Exposure

3 Wheels and 7 Horsepower in Mad Rickshaw Race Across India

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Photo: Davide Bozzalla
This spring, Italians Stefano Conz, Giovanni Testa, Davide Bozzalla, and Vittorio Michelini—aka Team Rust and Dust—set out to cover more than 2,000 miles across India in rickshaws. Hosted by an organization called The Adventurists, The Rickshaw Run gave 69 teams the keys to two-cylinder, seven horsepower stallions to take on a free-form route across India through, as the event’s website put it, “whatever shit the road throws at you.” Getting lost, getting stuck, and breaking down are guaranteed. Here, Team Rust and Dust shares a few of their fondest moments. They came in last.

Photo: Stefano Conz behind the wheel. There were cows everywhere in India. Everywhere.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Conz the day before the start of the Rickshaw Run in Shillong, India. We were getting familiar with our Rickshaws and finishing the paint job.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
The day before the start a little monsoon came through to welcome us in India. Pictured here are some of the competition’s rickshaws. Each one has a unique paint job chosen by the teams. During the Run, we oddly enough never came across another team.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Cruising on the open road near the start of the race.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
The first tea plantation we saw near Assam. We couldn’t resist and left the main road to travel a bit in the middle of it. Workers in the plantation cut the topmost leaves to sell. They earn around $1 a day.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Banana delivery in the Indian state of Assam. We came across many workers carrying their produce to the local wholesale markets. At the market, there are loads of people in line to sell their bananas to big buyers who then load them into trucks. Rain is not a deterrent.  
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Vittorio Michelini (left) and Giovanni Testa (right), filling up one of the rickshaws’ tanks. The fuel was a mix of gasoline and oil, much like a lawn mower.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
The first of our many breakdowns. After days and at least five different mechanics, we figured out that a new carburetor was in order. Every time we stopped, a small crowd gathered around. Fun at the beginning, tiring after a while.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Michelini trying to keep up!
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
A mechanic in Siliguri working on an exhaust. Eye protection for most welders in India is an afterthought.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Stopped alongside some small trucks. The big ones are scary! They go really fast and never slow down or stay in their lane. They honk continuously and it’s up to smaller vehicles to get out of their way.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
A man staring through a rip in one of our rickshaw’s upholstery. We tore it trying to make our way around some huge trucks stuck in a traffic jam.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
In Assam, the main underpass was flooded so we tried this older and smaller one. Lucky for us, not many cars and no trucks at all were able to pass through such a low underpass. They had to wait for the main one to clear.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
High speed! The green plastics were our half-failed attempt to keep the rain out.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Michelini and Testa helping some Indian bystanders load one of the Rickshaws on a cargo train at Howrah Station in Calcutta. It took us two days negotiating with local authorities for the permits to load the rickshaws on the train.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
After the trains and near Dindigul, a wheel fell off with part of the axle still attached as we were driving.  Luckily the rickshaw lost speed gradually, preventing a major accident. But it wasn’t a good feeling to lose a wheel while driving.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Near Munnar in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. The monkeys tried to steal everything edible and are absolutely fearless.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
A beautiful road through the sanctuary that was one of the most peaceful and calm places we traveled through.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Parading through some tea plantations as heavy rains approached.
Photo: Davide Bozzalla
Arriving at the finish line dead last, four days after the end of the race.
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