Three adventure-loving young Czechs are gearing up for the August Rickshaw Run, a 3,500 km adrenalin ride across India. Three people packed in a rickshaw with no set route, no back-up, and no way of knowing if they are going to make it to the finishing line. Close to 100 teams from around the world flock to India for the adventure every year and often come back for more. I asked Jakub Janča, one of the three Czechs involved, how it all came about.
“I think I saw it for the first time like five years ago and I was really excited about it, but at the time it was something totally out of my reach. But then things changed, I moved to New Zealand and now I am back and suddenly I could afford it and take part in it, so I asked my good friend documentary film maker Petr Kašpar if he thought it was a good idea and if we could raise money for it and he told me he thought it was awesome and he might take part in it as well. So I started looking for a team and sponsors and so that’s how it all started.”
So there are three of you going?
“Yes, there are three of us going. It turned out Petr Kašpar could not go for time reasons, so I started thinking who would be crazy enough to go with me and I was able to find two friends willing to go.”
For people who do not know much about the Rickshaw Run, can you explain what it entails?
“Yes, well this British group of adventure lovers – called the Adventurists –organize the event every year in India. Basically what it entails is that you register and go to India, to a certain place, where they lend you a rickshaw and you have three days to familiarize yourself with it, learn to drive it and so on and after those three days you are ready to go on the Rickshaw Run. That’s as far as the organization goes, after the start, you are on your own, no back-up, no set route, no checkpoints – just you on a 3,500 km ride across India.”
So you go from a set point to a set point –do you have to get there within a given time limit?
“Yes, we should get there within sixteen days. I am not sure if we will, but that is the goal. The run is from August 4th until August 19th.”
So you have actually never seen a rickshaw in your life – or driven one?
“No, absolutely not. That is what makes it all slightly crazy.”
What do you know about it?
“Nothing. I just read about the run and I really liked the adventure, the craziness of going into the unknown and relying on yourself and your best mates.”
“I really liked the adventure, the craziness of going into the unknown and relying on yourself and your best mates.”
From what I read about the rickshaw it is not highly reliable…and only intended for short trips in the city…
“That’s right and I’ve heard India has the worst traffic situation in the world…and we’ll be sitting in a small rickshaw. It will be tough, I think, but that’s part of the adventure.”
So how is it run, this rickshaw?
“It is like a weak, small motorcycle.”
It has an engine then?
“Yes, it has a small engine and it goes something like 45 km per hour downhill -that’s the maximum speed – they call it a glorified lawnmower.”
What happens if it breaks down?
“We’ll need to fix it.”
And you trust yourself to be able to do that?
“Yes, I think so,yes.”
This is 3,500 km across India –do you have any idea what obstacles you are likely to face on the road?
“Not yet. When I asked my friend to come with me – or rather when I told him he was coming with me –he sent me a really long email naming every animal species in India. And it was kind of scary. I think there are like 250 different species of snakes and 50 of them are poisonous. But luckily I haven’t really had time to think about it. I am saving that for later. So there could be some surprises from the animal kingdom. ”
What about the weather?
“From what I heard, we may encounter bad weather –really rainy and changing all the time –warm, humid and heavy rains.”
What will you do about food and where will you sleep?
“That’s something we need to figure out. We can book accommodation in hostels or something like that or we could rough it and sleep outside in sleeping bags or a tent. I am not sure I want to do that because of all the spiders and snakes, but it will be up to us.”
And what about food? It will be hot and you won’t be able to carry much with you…
“No, the rickshaw will be crowded as it is. But food is something I am really looking forward to. Indian cuisine is world famous and I am really looking forward to it. I guess we will be relying on street vendors and that kind of thing….We will need to stop for gas in places and we’ ll buy the local food.”
There are three of you – do you each specialize in something different?
“No, we are just three friends who are film and theatre technicians and we got to know each other at film and theatre festivals. We have worked together for about six years and we know that we are able to work under pressure and deal with difficult situations and that’s good enough for us.”
So you know you can rely on each other and that’s enough?
“Exactly, I am really comfortable going there with those two guys. I am not sure about fixing motorcycles and stuff, but I am sure we will figure it out on the road.”
And you will be filming this trip and posting it online I understand?
“Yes, we would like to share as much live footage and photos as possible on social networks. India is not famous for its network connections, but I am hoping it will work somehow. But we are also taking professional filming equipment and we will film the trip and turn it either into a documentary film or a mini-series.”
And the proceeds from the Rickshaw Run go to charity?
“When I asked my friend to come with me he sent me a really long email naming every animal species in India.”
“Yes, each team taking part is asked to raise as much money as possible –with a minimum amount set of one thousand pounds – that is why we want to share pictures and motivate people to help us, even a small contribution will help. Half of the money collected goes to Cool Earth which is an organization working to save the rainforests and we can do whatever we want with the other half and what we are planning to do is support a Czech organization called Brontosauři v Himalájích which helps a little village in Small Tibet in Northern India called Mulbekh.”
Do you know how many teams are taking place in this Rickshaw Run?
“I am not sure about this one, but in the last one there were about 100 or 150 rickshaws. Something like 400 people involved in this “crazy” event.”
And what is your own motivation for taking part in this?
“It may sound strange but my first motivation was to raise awareness of some charity organization and be somehow helpful to others. And for a person like me, who is not famous, the only way of doing that was to do something crazy. Also this has been a dream of mine for a long time – like four of five years - I really wanted to do this –something that not everyone is able to do.”
So when are you due back?
“I believe we arrive back on August 22nd. So we will be spending close to a month in India.”
And what is your goal – just to get to the finishing line in one piece?
“To get there and to raise the money for charity.”
We’ll be glad to see you in the studio again when you get back. Good luck!