India – Day 4 – Chennai to Tirupati

Chennai to Tirapati
Today: 156.4 km
Total: 183 km
36 degrees Celsius, some clouds, mostly sunny

Today we set off early, from Chennai, heading for Tirupati (pronounced as ‘Trpti’ by the locals and Armand). In Chennai there was heavy trafic. Once outside of Chennai, the roads became quieter.  We took scenic route, the first half hour on a university campus, after that on an unpaved road which got smaller and smaller. At a crossroad we mis-guessed and ended up getting stuck in the mud. After some pushing we were able to turn the rickshaws around, drove back to the crossroad and took the other, correct, dirt road.

In the next village a special agent pulled us over and asked Armand for a passport and visa. Apparently, the village was off limits for us, so we turned around and took a different way to Tirupati.

Half way one rickshaw all of a sudden had a very sporty sound, the exhaust had fallen off. Some guy welded it and half an hour later we were on the road again. It’s amazing all breakdowns get fixed so easily. Which is nice, because we probably need that more often, as indeed became true as somewhere during the afternoon one rickshaws breaks stopped working. In the evening, after arriving in Tirupati and finding a hotel we split up. Mitch and Tom searched for a repair shop to get the brakes fixed. On the way, the engine stopped working. Some local guy did some magic with the spark plug and we were running again. In the repair shop the brakes were fixed. One was full of water, all were cleaned. That did the trick. 8 people were working and/or hanging around the rickshaw for over an hour. The bill: 100 rupees, which is about € 1,42.

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In the meanwhile Erik and Armand were arranging roof racks which we can close with a lock, allowing us to leave our big bag packs with the rickshaws if we are going to see some touristic stuff. The guy in the shop told us to go to another shop, where they could fix it. His brother-in-law drove in front of us to the shop, while we raced behind him. At the second shop, they made a plan… all in Hindi. The only English speaking guy said it would be fine, and left to his own shop. They didn’t have the right key to remove the roof racks. So we had to go to a third shop for the right key. After two hours of welding, the shop delivered two metal wire boxes, with a hinge to lock it, on top of our rickshaws.

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India – Day 3 – Welcome to India

Chennai
Today: 27 km
Total: 27 km
36 degrees Celsius, mostly sunny

With a delay of one hour we landed in Delhi at 4 AM and picked up our luggage. We had an Air India flight from Delhi to Chennai. Air India took care of us in a very efficient way. So soon we checked in, luggage dropped and ready at the gate. Our flight left around 7 AM. Indian breakfast :), pick up luggage, taxi to rickshaw location. And finally, after little over 48 hours of travel time, our adventure could start.

At the garage we were welcomed by the friendly Princely who gave us instructions to stay save and handed over the papers and keys, making us the proud owners of 2, at first sight, well maintained rickshaws. After some test driving around the block for the basic rickshaw driving skills, we drove off, into the Indian jungle city of Chennai, one of Indias largests cities with almost 5 million people. All those 5 million people were also driving in the streets when we were heading for the city. Or so it seems.

After 2 kilometers we had our first breakdown. Helpful people immediately started opening up our engine unscrewing and re-screwing parts, until the problem was found. The spark plug was broken. Not a spark plug, but the spark plug. Rickshaws drive on one cylinder.

We get a lot of enthusiastic smiles, comments, people waving. Already a dozen times people were filming us or took pictures. Four tourists driving the rickshaws themselves seems to be a remarkable view. If we tell them we are heading for Delhi, they simply don’t understand.

The remainder of the day we filled with finding a hotel, groceries and dinner in the hotel, because Erik was too lazy to go anywhere else.

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Our rickshaws

India – Day 2 – Hotel room / prison break

After we were locked up in the hotel yesterday we were hungry. Burgers and beer for midnight snacks. The only thing to do today was sleep, shower, sleep, watch some Russian tv, until we were finally brought back to the airport for our flight to Delhi. Again a delay. This time the delay was small enough to still get us in time in Delhi for our flight to Chennai. The flight left around 8:30. The rest of the night we were flying to Delhi.

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Midnight snack

India – Day 1 – From Russia with love

Our first day of traveling ended quite frustrating. Already at Schiphol airport our flight to Moscow was delayed. A small delay would not be too big of a problem. But when the delay increased, due to technical problems with the plane, we were almost certain to miss our connecting flight from Moscow to Delhi and as a result also our follow up flight to Chennai. The little chance we had was in the weather conditions in Moscow. Because of the bad weather there was a chance, we might still make our connection. Unfortunately we didn’t. Aeroflot did not transfer us to another flight of one of the Sky Team partners. They only gave us boarding passes for the same flight, one day later. That’s a 24 hour delay. Because we didn’t have Russian visa, applying for one takes a week, and there was no way to get an urgent visa, we were locked up in a hotel close to the airport. And with locked up, I mean locked up. There was a special wing of the hotel for us and other stranded people. We could only stay in our rooms and were escorted to a meeting room for breakfast and lunch. There was no hotel staff, only security. To get to the hotel we Aeroflot arranged a bus. After a three hour wait, the bus finally arrived to take us on the five minute ride to the hotel. Beause we arrived after midnight no food was available anymore. Or did the bus arrive so late, so they didn’t have to supply us with dinner?

Anyway, not the best traveling day ever. Specially not with the full day of waiting in the hotel ahead of us. But shit happens, we lost a day of traveling in India and have room in our trip for things to go wrong.

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Endlessly waiting for a bus to the hotel/prison.

India by rickshaw – the plan

Visa: check
Plane tickets: check
Vaccinations *: check
Rickshaw arrangements: check

*Vaccinations: Hepatitus A, Hepatitatus B, typhoid, rabies, difteria, tetanis, polio.

In a couple of weeks we (Armand, Erik, Mitch and me) will be traveling in India, for a month, in an auto-rickshaw, or, as we call it in The Netherlands, tuk tuk. The auto-rickshaw is the local transport in India, very suitable for short taxi rides in the city. But we are taking two rickshaws across the country. Why rickshaws and not public transport or a rental car? It’s great to have your own transport and the rickshaw is a heavily used local mode of transport, which makes it cool.

We will fly into Delhi and fly onwards to Chennai after a couple of hours. So we will visit Delhi at the end of our holiday, before flying home. In Chennai two rickshaws are waiting for us, to start our tour. From Chennai we will be traveling west, across India, then north towards Rajasthan. Along the way we will be doing a day of voluntary work, hope to see some wildlife parks, Bollywood movies, temples, forts, Indian cuisine and whatever else will cross our paths. During our stay we will be visiting Bombay, Jaipur, Jodphur, Jaisalmer, Agra, Delhi and much more.

Chennai  Tamil Nadu  India to New Delhi  India   Google Maps
Our baseline plan