The village mechanic turned out to be a general practitioner of sorts–definitely not a rickshaw-specific mechanic. He gave it a go though, and took a few laps around in our ‘shaw before giving us the same verdict as the last two guys to look at it–an internal wiring problem. There was a rickshaw mechanic about 30KM up the road in the direction we were heading, so we could either try for that or seek other options, such as putting our rickshaw on the back of a truck and carting it to the finish line that way.
I was pretty keen to finish the entire journey via the rickshaw, so we both agreed to push on as far as we could. We figured out pretty quick just how much throttle we could give the engine before it started to stall, and became pretty proficient at keeping the pressure on the handlebar accelerator just right. Our new top speed was gauged at around 30KPH (18MPH) or so, in fourth gear. Even if we were able to continue without more problems it was going to be a very, very long day.
We didn’t want to slow down the other guys any more than we already had, so we bid them adieu and continued onward by ourselves, hoping that our crappy steed had enough power left in her for another couple hundred kilometers. That’s all we needed–we didn’t care if we ran the thing into the ground, we just wanted to make it to the finish line. We must make it–no excuses.
The next few hours were a combination of perseverance, precision, and prayer. We kept the throttle going at just the right rate to maximize speed while preventing further engine damage (we hoped). We didn’t know if we’d make it or not, but every kilometer driver was another kilometer closer to our goal. 200 kilometers away. 150. 100. Double digits, alright–doing good. Sun is getting lower in the sky. 50 kilometers left. 49…48…47…
The other guys had made it to the city way before we even got close, due to the fact that the last 200KM ended up being pristine, wide-laned roads the whole way. Talk about adding insult to injury. We had used up all of our gas, along with whatever was left in our jerry can, and needed to fill up soon. We might just make it to the city, but it would be close–better to be safe than sorry. We stopped at a gas station about 40KM outside of the city, but they were all out of everything but diesel. Looks like we would have to carry on until we found somewhere to fill up.
There wasn’t any other gas station between the last one and the city it seemed, but no matter–we were just about there. We made it to the outer city limits just as the sun started to set, and started climbing up the final hill before entering the city proper when our engine sputtered and died suddenly. No. No no no. Not now…we’re so close…
Figuring it was the gas, we turned on our spare tank, which should buy us another few kilometers–enough to find a gas station, hopefully. Being that this was the first time we were using the reserve tank, it of course didn’t work, and we were left sitting on the side of the road, watching the sun go down. A guy pulled up in a back hoe, and asked what our issue was. We motioned that we needed gas, and he promptly set off to help us out, first asking some nearby shopkeepers (who usually carried some in liter bottles but were now out), and then by waving down oncoming traffic in the hopes that one of them was carrying some in reserve. This was pretty unsuccessful (either they wouldn’t stop or they wouldn’t have any extra), and the guy offered to tow us with his back hoe and some wire to the nearest gas station, 2KM away (of course…it was right over the hill). Just then a guy on a motorbike stopped and allowed us to siphon a half liter out of his tank so that we could make it up the hill.
Well, we added the gas to our tank, but it must not have been enough, as halfway up the hill our engine died again. We started to pull over to the side, off of the road and out of traffic, but the guy on the motorbike pulled up and motioned for us to stay on the asphalt–he would push us to the station himself. We didn’t know how this would be possible, with him on a bike, but we quickly found out. He stuck out his foot to the side, pushing us while riding the bike with his other foot. It was quite a feat, and sure enough we got up and over the hill thanks to his momentum. As we drifted down the other side he motioned that he had to go off down a side road to drop off some things and that he’d be back. Shortly thereafter we coasted to a stop at the bottom, still about a kilometer away from our goal.
We were going to hitch a ride on a nearby rickshaw to go and fill up our jerry can when one of the drivers offered to push us the rest of the way, a la the motorcycle guy. With his help we got the rest of the way, arriving at the gas station right as the guy on the motorcycle pulled into the lot. We bought a couple of liters of fuel and thanked him for his services, offering a bit of money. He refused any kind of compensation, even though we had taken gas from him, and wished us luck. The extra couple liters did the trick, and before we knew it we were in the center of the city, winding our way up the narrow roads to the city fort.
We didn’t have much power available anymore (even in first gear), so we had to stop halfway up and then catch a ride the rest of the way to our hotel. We had one particular property in mind, but when a guy approached us offering to take me via motorbike to his hotel right next door we accepted and I jumped on the back of the bike. We hadn’t gone 50 meters when another guy on a motorbike passing in the other direction yelled my name. Turns out that our fellow ralliers had seen us winding our way up the road and had sent their hotel manager out to get us. Much to the current motorbike operator’s chagrin I hopped off and onto the other guy’s bike, and he took me up the rest of the way.
Sure enough, our mates Matt, Alex, and Jamie were on the rooftop terrace having a few beers. I went back to where Mike was waiting with our rickshaw and gear and we moved everything (including the vehicle), to our new temporary home. We all celebrated our reunion/finish with some pretty mediocre Italian food near the base of the fort (an Australian guy who obviously doesn’t know good Italian told the three guys that it was some of the best he had ever had, which is why we went there for dinner).