Rickshaw Run Day 1, Cochin to Valparai
Everyone was raring to get on with the race. From 9 o'clock onwards Rickshaw engines were revving in all except the Rooster Potatoes' tuk-tuk as theirs didn't come with a key. This was when we all discovered just how easy they are to hot-wire.
11 a.m. With a cricket game being played out very earnestly in the background, the mayhem began. There were a considerable number of collisions and we hadn't even driven out of the cricket ground which was the starting block. Then off we rattled, shedding nuts and bolts as we went.
We made excellent progress and overtook most of the rest of the field in the space of the first traffic jam. We headed inland at Angamaly, immediately getting lost in a jungle, and ended up at a monastery selling tea bags and candles. The road we were looking for was clearly marked on the map but clearly didn't exist. Total lack of road signs. Then a religious man pointed us in the right direction, gave us twelve Buddha calendars, his email address and a Christmas cake. So four hours, one Christmas cake and one jungle later we ended up back in Angamaly again.
We stopped at a motorway service station for a quick banana fritter, then on we rattled. After Angamaly we had another go at heading inland, desperate to get away from the mosquitoes at the coast, which had treated my ankles as Christmas dinner. We headed for Valparai. The road soon became a dirt track and so we spent the next six hours driving at 10 km/hr dodging big pot holes and dead monkeys as we ambled in the pitch dark through a deep dark jungle.
11 p.m. Finally arrived in Valparai. Rule Number One of travelling: If somewhere isn't in the Lonely Planet guide it probably isn't worth visiting. Valparai is not in the Lonely Planet guide.