There's only a handful of things you can count on when it comes to doing the Rickshaw Run: that your mighty steed will eventually stumble, that you’ll get lost more times than you can count, and that you never know who else you'll be sharing the adventure with.
As we said yesterday, adventure must be had in style – no sense in rattling across India in a tin can without being suitably decked out and decorated.
This Run’s pimp jobs are some of the best we’ve seen yet – ensuring that when teams inevitably plunge face-first into a pothole on the Indian highway, at least they’ll do so looking dapper.
Here are eight of the top pimp jobs from the January Rickshaw Run, in no particular order:
1. Lawyers Without Borders from the US
2. Yogaslackers from the US
3. Tuk Tuk Totties from Singapore/London
4. Mr.Budz.Inc from Canada
5. 3 Idiots from India
6. Curry on Driving from the UK
7. Chur Bros. Travelling Circus from New Zealand
8. Goan as Fast as We Tukkin Can from the UK
It’s Friday morning in Jaisalmer, India, and desert winds are whipping up a downright vicious shitstorm of dust and dirt. Perfect for the eyes, lungs and adventure.
It’s not exactly a warm welcome to the 210 people descending on the city for the January Rickshaw Run, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. While the Run itself throws itself into history on New Year’s Day (quite the way to start the year, isn’t it? Much better than sitting down the pub moaning about how crap January is) there’s a bit of test driving to be had beforehand.
It's a chance to practise, of course, but also allows teams sufficient time to whip themselves into a bit of a panic and consider their intelligence.
For Rickshaw Runners, it’s all about that first test drive, that first moment of stepping inside your mighty steed and realising: bollocks, this vehicle is entirely not suitable for the job. So before we bring you updates from the road next week, here’s a look at the five steps to a cracking first day of test driving on the Rickshaw Run – from getting to grips with the driving to discussing the task ahead with fellow Runners over a few cups of tea:
Step 1: Learn how to drive the beasts
First impressions are everything. And so it goes with meeting your ‘shaw. Before teams can even think about figuring out the way from Jaisalmer to Cochin – which, of course, we hope they don’t – their first job is simply wrapping their mitts round the handlebars of a rickshaw for the first time.
For Fab and Joyce of team Little Tipsy from Singapore, this was far easier said than done. “We had some difficulties starting the engine. Now we have blisters from it. Getting started depends on luck itself – sometimes we get it, sometimes we don’t. But if there’s a local standing behind us, he will help.”
At least they’ve got another couple of days ahead of them for more practice.
Step 2: Realise what exactly you are in for
Many teams have been signed up for the Rickshaw Run for months, if not a year, so to finally arrive in India and meet their ride can come as a bit of shock: that this beast of an adventure is indeed about to start. We call this the moment of realisation – or that holy shit moment.
Not to fear – this is a common reaction that occurs just after your first go at driving. The treatment? Maintain an ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality of denial and order some medicinal Kingfisher (after driving).
While Manisha from Team Tuk Tuk Totties seems fairly confident – “Driving is fine, no problem with that” – Kim from team Rickshaw Run Diaries is somewhat more apprehensive: “I have this fear that I’m going to kill us. I’m going to need a drink after this.”
Step 3: Get [un]trained in the mechanics
Rickshaws have the cunning knack of seeming like they were designed to break down. Indeed, it’s just about the only thing one can count on during the Rickshaw Run. That and getting the shits if it's your first visit to this marvellous part of the world. That being said, it’s useful to know a bit about how to keep them going.
During the first day of test driving, Mr. Vikash – head of all things mechanical on the Rickshaw Run – gathers teams around a rickshaw like a war general about to send his troops out to the frontline – sporting an outfit to match his role. With the door to the ‘engine’ open, he walks them through what they most need to know. Ideal tyre pressure? Check. Ratio of oil per litre of fuel? Check. Fuel capacity and what to do if your engine falls out? Check and check (ish).
“This is all mentioned in your on-the-road packets,” Vikash says. After a pause, he adds, “If you read them, or haven’t lost them already.”
Step 4: Pimp thy 'shaw
With the initial shock out of the way, teams can breathe a little easier and admire the handiwork of the Indian painters who have been busy pimping their rides with the designs submitted from around the world via the pimping machine. Making one’s rickshaw as loud and as offensively colourful as possible – whether with paint or by adding garlands, lights and a discotheque – is a vital element of the Run, for, as is obvious - adventure must be had in style.
