Posted by: lfieldsnbose | February 24, 2012

What were the challenges?

Ok…some folks have asked about the kind of challenges we had to do along the way, so here you go…

A couple of days we didn’t have any challenges, but days on which we had challenges, a recurring theme was to fill up gas (petrol) at a gas station on the way or sometimes two stops on the same day!  Some were tricky – names of the vendors had changed or there were no sign boards, so you had to ask around.

On our way from Pondicherry to Thanjavur, we had a set of challenges in Cuddalore (silver beach?) and some questions to answer at the Vaideeswaran temple.

On our way to Kanyakumari, we had an interesting challenge – to find the Panaikudi police station, and identify the unique thing about that police station.

Not sure if any of these challenges were even scored by the organizers, but we turned in our sheets at the end of every day.  Never saw a scorecard for the trip, but the challenges were fun!




It all started with a round of scotch…a couple of years ago.  We raised a glass of scotch and agreed to participate in a crazy adventure known as the Autorickshaw Challenge – we didn’t have too many details, but it sounded cool and we figured it would be a fun adventure!

Riding a three wheeled contraption through parts of India?  Let’s blame it on the scotch.  We picked the Classic Run – Chennai to Kanyakumari (Poovar), but we weren’t sure which year we would do it!  2010? 2011? 2012?  We gave 2010 a pass, so that we had additional time to plan and guess 2011 was the year.

Planning phase: May/June through December 2011

Visas, vaccinations, trip logistics, blah blah blah….check

In addition to having fun, how about we give back to the community as part of this ride as well?  Brilliant idea, but how do go about doing it?

We came up with the idea of raising funds for two charities so that we can buy two new autorickshaws for them and donate it to them after the ride?  Great idea!  Next  up – which charity? And how do we make this work?

A bunch of charities came to mind, and we sent out random emails to gather their interest in partnering with us.  Not a lot of luck in terms of positive responses.  Finally it clicked – Udavum Karangal and Rotary Club of Ashok Nagar responded favorably.  During one of my trips to India in October, I stopped by both the offices of Udavum Karangal and met with Mr. Vidyaakar.  A very pleasant and welcoming person, he was very interested in moving forward with our idea.  He felt they could use the rickshaw on a daily basis and that it would fill one of their needs. First partnership….check!

Thanks for my dad’s efforts, Rotary Club of Ashok Nagar was also quite keen on joining hands with us. A rickshaw would help the club’s activities – the school work and possibly even with the polio campaigns.  Second partnership…check!

How much is an autorickshaw anyways?  Well, that was the next stop – my dad and I stopped by the dealership and enquired about prices, delivery times and booking processes. I guess there is a lot of demand for these three-wheeled contraptions…they cost you Rupees 150,000 (approx. $3000) and take 3-4 weeks to be delivered.  That meant we had to make the bookings by mid-November, so we could take possession of them by mid-December.  Big decision – do we commit to raising the $3000 each for the charities?

November team huddles

Team Seattle was convinced that we should commit to raising funds for the charities.  Minor details remained – how? What kind of a fundraiser? Can we do it on time?

Meanwhile, everyone was making progress on buying their air-tickets (except Lea of course).  What do we call our teams?  Blink and we’ll be Gone Dhi?  Tuk and Roll?  We needed two names since we had two entries in the challenge.  We have a winner – To Tuk n Roll and Tuk and Roll Too.

What about the fundraising?  We decided to do it in three parts – online through a website like Just Give, a fundraiser dinner and use our trivia team’s support.  Thanks to Jeremy, we had a Just Give website set up and we reached out to friends and family with a fundraiser email.  Udayan took the lead on the fundraiser dinner – Mohammed (Bengal Tiger) responded extremely favorably, and sounded like we had an eager partner in helping us host this fundraiser.

Sponsorships – while we are at it, can we also try and secure some sponsorship from some corporate entities for our insane adventure?  Why not?

Where do we start?  Divide and conquer.  Everyone started reaching out to their contacts and cast a wide net to see if there was any potential interest.  Will anyone bite?  Guess we were lucky – Jeremy and Kelly secured a commitment from Zimmer; Trudy secured a commitment from her sister’s Jeep club in WA.  We were extremely encouraged by this.  I contacted a dozen or so companies and organizations (cold calls one could say) – one negative response and eleven emails lost in cyberspace!

Thanks to friends and family!

Our team is extremely grateful to all our friends and family who stepped up to contribute towards both the charities and our cause.  Within a matter of one month, we had exceeded our goal of raising at least $4000 each for the charities.  In fact, we ended up raising nearly $6000 for Udavum Karangal.  A BIG THANK YOU to everyone for helping us make this happen.

Charity fundraiser

Due to a work trip I couldn’t be present in Seattle on the day of the fundraiser.  The entire team worked hard to plan this event – flyers, tickets, raffles, prizes, food, beer and most importantly coordinating with Mohammed.

It sounded like I missed a fun night!

Progress on purchasing the rickshaws

My dad had made the deposit by mid-November, and our rickshaw orders were placed.  We wait patiently to hear back from the dealership…

Update as of December 1, 2011

Team Tuk n Roll’s travel plans were all confirmed (including Lea’s).  Yay!  Additional sponsorships secured from Kingfisher and Chennai Super Kings!  Thanks to Ramnika’s efforts and connections, we secured a commitment from Kingfisher – the king of good times!  My dad helped out again, and was able to help us out with the Chennai Super Kings outreach.  Was I delighted to hear that they were committing to supporting our team’s efforts as well?  Fundraising goals met for our two charities. What’s left? Arrive in India and have fun J

I landed in India (Kolkata) on December 13th, 2011 for a work meeting, and officially my vacation started on the 16th of December.  Vacation…well sort of.  We still needed to get the rickshaws from the dealership, have them registered, get the sponsor’s designs and have the rickshaws painted per the sponsor’s design and have them ready for the training on 29th of December.  All of this needed to happen in 13 days!  In India…things take time to happen, but they will happen if you play it right.

Team shirts

Thanks for Kelly and her brother (who designed it), we got some snazzy shirts made for the team.  Lea is happy that they are in U of Oregon colors.  We look official!

Think OPN

A dynamic team of Mr. Chocka and Ms. Bala met me for coffee the week I landed in Chennai.  Think OPN is the creative agency for CSK.  Thanks to their input on the design and artwork for the rickshaw, we were able to get a detailed design and artwork ready for the CSK rickshaw.  They arranged for CSK jerseys for our team members and fan jerseys for the girls as well.

Team Tuk n Roll trickles in to Chennai

Lea landed on the 25th.  Dave, Trudy and Udayan touched down on the 28th.  Kelly and Jeremy arrived by train on the 29th morning.

Our flat in Chennai was chosen as the team pad in Chennai.  My parents had gotten the place ready for us, and with Lea’s help we got the guest bedrooms set up as well.  My mom had even arranged for a person to come by every afternoon to cook us some delicious rotis, sabzi and daal.  All systems were a GO!

Udayan had a consulate appointment on the 28th morning, so my dad, Dave and I dropped him off on our way to Udavum Karangal (to finalize our site visit, pick up autorickshaw documents and lease agreement).  Following our brief meeting with Mr. Vidyaakar, we made another hike out to Thirumullaivoyal to check on the status of the rickshaw painting.  We had one day before training, so we figured the rickshaws would be almost ready….guess we were in for a surprise.  After a long journey (nearly 1 hr from Udavum Karangal) we reached Chennai Garage to find out that not only were they not ready yet, BOTH the rickshaws were painted in the same Yellow color (guess it is cheaper to buy one color and use it for both?).  In spite of repeated calls, emails, queries regarding the design….this is what we have 24 hrs before the training.  The light yellow works for the Kingfisher auto, but the Chennai Super Kings color was completely off.

The evening party at the club was a welcome treat!  We cooled off with some Kingfishers, good company and delicious food at the Alumni Club.

29th of December – the practice riot!

An early start to the day – for some reason, I always enjoy going to the train station (Madras Central).  Perhaps it is the fond memories of leaving on a vacation as a kid; perhaps it is the ability to see and hear the crowds either looking forward to their trip or waiting for their family/friends.  This time around, we headed out to pick up Kelly and Jeremy who arrived by the Hyderabad Express at around 7 am.  Raju(my brother’s father in law) was kind enough to drive Kelly and Jeremy home, while my dad and I set out on the mission to make sure the Chennai Super Kings rickshaw was painted the right color.  How hard is it to get the color right?  Well…in this case it took several tries!  Thanks to Mr. Rengarajan, we seemed to have winner, and hopefully have the CSK rickshaw completed by the 30th evening.  This meant we were going to have just one rickshaw for the practice day.  One is better than none, right?

It was pouring cats and dogs, but we set out to the training facility to test our driving skills.  You have to see some videos to really appreciate the crazy weather under which we were “practicing”.  We took turns to ride the Kingfisher rickshaw.  If you see the pictures or the videos, it might not look like the Kingfisher rickshaw.  It was still lacking the stickers and artwork, but we were glad we had a rickshaw to practice.  Practice makes perfect….yes, but the motivation to stand outside in a Chennai cyclone and take turns to drive the rickshaw was fast disappearing.  Thankfully, the rain gods took pity on us and took some breaks.  All in all…we were completely soaked, cold, and couldn’t wait to be indoors, but there was one thing that kept us going…we better get comfortable riding this contraption otherwise the next 7 days were going to be extremely tough!

We were impressed with the teams who drove back (in the pouring rain) from the practice facility to the event hotel!

The organizers had planned for a kick-off party at a new club that evening, and in spite of the rains and strong winds, we had an excellent turn out.  We got a chance to meet some of the other teams, and enjoy some cold, refreshing Kingfishers!  Tomorrow is going to be a long day, but we are all excited about the visit to Udavum Karangal’s facility in Thiruverkadu.

30th of December – visit to Udavum Karangal and the press meet!

An early morning start in order to make it to Udavum Karangal and back in time for the press meet.  The visit to Mr. Vidyaakar’s Udavum Karangal facility was definitely one of the highlights of the trip!  We had picked up some pens, pencils, erasers, etc. for the kids the night before and made an emergency stop at a roadside shop on our way to Shanthivanam to pick up chocolates.  Glad we did!  We were greeted by a lot of cheerful kids…and we were glad we didn’t disappoint them with just pencils and pens.

Press meet

Surprisingly…we were one of the first teams to arrive!  Started chatting with some of the press folks from The Hindu, Ananda Vikatan, etc. and shared our thoughts on why we are doing this? Our fundraising activities, etc.  It turned out the adventure that the girls were embarking on (road trip across Pondicherry, Karnataka and Kerala) sounded more interesting to The Hindu reporter!

Photo shoot



Later in the evening we stopped by the event hotel to check on the status of the rickshaws – still no sign of the Chennai Super Kings rickshaw!  It was almost 7:30 pm, and we hadn’t seen the second rickshaw (flag off was around 8 AM on the 31st), so the vendors were definitely pushing the limits.  As we were about to leave the hotel, we heard that the rickshaw had arrived at the hotel – excited? Yes.  Anxious to see what it looked like – of course!  Thankfully, the yellow was the right shade (Thank god!) and they had gotten ALMOST everything right.  As a back-up measure, my dad and I had contacted one of his friends and arranged for a second set of design stickers made in the evening (say last minute, this sure was a last minute effort).  Looked like we didn’t have a need for them, but we were glad we had a back-up plan which could kick in, if needed.

Off to Trudy’s birthday dinner with a peace of mind that BOTH our rickshaws would be ready for the flag off tomorrow (31st December).

Flag off on December 31st

The day had arrived…were we ready?  Guess we will find out!  Dave’s posts capture our adventures through the 7-8 days.  2011 was coming to an end on an adventurous note 🙂

Reflections on my month long visit in India – these are just observations, and not meant to be criticisms or a vent fest

The bird and the cow

As we rode through nearly 2500 km (Chennai to Poovar and back to Chennai), one thing that struck me was the symbiotic relationship between cows and birds, but it was always one bird on the back of a cow – guess there are some unwritten rules that birds share!

The Indian newspaper

Recycling at its best!  Your paper doesn’t belong to you…even better, you don’t have to buy one at the newsstand – just take a seat next to a person who is reading one!

Lanes of traffic

This worked to our advantage as well during the rickshaw ride.  Lanes are an imaginary concept – get creative!  “Might is right” in most cases.

Purchasing an autorickshaw

If you can avoid it, please DO.  Even if you do, please do not buy it from Khivraj Motors in Chennai!  The customer is never right, and they are doing you a huge favor by selling you a private autorickshaw.  Guess this is a good reality check on the supply/demand concept.

Lufthansa and “good service” don’t go hand in hand

What is up with Lufthansa and service? Well this is a vent post.  Why is it hard for Lufthansa crews to provide good service?  Is it hard to smile when you bring out the meals?  If I could shake away my allegiance to Star Alliance, I wouldn’t have to answer this question every time I fly this airline.  Guess a nice scotch could help me calm down? Wait…perhaps I shouldn’t do it, since this all started with a glass of scotch!

Till the next adventure…so long.

p.s. India is a fascinating country (yes, I am biased), and tough to cover in a few weeks or a month.  A tuk tuk (autorickshaw) slows down your progress (in terms of time), but try it out – you will cover more ground than you think you would driving a three wheeler at 30 kilometers an hour!


Posted by: dalefaio | January 12, 2012

Home Stretch – Kanyakumari to Trivandrum

We finished.

I wish that I could say that we had tons of struggles and breakdowns to overcome along the way but we really didn’t.  We finished strong each and every day.  We played nice, as did everyone of the happy-go-lucky, free spirited teams involved in the Classic Run, and we completed a great eight days on the bumpy, dusty, winding, goat/dog/cow/water buffalo filled roads of Tamil Nadu.

All 15 teams convoyed out of the beachfront hotel at Kanyakumari for an 80 KM drive to Trivandrum.  About 15 KM down the road, we hit a major traffic jam as thousands of people coming by bus, motorbike, car, foot, and every other mode of transport amassed for temple.  After navigating through that brief delay, Team Tuk and Roll sort of leapfrogged with teams: The Big Gulab Jamun, and The Double Chennais I and II.

If any of you ladies out there want to unleash your inner Thelma and Louise talk to the Aussie gals that made up The Double Chennais.  I won’t get myself in too much trouble by guessing their age but in the conversations that I had with them they were not too shy about sagging body parts, the years piling up, and the need to live life in the now.  The five ladies from Perth who made up these teams are part of a book club who got a wild hair one night, busted out some bubbly, made an oath/toast, and went to India to rally in autorickshaw.  You couldn’t miss them driving down the road in their pink boas.  They were really fun to share the road and a beer or two with and added an extra layer of fun for everyone.

We crossed the state border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala about 20 KM from the finish line and then coasted the rest of the way.  It took about an hour and a half for a couple of stragglers to cross the line as bad directions and a faulty engine slowed them down.  After a brief party, it was time for the award ceremony.

Winning the Bonkers Prize for being the biggest goof balls all week were the guys of Team Fat Boy Slim: Barry and Simon two really hilarious guys from the UK and Ireland.

First place which was tabulated on the team scoring the most points by completing challenges along the way was the Gulab Jamun guys from Boston: Tim, TIm, and Dave.

And, winning the prize for making the biggest charitable donation, none other than the boys of To Tuk and Roll (me and Udayan) and Tuk and Roll Too (Bose, Jeremy).

This was a great adventure, one that has been in the planning for two and a half years, and a once in a lifetime thing that the four of us will always remember.  India is a perplexing place.  Soiled yet pure, these are some of the words that came to mind in our trek:

bobbles   jumbled   wild   civilized  polluted   fragrant   congested   cooperative   organized chaos   polite   gods for all purposes   curious   hawkers   brown   baffling   menial   connected   humid   languid   bustling   beautiful   smiling   unassuming   chai   photogenic  bovine   bursting   Kolavari   cricket   rupees   rickshaws   temples   resourceful   yes men   curious   bountiful   impoverished

I’m sure I’ll come back here one day but the possibility that the next trip will measure up to this one does not exist.

Tuk and Roll has left the sub continent.




Posted by: dalefaio | January 11, 2012

Leg 6 – Courtallam to Kanyakumari

One of the ongoing challenges that the teams were given during the rally was to get photographs with featuring team members posing with some of the owners of southern India’s finest mustaches.  The Tuk and Rollers were up to the challenge and found quite a few fellas sporting bumper crops of whiskers on their upper lips.

The day’s drive between towns was only about 120 KM but including finding the answers to the day’s challenges, which involved a detour deep into hilly, humid jungle terrain surrounding Coutrallam, the addition to the odometer measured somewhere around 180 KM.  We traveled up through a tiger reserve (didn’t see any tigers, and not sure we wanted to since they roam freely and our little tuk tuk packs a whooping 7 HP with which to keep us from becoming a happy meal for a big cat).  We visited a temple high in the hills.  We didn’t venture inside but it had a very surreal quality to it as the chanting coming from within was at full throat and coupled with the mountainous surroundings and cascading run off flowing rapidly through the nearby creek, this place conjured up a snap shot of India that could have been from a hundred years or so in the past.

We wound our way back down the hill across the valley and then up the other side to visit and take a quick shower in a waterfall.  Monkeys watched our every move and pillaged rickshaws four fingering any and everything they could get their little monkey hands on.  They snagged a two liter bottle of pop out of one team’s rickshaw climbed a tree and from 30 feet above shared it with each other and spilled some of it on us just for monkey laughs.  They even tried to take the key out of one team’s ignition.

After coming out of the mountains and pointing south, we had maybe 80 KM to go to reach the finish line.  The rest of the drive was through fields of banana trees, rice paddies, and a pretty sizable wind farm which was very close to the coastal city that was to be our rest stop for the night.  Our last challenge was to stop in a town that was 22KM from Kanyakumari and to ask someone what the department was known for.  At first, the answer we got was shrugged shoulders.  “Are you sure there’s nothing unusual,” we asked once again just to be sure.  All of a sudden about four officers realized what we were talking about, craned their necks, and pointed up.  In the large tree in front of the station and above our heads, there were bats, about 200 of them.  They told us that the bats hang out in the tree all day, and leave every night aroun 8 PM.

We got on the highway and raced the sun hoping to catch sunset at our destination which is a medium sized seaside town.  We cranked the rickshaw up to about 70 KM which is about where we topped out for the week.  Despite our efforts we missed the sun’s exit by about five minutes.  It was okay though, we met up in the hotel bar to share a beer and some happy hour snacks (mushroom Manchurian, Chicken 65) with a few other teams.  We rolled the odometer past 1000 KM today and are all set for tomorrow’s drive to the finish line.

Tuk and Roll!!!



Posted by: dalefaio | January 10, 2012

Leg 5 – Tuticorin to Courtrallam

We started off the day with a group photo session including all 15 teams and the mayor of Tuticorin.  After the mayor and her staff adorned us with colorful scarves, we saddled up and prepared to head out.  Team Tuk and Roll had picked this day to dress in theme with our garb being that of the typical rickshaw driver.  The get up included:  dohtis, tuk and roll t-shirts, brown rickshaw uniform shirt, head wraps, bidis (the tobacco of choice), and even, the ubiquitous folded up newspaper under the arm.

D & U sporting the uniforms

We stopped for a tour of coconut oil processing factory where Bose took part of his sample bottle and rubbed it into my scalp in hopes that it would further my tan/lessen sunburn.  After that it was on to a plantation where all 15 teams were treated to a feast of a lunch after first sampling on a wide variety of exotic fruits including: star fruit (dipped in chili powder), jack fruit, and custard apple.  With a good meal under our belts, it was back in the rigs for the drvie to Courtrallam.

This drive took us west and inland and the terrain gradually changed as we left the coast and headed into lush, green hilly landscape.  Along the way, our timing was good and we caught a lot of kids heading home from school.  We had stocked up with heaps of candy the night before and we made it rain sugary treats every time we passed big clusters of kids.  When we stopped for petrol along the way today, one of the gas station attendants asked me for some candy, another guy asked us along the way if he could have a pen.  We gave away: stickers, Red Bull, and pretty much anything else that we had to offer and always received a sincere thanks and a big smile.

Bose put his Tamil to good use as at one point we stopped to chat up a cop and give him some candy.  Bose gave the cop a big bag full of candy and asked him to pull over any teams that passed along the way, grill ’em a little bit, make them sweat, and then ask them if they wanted some candy.  Unfortunatley, it didn’t seem like anyone got snagged in the dragnet but it was worth the try.

After reaching the finish line, and getting settled in at the little cluster of cabins in the middle of the junble that made up the resort that was our resting spot for the evening, we headed into town for a place that was highly recommended as a must-see eating attraction.  The place in town translated to “Border Cafe” aka “The Truckstop.”  The things that we were told about this place is that they basically serve one meal, all the time: chicken and bread and that it was kind of rough beyond the edges.  As we walked up to the place which had kind light blue colored walls, fluorescent lights, an open store front, a grill on the sidewalk to fry bread on, and massive grilling operation on one side, we saw another team exiting.  We asked the guys how it was (both of these guys were from the US but are of Indian descent and have spent a fair amount of time in the country).  Their words were “kind of daunting but the food was really good.”

What’s daunting?  There are about eight kind of shady looking guys walking around with stainless steel bowls full of steaming hot, grilled bird carcass (chicken… this is not your “Colonel’s chicken that I’m talking about, and quail) another guy with rice, and then there’s the bread guy.  They bark at you and ask if you want something from each bowl, give you one piece if you say no, and two or three if you say yes.  You get more barks or glares if you don’t eat fast enough.  Bose asked for an omelet and soon was served a big plate of scramble with the rest of us also getting in on the action.  One guy started berating Udayan because he wasn’t applying the correct technique in using his crispy bread (think taco shell) to scoop up eggs, rice, and chicken.  So the guy picks up Udayan’s piece of bread crushes it in his hand, and then smashes it in his food and mixes it around a little.  We all got a good laugh out of that, and nobody slowed down eating one bit.

After a night cap of a warm Kingfisher and a room tempartune Bacardi and Pepsi (the first thing I’m eating when I get home is a big bowl of ice cubes because there are none to be found in India) back at the villa with a few other participants, it was off to bed.

Tuk and Roll!!!


Posted by: dalefaio | January 7, 2012

Leg 4 – Madurai to Tuticorin

This one was pretty straightforward as far as the drive goes with most of the 100 some odd KMs on the highway.  We got into Tuticroin in the mid afternoon and hustled around to find the answers to our challenges.  Tuticorin is a mid-sized fishing town (about 20oK) located in the far southern reaches of Tamil Nadu.  We sampled a little of the fish for lunch and it was delicious.  Cooked similar to the fish that we got at Puthur Mess, it was red with chili paste and judging from the shape of the steak was probably something similar to a mackerel.

The sites where we found the answers were, in name at least, as diametrically opposed as you can get.

–  What color is the ceiling at The Lady of the Snows Church?  And, who built it?

–  Find “Hitler’s Tea Stall?  Why the Hitler reference in southern India?  According to the chaiwala manning the stand when we snapped our pictures, “Hitler was a strong man, and we make strong tea.”  Okay… Gandhi was a strong man but maybe somebody already grabbed that name.

Dave in front of Hitler's Tea Stall

After checking in, we headed to the hotel’s permit room which was very dimly lit with red interiors.  After a couple of Vorion 6000 Super Strong beers and putting in a room service order, we chilled a little and then headed out for a night on the town “Tuticorin style.”  There are some things that you just know by first sight, sound, or smell.  It’s not because of anything that  your mom, dad, kindergarten teacher, or tour guide told you.  You just know.   The local bar where we went for our rounds of Old Monk and Pepsis was one of those places.  We walked into a dimly lit doorway, the Tamil speaking members of our party said a couple of words, an uneven looking guy pointed kind of upwards, we walked around a corner, up three flights of stairs in kind of a triangular configuration, and ended up on a rooftop that looked like its last power wash came sometime around never.  We pulled up a grimy table, some plastic chairs, and sat down down to drink two doubles each.  There was another table of locals besides us.  But other than that it was just us having a nice chat in sort of post-apocalyptic surroundings.  It was awesome!  This is the kind of place that I wanted to see in India.  The type of place where only the locals went.  It was way south of no frills, it was more likely anti-frills.

After a night cap at the Gymnasium Club where Jeremy made some new friends on the way to the bathroom, we wandered home through the late night streets and called it a night after a bite to eat (sambar, gobi masala, rice, and baratha).

Next stop, the lush hilly town of Courtallam.

Tuk and Roll


Posted by: dalefaio | January 4, 2012

Tunes to Tour By

Play On Daily rolls into leg 5 of the Classic Challenge tomorrow.

Here’s Play On Daily’s driving music of the day.

“Motorcycle Drive By”

Tuk and Roll






Posted by: dalefaio | January 4, 2012

Thanjavur to Madurai – Leg 3

Yesterday morning, Team Tuk and Roll headed out of Thanjavur on a 207 KM run to Madurai but not without first stopping at the temple in Thanjavur which some simply refer to as “The Big Temple.”  This temple was built by RajaRaja Chola I in 1010 and was constructed from granite.  The vision for the temple came to RajaRaja, who was a Tamil emperor, in a dream and stands true as a massive monument to what was the throne and the central place for the Cholas to woship their deity, Shiva.

After finding the answers to our challenge questions at the temple, it was time to head down the road to Madurai.  Along the way, we stopped at Thirumayam Fort which is built from massive slabs of rock and granite and has a sweeping 360 degree view.  In the middle of the fort there is a raised platform of about two stories with a cannon atop of it that made for good photo ops for the teams participating in the race.

On the way out, yes it is true, a monkey cornered us and demanded that we open one of our cans of Red Bull, set it on the ledge and slowly walk away.  We were scared!  Terrified even!  And so we complied and then proceeded to take a lot of pictures so that we would have plenty of evidence showing how ruthless this little dude looked.

After the fort, it was off to Madurai but not before a great Thali lunch and a quick photo op with the fellas at a nearby rickshaw stand.  Thali lunch for those who have not partaken, consists of heaps of rice, several types of curried (subzi in Hindi territory) vegetables:  spinach (although our version yesterday had an indigenous green that had a little more of that mild bitter that you get from mustard greens – delicious), coriander, tomato, sambar, with curd and yogurt all served on a banana leaf.  You start working all of the tasty sides into your pile of rice with the fingers of your right hand, get it globbed up into tasty spoonful heaps of goodness and shovel ’em into your mouth.  The attendants come by as often as you need them with little tripod holders with stainless steel pots and refill your leaf as often as you like (kind of a south Indian version of dim sum).  Yesterday’s meal plus a couple of bottles of water for the Tuk and Rollers came to about 200 rupees, or $4 USD.

Then it was on to Madurai.  The cruise into town took about two hours with a stop to check on a couple of other teams having mechanical difficulties, more photos with guys with awesome mustaches (and man are there a lot of those in this neck of the woods), and a stop for tea.  Getting tea down here is a really neat experience.  Everything local, strainers that look like they have been used maybe a couple thousand times, thatched shop fronts, plastic jars of sugary treats, and local folks who frankly give you a look at first that could be interpreted as the hairy eyeball but is more like “what’s up bro, haven’t seen you in awhile.”  We always get as many handshakes as we can handle, a few words of English, and a friendly wave when we jump in the rigs and cruise out of town.  The people down here are great.  Unassuming, welcoming, and pure, the interaction with the people here is what I am going to remember the most when this adventure is over.

We had an awesome dinner and dessert in Madurai at a couple of place that Bose had been jonesin’ for all day.  I don’t want to leave anything on the table in the interpretation so I’ll let Bose tackle that post if he likes.

Tuk and Roll!!!


Posted by: lfieldsnbose | January 4, 2012

Day 4 – Madurai to Tuticorin

Our day started with a visit to  Appar High School where we spent nearly an hour with the kids, and saw the work done by Round Table India (Madurai) and stayed for their morning school assembly.  Nearly 15 years since I was last in an assembly!  Fond memories…

Currently on the highway to Tuticorin (Yes, this blog post is live from the rickshaw).  Our destination for the day is Tuticorin and we are about 80 KM away. Hope to make it there for lunch.

Posted by: lfieldsnbose | January 4, 2012

Day 3 – Thanjavur to Madurai

We left Thanjavur at around 9:30 AM and reached Madurai close to 5 PM (covered nearly 180 kilometers).  Stopped at the Big temple, Pudukottai, Thirmayam fort, Thirupattur and Keelaiyur.  A detailed post and pics to follow…

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