top ten landscapes of the rickshaw run.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Normally, I’d be inclined to agree with Proust. But after passing 3,000km through India in a rickshaw, I find myself disagreeing…our own voyage of discovery through the subcontinent brought with it so many new landscapes that what I loved the most was this:
Getting to watch the country change.
There was much that changed as we passed from state to state–be it the style of food, the color of school uniforms, the quality (or lack thereof) of roads–but what was most fascinating was simply the countryside itself. When I think about how to start processing the run and blogging about it, it’s these landscapes that are still playing through my head:
1. The hills of Meghalaya
The run kicked off in Shillong, an old hill station tucked away in the northeastern corner of India. The entire state of Meghalaya is hilly and dense with jungle overgrowth and made sure we got off to an interesting start–an hour of torrential downpours as we headed north to Guwahati.
2. Crossing the Brahmaputra River
As it so often happens, if we hadn’t taken a wrong turn in the state of Assam, we would’ve missed this stunning view of the Brahmaputra, the widest river in India. Luckily, though, we ended up following along its course on a back dirt road before crossing it via a massive steel bridge.
3. The rice paddies of Assam
An unfortunate breakdown by the Blue Camels meant we got to pull over along this highway in Assam and take in the rice paddies. I never got tired of staring out at these endless fields of bright green rice plants, especially when a lone figure would appear in the distance, an orange or pink umbrella perched on their shoulder as they worked.
4. Distant Himalayas in West Bengal
It’s a little bit tricky to see, but just above the purple-blue mountains on the horizon are a few white-capped peaks…the Himalayas. As we pulled into the West Bengalese city of Siliguri late Tuesday night, we could just make out the famous mountain range in the distance. Even as we kept driving the next morning, we thought of those teams that were turning right towards the Nepal border.
5. The floodlands of Bihar
This was probably one of the more sobering moments of the trip–passing by huge swathes of land that had been flooded in Bihar. Recent flooding, causing the Ganges to rise above danger level, has affected over 500,000 people, and 13 people have died in Bihar alone over the past three days.
6. Sunrise on the Ganges
Despite only getting four hours of sleep the night before, Nambi and I woke up early in Varanasi to take a boat tour along the Ganges. Seeing the steps of the ghats for the first time at dark, as priests lit candles and performed the puja ceremony, was stirring.
7. The countryside of Uttar Pradesh
We pushed hard from Varanasi to Agra, covering something like 450km in a day! We spent Sunday night in the world’s worst hotel in Auraiya before finishing the stretch to Agra the next morning. The countryside along the way in the state of Uttar Pradesh was dotted with these little domes, signifying the many Muslim communities we passed through.
8. Catching the sun on the Yamuna River
It seems I couldn’t get enough sunrises on the Rickshaw Run, despite my ever-increasing sleep deprivation. We woke early again in Agra to see the Taj again from another angle–the opposite banks of the Yamuna River. Gone were the crowds, guides and 95 photo-ops…just the river and a view!
9. Moving into Rajasthan
After we left Agra behind, we set out for Jaipur–”The Pink City”–the first major point we’d be stopping at in the Rajasthan desert. From there, it was on to the Blue City of Jodhpur–and the change in landscape was dramatic. From lush rice paddies and jungles, we were soon moving through drier, dustier territory.
10. Sand dunes in the desert
Our last day from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer, the desert grew even more scarce in vegetation…but even then, we were surprised to find many of the sanddunes covered in trees. This was apparently due to an unusual amount of rain in the past few weeks. Jaisalmer was a desert city through and through–sandy streets, golden fort walls, and camels everywhere.
What are some of your favorite landscapes in the world? Leave a comment and let me know!