Wild Ride: Inside India’s Cross-Country Tuk-Tuk Challenge

Three thousand kilometers on three wheels? Adventurous globe-trotters see India via roads less traveled

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Courtesy of Scott Greene

Talk about a long road. The 69 teams participating in this year’s Rickshaw Run embarked last week on a 2,174 miles journey across India, from the southwestern coastal city of Kochi to northeastern Shillong. The trip, made via Tuk Tuk, is organized by the Adventurists, a British travel company, and doubles as a fundraiser. It is not a journey for the car sick, or for the faint of heart, as the organizers caution: “Your chances of being seriously injured or dying as a result of taking part are high.”

But Scott Greene, an American living in Hong Kong, was not deterred. This year, Greene is making the trip through India with two friends, Andrew Rizkalla, a Canadian living in Hong Kong, and Andrew Goodwin, an American living in Taipei, Taiwan. “I didn’t think we’d go through with it,” Greene tells TIME. “I was hoping one of them would decide we should back out, but they called my bluff, and now, here we are.”

Armed with not much more than a map, spark plugs and beef jerky, Greene’s team, dubbed “Tuk Tuk Goose,” started their journey last Sunday. The trio decided to head up the eastern coast along the Bay of Bengal. They didn’t get far before pulling over for the first of many stops. Twenty minutes into the trip, they lost their muffler, and for the next 125 miles, the Goose waddled and roared, maxing out at 30 miles per hour. They’ve since been run off the road by a bus and sidelined, temporarily, by two flat tires.

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Courtesy of Scott Greene

Unlike many tourists, the team hasn’t seen the Taj Mahal, or Jaipur or Delhi. But the farms, freight trucks, bakers and beggars along their route have afforded them a more intimate look at India, they say. “We’ve all spent a lot of time in China and there’s a lot of people there too, but it is immensely more dense here,” Greene says. “The poverty is evident, but the people couldn’t be friendlier or the landscape more beautiful.”

On the last leg of their trip, they’ll pass through Malda in West Bengal near the border with Bangladesh and take a brief break in Darjeeling, a popular summer destination, before heading through the mountains. With any luck, Greene, Goodwin and Rizkalla will join the other thrill-seekers in Shillong for a party at the finish line on Saturday, April 21. Then, it’s a shower, a shave, and back to the real world.

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