Step 5: Discuss the day over a cold beer or a warming whisky
It’s understandable that most teams need a drink at the end of day one to steady the nerves. Possibly two in fact. Plus, they’re just curious to compare notes and meet the other idiots who were genius enough to sign up for the Run.
Hanging out with other Runners is the perfect antidote to a pant-shitting day of driving a rickshaw. With a cold beer or whisky in hand, teams gather around the palace’s pool or inside the Whiskey Jar to see if everyone else is thinking the same thing… This camaraderie makes any stalling of the rick and issues with the gears and starting lever seem slightly more manageable. Sort of.
Above all, teams seem surprisingly and naively ready for anything the Indian highway is about to throw their way. When Rasmus from Danish team Rio Ganesh hesitates before signing their lives away, teammate Kasper says, “Just sign it. You may die. We talked about this.”
Like we said, they’re ready for anything.
Today, with the help of Mr Rob and Mr Katy, we will be testing two top end portable electrical sources, the Powermonkey and Powermonkey Extreme. We know the Powermonkey is good at charging electronic devices, we can read that on the side of the box, but how does it fare as a multi-purpose adventuring tool?
It's all well and good to have a bit of kit that performs one basic function and nothing more but todays adventurer is a bit more demanding. To ensure we travel as lightly as possible we want tools that are good for more than one thing. That's why we don't take Rob's sister with us on expeditions.
To test the breadth of the Powermonkey's versatility we've drawn up a 5-part test where we will be pitting the device against the adventuring staple: Harris Tweed. Mr Rob as our resident tech guru will be championing the Powermonkey, I [Mr Joolz] will be putting the Tweed through its paces. Mr Katy will be an impartial adjudicator to ensure there is no foul play.
Test #1 - Style
Mr Joolz: The Harris Tweed comes in a variety of colours and patterns with a cut to suit the frame of any modern chap, this one is in a rather fetching houndstooth pattern. It's single breasted, fully lined and has a raisable collar, depending on how you accessorise it looks equally stylish in a billiard hall, at a society dinner or out in the wilderness.
Mr Rob: The Powermonkey isn't massively stylish, unless you're a fan of rubber, which as it happens I am. It does have the ability to charge electronic cigarettes though, so you've got all the sophistication of smoking without the stigma of lung cancer.
Adjudicator Willings: So the tweed takes an early lead; the immediately recognisable style icon delivers impact from a distance and continues to make an impression up close. The Powermonkey has a really nice box, but if you're seen out and about with one you look a bit of a geek.
Power Traveller 6/10
Test #2 - Charging Capability
Mr Joolz: Trying to charge the e-cig with the tweed is a bit disappointing, at first it looks like there is some charge, but it might take a while to get a full charge.
Mr Rob: The Powermonkey is great for mobile phones, sat navs, digital cameras, even bigger kit like i-pads. The high quality solar panels mean even in fairly overcast conditions you get 4 bars of power. They come with a bag chock full of adaptors and outputs. The Extreme version also comes with this great battery which not only means you can charge at night, but also gives you the option to charge multiple items at once.
Adjudicator Willings: The tweed was frankly rubbish. To begin with there was a glimmer of charge but it must've been a static charge or something. The Powermonkey was a good little charger; it gives a full charge in a surprisingly short period of time. I would say there is a bit of a drawback not being able to charge an i-phone on the adventurer model, but the battery on the Extreme negates this problem.
Power Traveller 10/10
Test #3 - Ruggedness
Mr Joolz: The tweed has a long pedigree of reliability under duress. It's 100% wool, hand woven and it boasts a good 24 threads per inch and still manages to be soft to the touch.
Mr Rob: I took this out on the Mongolian Steppe and was impressed by how durable it is. I clipped it onto my bag so I could get charging capability on the move, it took a few knocks and scuffs but suffered no ill effects. It comes in a tidy foam neoprene type casing which also protects the device when you're not using it.
