; a chance to reconnect with core instincts (find food, find shelter, help your community, survive); and a chance to meet like-minded freaks. The more I do them, the more I realize that others could benefit from a bit of adventure also. It doesn’t have to be as grand as these – just something that knocks you out of your daily rut and gives you a little perspective. It sure as hell beats waiting until something more serious happens, forcing you to take a step back and evaluate life.

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The 2014 Ice Run starts in February, you can follow the updates on our live tracking and blog. You can find out more about Chillisauce on their website.