Starting point: Danam, Gujarat
Finishing point: Pen, Maharashtra
Distance covered today: ~300km
Total distance covered: ~1360km
Number of breakdowns: 0 (touch wood), but Robbie is labouring on the hills, rattles at 40kph, drifts to the right and his brake is unresponsive…it’s time for a service tomorrow morning
Danam to Pen via Mumbai…well now. 5 days ago we could barely start Robbie and 2nd gear felt like quite a challenge. Today we successfully navigated our way in soaring temperatures south through the suburbs of Mumbai. It was an epic example of graceful, feminine teamwork. We smugly glided by frazzled looking learner drivers (yes, they have motoring schools in India…we were shocked too). We are pros now.
As we drove deeper into Maharashtra, past the urban sprawl of the Mumbai metropolis, monotone motorways and industrial grey gave way to lush green, pink Bougainvilleas and monkeys playing along the roadside. And it’s steamy hot. Everything seems more relaxed. Life a little slower. Vehicle horns a little softer. Cows in the road more accommodating. The beaches of Goa are tantalisingly close. Hello South India. We’ve arrived and we’re happy to be here.
Moment of the Day
After the exhausting experience of finding our way through Mumbai and a forgettable encounter with a place called Panvel, we were just about to turn off the motorway onto a much gentler A road towards Panjim, Goa. But we overshot and missed the turn. This happens a lot. Road signage in India is haphazard. It’s not generally a problem though, as U-turns in the middle of a busy junction and driving the wrong way up the carriageway are all perfectly acceptable. When in Rome.
We were about to perform both of these legal/illegal manoeuvres when a man in a Maharati police uniform approached. We’ve been flagged down many times over the last few days by men in official uniforms and have learnt from bitter experience that they just want to ask which country we’re from and take our photo. We weren’t in the mood. But this man was insistent that we go to his checkpoint so we smiled sweetly and agreed.
There was some confusion and a lot of talking. One of the only pieces of advice offered to us by the Adventurists, the organisers of the Rickshaw Run, was that if you’re stopped by the police, the best way to avoid having to pay a bribe is to confuse them by talking so much. Erica made a sterling effort to do just this. She confused us all and herself.
In the end we worked out that the police wanted to see our ‘Pollution Control Certificate’. Relieved, we found this in the bottom of our vehicle documents wallet. It expired in October 2013. Welcome to India.
The police wanted to check the emissions coming from Robbie’s bottom. 6 officers dressed in dusty-as-white uniforms and aviators, looking like extras in Top Gun, stood by and watched us struggle to push our ‘shaw into position. They then stuck a rod up his exhaust pipe and came to the conclusion that his emissions consisted of 20% oxygen and 0% CO2. Strange considering that he’s burning around 10 litres of petrol a day. But he passed! Welcome to India.
Before we were allowed to leave, there was the requisite photo call, both group shots and each of us individually posing holding a red rose while being presented with our new Pollution Control Certificate. The police men then stopped the traffic across several lanes so that we could perform our illegal U-turn and be on our way. British Bobbies take note please.
Question of the Day
‘Is that a man or a woman?’
We discovered today that every toll plaza in Maharashtra has transvestite hookers standing between the lanes. Mumtaz introduced herself to us this morning. Erica was so transfixed that she couldn’t even squeak out her own name.
Conversation of the Day
A man pulls alongside us on a moped as we’re attempting one of several U-turns in Panvel (we should have U-turned our way right out of that place immediately on arrival. Don’t go!).
Man: ‘Ek (1) photo?’
Jodie: ‘Nahin (no)’
Man: ‘Kyon (why)?’
Jodie: more firmly ‘No!’
Man: ‘Have sex?’
Robbie’s revelations so far
1) His steering column is a little bent to the right. We decorated him with pom poms, tinsel and flower garlands. What did we expect?
2) When we ask him to stop, he likes to think about it for 30m or so before agreeing. This is rather like the Gray family dog, Dylan. They’re spirited and that’s just fine.
3) He protests a little at 40kph. He’s highly strung. But his top speed is 65kph, which makes him one of the fastest ‘shaws on the road. Our Robster.
4) Sometimes he has a tantrum and hides neutral from us. Come on Robbie, after you’ve just stalled in traffic is not the time for games. A gentle rocking backwards and forwards usually solves the problem.
5) As we discovered today, if you drive him at 60kph over a huge speed hump, his 3 feet leave the floor and Robbie flies. He found this exhilarating, but we won’t be doing it again in a hurry. He hasn’t yet perfected his landing. We came down with quite a bump.
Our encounter with the Maharati police: