The tuk-tuk adventure begins!

Photodyssee authors Rico and Flo eating toast inside their rickshaw

The tuk-tuk adventure begins!

Imagine two young Germans, who have actually no idea how to really drive a tuk-tuk, but want to go thousands of kilometers throughout India with it. Congratulations… you just imagined us on the first day of our tuk-tuk adventure throughout India!

On this first day of driving, we had to leave the megacity Chennai somehow. To avoid the super crazy Indian city traffic we got up as early as we could. We still got into rather bad traffic jams because we underestimated how long it would take us to leave Chennai. After killing the motor countless times (stop-and-go traffic combined with a Kickstarter-two-stroke engine vehicle is a rather bad mix), we finally left Chennai behind with a rising sun in our backs, bathing everything in a golden glow.

Indian trucks standing by the side of the road, the owners waiting for the start of their shifts

A mix of people and vehicles walking and driving past each other in golden morning light

Sunrise over a little lake in India

A man amidst trash, houses and trees during the morning hours in India

An Indian police officer standing in the morning sun, watching the traffic

Two people sitting on top of a driving car filled with mattresses

The looks.

We were so hyped every time we saw the stunned faces of the Indians that we started laughing and could not hold ourselves together. We felt free like birds, able to go wherever we want to, whenever we want to. On top of that their looks just confirmed, what we could not believe ourselves and every time they looked at us we thought: “Fuck yes! You looked right. Here we are -two Germans in a rickshaw traveling through India on our very own!” They made us aware of not being inside a dream and the plethora of facial expressions from disgust to approval will stay inside our memory for a long time.

Everything we experienced, felt like an extraordinary adventure and we celebrated our new freedom with music. Somehow we needed to scream our happiness out into the world. So we sang. Can you imagine two young Germans, singing (well… screaming) as loud as they can along to a ukulele while driving in their very own tuk-tuk?

Our first stop.

We reached Tiruchirappalli (try saying this very fast a couple of times) on our first day. Even the locals struggle to say Tiruchirappalli, so most people call it Trichy. We were driving the whole day, from sunrise to sunset, just stopping to eat every once in a while.

Fields of burning trash in the distance, releasing noxious fumes

Thousand of tree stems being ordered and loaded onto carts

The feet of Photodyssee author Flo stretched out inside our rickshaw

Sad puppy walking through a heap of trash in the search for food

Two oxen with impressive horns pulling a oxen-cart

Sunset street scene near an Indian toll gate

A motorcycle driving into the sunset

Indian street reflecting the golden sunset light

A completely overburdened vehicle - a common sight in India's traffic

Dramatic cloudy sunset mirroring inside a little pond

Dramatic cloudy sunset behind a cyclists sillhouette over Indian road

A tiny peacock sitting on top of a small temple amidst a giant landscape

Nonetheless, we arrived in the dark because we lost our way due to Google’s superior navigation several times. Once it literally wanted us to drive over a bridge, that was still under construction.

A looong day of driving

The next day we left Trichy before the traffic had started. We were not quite sure if we would make the 400 km to Varkala in just one day, but we wanted to try it out. Our rickshaw averaged out on 40 km/h so we calculated that we should be able to reach Varkala within 10 hours. Add in some breaks here and there and you have a nice day of driving from sunrise to sunset ahead of you? Wrong!

We drove the whole day (in total more than 14 hours) with no stop, except for the ones to refuel our tuk-tuk. The nice highways we experienced before turned into smaller bumpier roads filled with busses, trucks and completely overloaded hay wagons.

Average velocities around 40 km/h? Unthinkable. On top of that, we needed to stop at a repair shop. The first gear was not working properly anymore. Luckily we had Siddharth, an Indian hitchhiker, we picked up from the street, on board. He worked wonders, translating and arranging a repair service within minutes.

The mechanics changed the gear cables and after roughly one hour we went on, fully equipped with a new set of cables and some spare ones in case they break again, which we were told they would. A lot. Especially when driving long distances.

Reaching Kerala.

In the evening hours, we reached Kerala and the landscape changed. We found ourselves driving through jungle hills, that reminded us painfully of Sri Lanka. Nonetheless, it was magic. The sun shining through the green trees throwing moving shadows and golden spots of light onto the street.

Golden hour light on a street in the jungles of Kerala

A truck coming slowly up a hill in Kerala

Idyllic street with a little hut, palms and golden atmospheric lighting

Forest in the golden light of the evening sun

Trees lit by the evening sun in Kerala, India

Sunlit spots on a street in the hills of Kerala

Indian truck driving over a street in the hills of Kerala

Night(mare) drive.

After sunset, it got dark outside quickly and we had 30 kilometers yet ahead of us. Sounds not like much, does it? But with a rickshaw that’s at least a full hour of driving. Did we say that driving in the dark the day before was bad? This was a lot and I mean a LOT worse. I had to drive through the complete dark with a dim head light just working while accelerating. On top of that, all Indians drive with blindingly strong head lights, overtaking without caring about the approaching vehicles (in short: us). I drove as far left as possible to avoid crashing into the other cars, all while hoping to not stray from the road or hit one of the many potholes… After an eternity, we arrived in Varkala, shaking but happy to be alive and well. We started to understand why Princeley did not want us to drive around at night and swore to avoid it whenever we could.

Varkala finally!

In Varkala Google sent us to a wrong place down a rather small, steep street or shall I say the hostel’s address in Google was wrong? Whatever, we had no clue where the hostel was and nobody in the hostel picked up our calls. So we just asked the next tuk-tuk driver how to get there. He told us “Just follow me and so we did.”

And this is where things went really bad… But you can read more about that in our next article!


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