Adjudicator Willings: I concur with Mr Rob, the Powermonkey is a resilient little beast, I wanted to see how one would cope with the rigours of the Mongol Derby and it really could cope with everything I could chuck at it. After I used it Rob had a go and I'm happy to say it's seemingly Rob-proof. I'm confident in time it will gain a reputation for reliability as good as the Tweed.
Power Traveller 8/10
Test #4 - Fending off a wild beast
Mr Joolz: The tweed strikes fear into the heart of any threatening parties and with it I felt confident dispatching the most savage of animal attacks. Mr Rob with his Power Gibbon was sadly not so lucky and perished in the fray.
Adjudicator Willings: Yes, the Powermonkey did slow the beast somewhat, but to no avail. The tweed on the other hand totally disarmed the brute leaving the wearer able to run away, or in fact kill the creature for his supper.
Power Monkey 2/10
Test #5 - Providing warmth
Mr Joolz: The tweed does a great job of keeping me warm. These nifty buttons keep the chill out and the raisable collar affords one a warm neck too. I'm pretty sure Mallory wore one mountaineering; so they're good up to about 8000 metres. The Power Baboon is nowhere near as good; it gives off as much warmth as a fart in an avalanche.
Adjudicator Willings: I'm pretty sure Mallory died in the Himalayas in 1924, so I'd be inclined to say the tweed is more Exmoor than Everest, but it certainly provides more warmth than the Powermonkey.
Power Monkey 3/10
Adjudicator Willings: I'm flabbergasted that the tweed has beaten the Powermonkey hands down. It performed admirably in its charging capability and durability, but the numbers don't lie and it had obvious failings in keeping you warm or fending off wild beasts so the tweed is justifiably victorious after our rigourous testing.
Mr Joolz: So there you have it. The Powermonkey. We would recommend against getting one unless you were only interested in charging your personal electronic devices.
Power Monkey 29/50
Find out more 'accurate' information about the Powermonkey or get your grubby mitts on one here.
The Adventurist Department of Kit Abuse and Product Testing: Adjudicator Willings (left), Mr Rob (middle) & Mr Joolz (right).
The Mototaxi Junket is a rather brightly coloured star in the Adventuring firmament, the format might seem pretty standard; small inapropriate vehicle, bad roads rapidly changing and beautiful landscape, thousands of miles of the unexpected, but the Junket really requires Kahunas the size of coconuts also a fairly health quota of tenacity or luck, possibly both.
2012 September Junket was an exemplary example of what an adventure should be; a fair share of breakdowns, crashes, getting lost, blazing sun, torrential rain, snowfall and confrontations with wildlife. The splendid veterans of said Junket had a rip-roaring time and Nick and Stephanie from Drama Llamas were kind enough to put together a video sharing some wisdom they acquired in their time in the mountains and jungle.
The Mongol Rally is undoubtably the most romantic of modern day adventures. You heard me right; The Mongol Rally, romantic. Who doesn't get the horn hurtling across the Mongolian steppe in a tiny car wearing nothing but a Buff and pants crusty from 3 weeks of dust? The libido of a Mongol Rallier is like a jugonaught of lust; big, powerful and not particularly subtle.
What you mean there's a difference between sexual urges and love? OK, it might be a bit harder to prove, but love does indeed flourish on the Rally, and 2012 could be the most romantic year yet. We've had Neil & Helen Melville-Kenney from Uncertainty Principle (above left) who took their honeymoon on the Rally, we've had Aruna & Sebastien from Canuck the Dots who were so enamoured on the rally they became engaged at the Derweze Crater in Turkmenistan (above right) - I know what you're thinking; proposing at the Gates of Hell sets you up for married life something special. As well as this though we've just seen the wedding of two Mongol Rally veterans Sean & Sam from Brown Cow Independant Taxis who recently tied the knot in sunny Nottinghamshire.
Here comes the bride...
Get the boring ceremony stuff out of the way and crack on with the party
I hope she washed that Buff before she used it as a garter
Seans smiling now, but he's yet to be told of the Mongolian tradition of the groom having to break a sheeps neck on his wedding day
Traditional Mongolian wrestling, perfect for any occasion
Shot-skis with every Ralliers favourite Chinggis vodka
After 10,000 miles in a little car together wedded life will be a breeze
I'd like you to meet Luke & Cristian from the Mongol Rally 2012 team Proverbial Dogooders. These two cheeky rapscallions have a rampant enthusiasm for mischief that led to them being arrested three times before they left Europe; mostly for being drunk or naked, or both. They've also done unspeakable things with urinal cakes but this blog is not the place for that.
This blog is about how they came to tattoo an enormous Mongol Rally 2012 logo on their arse-cheek and calf respectively. To complement the logo, permanently inked into their bodies for all time, they added their team name atop the insignia and under it the phrase 'FUCK YEAH JOOLZ'. My name is Joolz. Here's how it all came about...
I met the lads on a beach in Vama Veche, Romania, the morning after the huge party laid on in honour of another Mongol Rally team; The Fire Fairies. We got to talking about the various exploits of Ralliers over the years and who had been awarded the title of 'properly nuts' or similar.
I told the chaps that the 2012 title of 'biggest mentalist' was still to be claimed by someone with large enough Kahunas and low enough decorum.
Shortly after that a can of pepper spray was procured from somewhere and Cristian volunteered to test the effectiveness of the capsicum spay. Fortunately there was someone responsible at hand to assist with the experiment and ensure that the proper effects could be documented in an objective manner.
Sadly the beach was rather windy and the technician overseeing the experiment received a significant dose of the irritant to his own face and eyes, but this adds credibility to our findings as we now benefit from a second opinion. The conclusion of the experiment is that pepper spray hurts your eyes and a liberal application of beer is a suitable antidote.
Mongol Rally tattoos
Luke & Cristian weren't happy to leave their bid for infamy there though. They wanted to cement their place in the hall of fame with a legacy that would last more than a year; so they matched the ultimate badge of pride, the Mongol Rally tattoo, with their team name 'Proverbial Dogooders' and the inspiring slogan "Fuck Yeah Joolz".
I for one think everyone should get one. Sadly the Turkish tattoist didin't have the best grasp of the English language so the legend reads "PROVERDIAL DOOGOODERS". Far from detracting from the splendour of the artwork I think it adds a little something.
The Making Of...
Cristian looking happy after ink had been applied to cheek
Luke managing to not wince as the tattoo is inked on to his calf
In their own words this is what happened:
"Basically me and my friend met Joolz in Vama Veche, Romania. And he said we were crazy, and we said the craziest? He said top 5, so we had to be the best. So we got drunk in Istanbul and came up with the idea. Plus this trip is the most amazing thing we have ever done ever."
So there you have it, the most recent and possibly the finest example of an Adventurists tattoo. Cristian and Luke, we salute you.
Have you got an Adventurists tattoo or a tattoo inspired by or procured on one of your adventures? Let us know in the comments, and why not add a link to a picture if you have one.
How do you define a living legend?
I’m not going to patronise you by beginning with a dictionary definition of what living legend means, I’m going to plunge headlong into my explanation and leave it to you to call me wrong. So let’s start by saying a legend is the sort of fellow who chaps want to be and chapesses want to be with.
Ted Simon is this sort of fellow. We here at Adventurist HQ like gnarly old adventurers. Fellows who have experienced the worst of what the world can throw at them and then said; ‘What next?’ Fellows like Ted Simon who had so much fun riding around the world on his classic Triumph Tiger in the Seventies, he repeated the feat nearly thirty years later. His travels and accompanying books were the inspiration for young whippersnappers Charlie and Ewan on their oversized wussmobiles in ‘Long Way Around’ and in Motorcycling circles he is something of a hero.
In March 1973 Ted decided to circumnavigate the globe by motorcycle, despite having neither motorcycle licence nor experience riding a bike. He sweet talked Yamaha into lending him a bike and obtained a false driving licence to practice on. Six months later he began a four year trip through 54 countries, the likes of which was unheard of at the time. Fearing terrible accidents, breakdowns in the desert and all the lurid horror stories the mind can conjure up, he set off prepared to lose his life on his journey. Although Ted knew little of the particularities of his motorcycle engine he fixed his bike along the way, teaching himself the fundamentals of motorcycle repair as he went. He modestly declares that ‘anyone with reasonable intelligence and nimble fingers could probably do it’.
