Sunday, December 30, 2007

Autorickshaw Challenge Pregame

The flight to India is long. L. O. N. G. Am I in Taipei? Why does nobody smile in Malaysia? 30 hours later, we were on the ground in Chennai and into the crowded, humid insanity of India. The trip from the airport to the hotel was all of our first experience in a car in India. It’s really not much different than Sicily, Egypt, or other countries where the driving philosophy is more about fluid dynamics than “rules of the road”. Basically, if there is an opening and you can get there first, it’s yours. It doesn’t matter if that opening is between lanes, in the shoulder, or even on your side of the street. This gives quite a nice advantage to the smaller cars, bikes and pedestrians at intersections as they can flow between the larger vehicles. My guess is that it’s probably much more efficient than the orderly driving in the US, though I’m not sure of the comparative safety records. Just like nature abhors a vacuum, in India, drivers abhor an open space.

We had a free day before our Rickshaw driving training begins, so we visited the beach, local market, and a 4 story department store to buy a saree for Meghan. The saree shop is on the fourth floor. So it’s elevator up and forced march down through 3 floors of hardcore time share sales pitches with the exotic flavor of south India. Even with the dollar weak (40 rupees to $1), most things are incredibly cheap. Kashmiri carpets are still expensive. You can buy both pirated and what are claimed to be real DVDs. Pirated ones cost from 40 rupees (cheaper than a CD for 50!??) while real ones are about ½ US prices. For current releases – you can buy Beowulf – the merchant will tell you whether it’s a good print or bad. Food costs about a dollar and is wickedly delicious. Who knew you’d wake up craving lentil soup for breakfast.

The streets of India are like an amusement park. Hair raising mayhem and close calls with sound effects and blaring horns. Somehow you figure, it goes on all day and night, it can’t possibly not work out. When I read about India and how you can catch a fatal disease if the wrong person breathes on you if you are not properly vaccinated, I figured I’d be super careful. So the first day we are pushing through crowded streets in the market, eating local food (we jump into an autorickshaw and ask the driver to take us to a restaurant any will do), and having some unknown liquid spill on us from a building we’re walking under. Between the Malarone, Hep A, Hep B, Typhoid, and Tetanus booster I think we’re covered. And if not, we have plenty of Cipro to handle any “overflow”.

We asked a number of people if they had heard of the IndianARC. The conversations were all pretty similar:

Team Namascar: We will be driving an autorickshaw from Chennai to Kanyakumari.

Local: Ah, you will have a driver take you?

Team Namascar: No. We are renting a rickshaw.

Local: No. No. No. You mean someone is driving you.

Team Namascar: We will be driving.

Local: You are crazy. It is a long way.

For a flavor of the trip from LA to India and the environment in Chennai, check out this video.

1 comment:

Jake Man said...

Konikaze you crazy bastard! Good racing with you, good video, good win. Cheers man. Hope to see you at the next race. I'm gonna hit up the Mumbai Express I think.