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By Chelsea Kot
For Travel Writers' Tales

Anybody who has ever traveled to India will likely tell you that the subcontinent is a land of vivid contrasts, of extremes co-existing with one another, and a massive assault on the senses. India's population of over 1 billion people has given the country a negative reputation, but within the villages of the tropical countryside and along the streets of the busy cities lies the true essence of a land that is among the most exotic and intriguing countries on Earth.

And what better way to explore the sub-continent than in the driver's seat of Asia's most popular vehicle, the auto rickshaw?

The Rickshaw Challenge, a series of auto rickshaw events created, produced, and managed by Chennai Event Management Services, provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience for tourists from around the globe. The idea is to learn how to fuel and drive an auto rickshaw, then personally drive the vehicle from one point in India to another, completing a series of challenges along the way, each of them earning points that determine the final winner.

Currently, the Rickshaw Challenge events include the Malabar Rampage, the Tech Raid, the original Classic Run, and the popular Mumbai Xpress. Each of these events has unique routes of varied lengths, all beginning in Chennai, but each exploring a different aspect, theme, or characteristic of the diverse states and regions of India.

The Mumbai Xpress, for example, is a 1,900 kilometer adventure that takes participants across Tamil Nadu into the state of Karnataka, up the west coast of India into Goa, and further through the Western Ghats to Maharashtra, the richest state in India, with Mumbai as its capital. Along the route, which takes 12 days to complete by auto rickshaw, participants compete to accomplish a set of "challenges" that range from scavenger hunts and cultural observations (for example, photograph yourself with a cow on the road) to communicating with local people (ask them to direct you to a Nissan Hut in Karnataka).

But it's not just the Mumbai Xpress that contains challenges like this. As if driving these distances in an auto rickshaw is not challenging enough in itself, each of the routes of the Rickshaw Challenge contain daily adventures based on the topography, history, culture, or reputation of a particular location. By the flag down point on the final day, each of the participants are able to say with certainty that they have actually experienced India in all its variety, and that they wish they didn't have to go back home.

Accommodation along the route can be organized with Chennai Event Management Services and these range from local hostels with no air conditioning in hilltop stations veiled by monsoon rains, to the five-star J.W. Marriott of Mumbai. All habitations en route are considered part of the daily challenge, but regardless of where you rest your head, as a participant of the Rickshaw Challenge this is India often completely off the beaten track.

Mumbai Xpress, adventure, rally

Furthermore, the Rickshaw Challenge gives back to India. By working with Round Table India, a non-profit organization designed to provide educational opportunities for underprivileged children, participants do more than observe India. They get involved. Round Table India provides personal tours of their projects, especially those built under their "Freedom Through Education" initiative, which has set the foundation, built the facilities, and provided the resources necessary for Indian children to receive an education. Many past participants have initiated fund raising efforts before travelling to India while others have committed to efforts back home in order to support the cause.

One team of Mumbai Xpress participants from Australia, for example, purchased their auto rickshaw after the completion of the event with the intention of providing rides in Australia to residents for a small fee. This fee, in turn, was to be donated to Round Table India for children who would otherwise continue to live out their lives in slums with extremely limited opportunities.

rickshaw, Mumbai

This is the real India - the land of contrasts, where schools are built near slums, where the bright color of saris captures the eye as much as the dirty streets, and where the monsoon rains and seasonal droughts are the cycle of life. This is the land of sensual assaults, where the spices are authentic, the chai bittersweet, the noise constant, the silence deafening, and the smells bold. Anybody who has ever been to India will tell you, it's unlike anywhere else in the world. They're right.

And each event of the Rickshaw Challenge guarantees an experience that is just like India itself: raw and unforgettable.

Event URLs / More information:

Photo credits:
Photo 1: Andrew of team Crud Bug, photo by Chelsea Kot
Photo 2: Drive to Panaji, photo by Chelsea Kot
Photo 3: Edit of team Historic Racing, photo by Gabor Nemeth
Photo 4: Matt of team Crug Bug donates to RTI, photo by Chelsea Kot

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Mumbai Xpress


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