A Tour of India with Bharat Popli

Published on 04 Sep 2017

What's the craziest way one can dedicate two weeks to charity? Bharat Popli can answer that question! With the support of Northern Districts Cricket he's just been on the Rickshaw Run... a 3,000km Indian adventure in a 7 horsepower glorified lawnmower. 

Come along for the ride as Bharat documents the highs and lows of this once in a lifetime adventure....

So as some of you may know I am currently wondering the streets of India driving a glorified lawnmower aka the tuk tuk. Myself and a few mates are partaking in this crazy adventure all in the name of charity. We call ourselves The Disorienteers and that's exactly how we have felt so far in India. 

About a week ago I had never driven a manual car, or a motorbike of any sort and had a massive fear of ever driving in India. So going 3000km across India on a tuk tuk is probably not one of my smartest ideas. 

I knew this was going be an incredible journey for myself but I didn't know how moving this experience would be. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to be able to doing something of this magnitude. Below describes our daily activities thus far.

Day 1

Right out the gate on Day 1, India saw fit to show us exactly what we were in for! From breakdowns in the first hour, to a run-in with the law, to breaking the golden rule of no night driving as we desperately tried to make it to a hotel, we took everything India had to throw at us! Now to do it all again in the morning... 

Day 2 Was as eventful as the first - India's Independence day was in full swing as we flew up the coast. We were handed candy and cups of hot sweetened rice by the locals as we drove past, the celebratory mood was infectious! After being assimilated into a wild motorcycle rally we managed to park up in Kasaragod before dark, a lesson well learned from the night before!

Day 3

We got a crisp 6am start on Day 3, which was lucky because we immediately broke down. We put the pedal to the metal and racked up a ridiculous 320km! It would have been a bit less had we not gotten lost right as night fell, and with it the relentless monsoon rains, but in the end it was all worth it for drinks on the beach under the stars.

Day 4

On Day 4 we were Goa bound, another day full of breakdowns gave ample opportunity for cricket with the locals as we had finally procured a bat from Gokarna! From forming a team of gas station attendants (aka the Indian Oil XI) to getting schooled by a couple of promising young local kids in the middle of nowhere! It was safe to say the post-match swim at hotel pool in Goa was as glorious as it was deserved.

Day 5

We took it easy on day 5, washing away the grogginess with a morning swim and then moseying on over to Ajara, detouring only to reverse a rickshaw half off a bridge. A classic breakdown or two later, our valiant steeds struggled to altitude and before we knew it we had a breathtaking view of the South Indian jungle at cloud height! Shoutout to the monkeys for the use of their backyard

Day 6 

Was all about eating up some miles, setting our best distance so far with 320km! We stopped the charge only to chill out with a giant statue of our pal Ganesh, the elephant-like God. We made it to Pune and promptly got chewed up and spat out by traffic on a scale that made Auckland's rush hour seem like Countdown's self checkout line at 9pm on a Sunday! Nevertheless, officially halfway through our journey!

Day 7

A late start on day 7 was the least of our worries as the monsoon settled in for the long haul. The rain gave us no mercy as we had breakdown after breakdown, and nearly sunk a rickshaw in the floods on two separate occasions! The highlight of the day was when the gas station attendant took note of our general dampness and personally brewed and brought us all out Chai tea to warm us up! The kindness and generosity that we're shown every day by the Indian people never ceases to humble us.

Day 8

On day 8 we visited the Elora Caves on our way to Kannad. These ancient, hand-carved stone temples were absolutely breathtaking, well worth the detour! We paid for our downtime however, as an unplanned breakdown saw us sending a scouting party off after a blown spark plug completely threaded the entry point. Thankfully as we were surrounded by colorful cows and a festive mood, it was impossible not to stay in high spirits!


Day 9 and 10 Were mainly spent with the wheels on asphalt and the pedal to the metal! We gratefully accepted a break from breakdowns as we boosted through two 300+km days. From Kannad to Indore, and from Indore to Udaipur. Our vision of having an extra day in Udaipur to relax kept us going! 

Day 11

We got to relax! Udaipur proved to be the most beautiful city we'd visited yet. Rooftop bars and restaurants provided us with incredible views of the palace on the lake. The cramped alleys were tough to navigate, and when we took to the streets by foot we were blindsided by a downpour out of literally nowhere! In the space of five minutes the sun had vanished and we were sprinting back to the hotel in torrential rain as the streets flooded up to our knees. The wet weather didn't put a damper on our day though and we thoroughly enjoyed our day off from driving! 

Day 12 Had us making our way to the blue city of Jodphur! It was a bit of a trek and naturally we broke down again. We always seemed to see the best of India when we broke down like this in the randomest of places. People were always happy to help, and were never shy about asking for selfies! More than once a mechanic helped us out and then tried to refuse payment from us. We ended the day on the busiest street we had experienced yet, but the view of Fort Mehrangarah waiting for us was spectacular.

Day 13

We spent most of day 13 visiting Fort Mehrangarah and getting unique and gorgeous views of the blue city in all its glory as we went ziplining! The heat really started to kick in on this day, climbing to 35 degrees. All was well until we tried to head off in the afternoon and one of the rickshaws packed it in. We tried desperately to get her going and ended up pushing it a kilometre down the road to a mechanic who managed to bring it to life! ...for about 15km...then it was all over. We towed the broken beast a few more km to a hotel and contemplated our options. What a thing to happen on the second to last day!

Day 14 

The final leg of the trip! We had to somehow get a broken down rickshaw 280km to the finish line and settled on chucking it on the back of the tow truck. We split up, one team riding on rickshaw on the truck, and the others caning it the old-fashioned way. The temperature skyrocketed to nearly 40 degrees celsius as we neared Jaisalmer and entered the true desert but that couldn't stop us as we struggled to our goal! We made it all the way and dropped the broken rickshaw off the truck, pushing it over the line as heroes. A bit of drama to end an amazing journey but somehow we all made it in the end!

India was incredible. I feel so blessed to have spent time in my country of birth and experienced it in a way only a few ever do. It was an amazing experience to travel through the countryside of India, see all the little villages, meet the locals and hear their stories. An eye opening and life changing experience which I'm sure will still take some time to fully process.