A journey of great time across numerous continents is never without hardship but as Ted points out wherever you are in difficulty there are people for whom that place is home; so if they can survive then surely you can. I asked Ted how he motivates himself when things do go awry and he simply replied; “There’s always tomorrow”, before going on to explain that you don’t really need to motivate yourself as the wonder of life is motivation enough.
Despite being only 42, at the time his contemporaries were sat around by the fire with pipe and slippers thumbing through the Sunday papers, so there were some eyebrows raised at his plans to undertake the trip, but as Ted explains; “If you ever do anything different there will always be people who try to tell you to be content with what you’ve got”. When asked why he chose to undertake such a venture Ted simply answered how he used to scarcely understand why everyone didn’t want to do so.
In 2001 Ted retraced his steps, once more taking a motorcycle around the world. He was able to compare the developments and regressions of the countries along his route, witnessing first-hand how the political, economic and environmental landscape of the world changed over a quarter of a century.
At the ripe old age of 69 Ted was a little less over-prepared this time, though did think to bring a GPS (don’t let him hear you call it a Sat-Nav which apparently sounds like something you put in your toilet). He found the GPS unreliable for the purposes he required and was happy when it finally got lost, falling from his bike. Ted then goes on to assure that nowadays you don’t need to bring more than a toothbrush and credit card, explaining that “All these gadgets that tell you what to do & save you from trouble mean the less often you have to stop to ask for help & directions & the less interesting your journey becomes. Ideally you want to have a bike that breaks down all the time and have no idea where you’re going, Then you have a terrific time”. Surely the man deserves his face carved into a mountainside for that wisdom alone? Failing that they should name a road after him.
Ted’s most recent trip has seen him return to the British Isles; one last trip revisiting the land of his youth and taking in parts of the UK he’d not visited before. I asked Ted if it is possible to find adventure in Britain and he gave a wholehearted affirmation using the justification that you didn’t have to venture far from the motorways and A-roads to find a bit of countryside which has changed little in the past hundred years. Two wrong turns and there is adventure all around you.
I asked Ted if this was definitely his last trip and he wistfully confesses that Avon had offered him free tyres if he ever wanted to travel around the world by wheelchair.
So there you have it. Ted Simon, a true living legend. Give this man the respect he deserves and be inspired; go out and buy a motorbike - nothing too big, perhaps a Honda C-90? if you can’t get a motorbike a bicycle will do. When you’ve got your bike go out and ride it as far as you can; get lost, fall off, break down, then get back on and keep going.
You can buy Ted's splendid books, Jupiter's Travels, Dreaming of Jupiter and his new book Rolling Through the Isles from any self respecting bookshop both in the virtual and tangible worlds, why not order a copy while you're planning your next trip?
Iran is regularly cited by Mongol Rally teams as one of the most friendly countries they pass through but road rage and temper tantrums are a global, if rather unfortunate, human trait. In 2011 a team driving through Tehran stumbled across a spicy exchange on a city highway and took some shocking photos of a truck driver's ever-so-slightly disproportionate reaction to being clipped by a car.
Here's Andrew from Team Follow the Ambulance's
"People reversing full speed the wrong way up a carriageway, cross-roads and roundabouts were a destruction derby. We gave our emergency sirens an urban debut and only entered a red light into five lanes of oncoming traffic once. We survived and what a driving experience it was." they wrote on their blog.
Pre-incident the team spot a gaggle of angry looking men in the distance:
This is what they saw as they approached the group of chaps engaged in an enthusiastic disagreement:
"It appeared that the driver of a truck had become rather unhappy that the car behind had clipped the back of his vehicle" explains Andrew. "The truck was unscathed, but the car had lost it's bumper. It then lost its windows as the crazed truck driver leapt to olympic height to smash them with his feet. It was like the character Dhalsim from Street Fighter on the Nintendo."
Full marks for the dismount, the angry jumpy chap lands with grace to return to the ongoing discussion having made his position fairly clear:
Andrew continues the story: "They then exchanged blows before wrestling to the ground. Co-driver Keith snapped these amazing shots but not wishing to get involved in this one, we chugged on into the Iranian countryside towards Turkmenistan where more chaos awaited."
The team continue their journey through Tehran and onwards towards Mongolia:
Have you witnessed any unfortunate or shocking incidents on the road? Tell us your tale in the comments section down below...