Rickshaw Run teams reach halfway mark
Will she or won't she climb, teams Teersa Pahiya and the Vindalosers wondered of their trusty chariots Saira Bano and Jess, as they reached Narayangarh, at the foot of the road to Kathmandu.
Everyone they had encountered along the way warned them that the climb to Nepal's capital was beyond the reach of their 175-cc rickshaws. Seven teams had travelled this way before, but they didn't know what had become of them, since the two teams had spent the previous night in the middle of the jungles of Chitwan, away from phones and the Internet.
As they hit the first incline, Shaizia Jifri of Teesra Pahiya, started to chant a prayer under her breath. She didn't stop till they reached all the way to Kathmandu, 170km from Narayangarh.
Owen, who was driving Jess up the hills, said, "I was talking to her all the time, asking her to take us through. And she climbed like a beauty. Later I thought I'd been worrying for nothing."
Did he find the hill driving scary? "A bit at first, especially when I saw how fast everyone was taking the curves. But I slowly got a hang of it."
On reaching Manali, the rickshaws that the teams are driving will be donated to families that can use them to earn their livelihood. Each team will also donate 1000 pounds to the Mercy Corps.
Along the way, the teams encountered the uneasy paradox of the Nepali countryside. The calm and unhurried lives of the people and the greenery of their fields marred by the charred buses and stone blockades of the Maoists, marks of burnt tyres at almost every village crossroad. In addition, there was the nearly omnipresent Nepali military.
But everywhere the gaily-painted rickshaws went they attracted goodwill and cheer. "Everyone is so happy to see us and our rickshaws," said Jifri. Her teammate Akshay Mahajan agrees, "Not just children, even the old people wave and shout in encouragement, and give us the thumbs up as we go along. It's great fun."
The teams will be making their way to Pokhara next, on their way out of Nepal.
The journey so far: