The Story of an Ambitious and very Human Journey

Our colleague Ian Betley, SVP of Sales in EMEA & AsiaPac, decided to go on an ambitious journey, and he ended up taking all of us with him. The updates, the photos and the stories filled our hearts with positivity and a sense of adventure. So, I decided to catch up with him to find out more, and he has kindly agreed to share it with all of you!

Ian, talk us through this epic and ambitious tuk tuk journey and the cause it was in aid of?

The Rickshaw Run is organised by a UK company called The Adventurists, and the event is run twice a year. The aim of the Rickshaw Run is to experience the raw, real, and recondite culture of India and its people, by driving over 3500 km, which is the entire length of India, in a tuk tuk, or as they describe it – “a glorified lawnmower”. 

There is no route, there is no support, there are no plans, except there is a start – Kochi, Kerala – and then a finish line: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, 14 days later. The tuk tuk is unreliable, uncomfortable, and unlikely to win any road collisions on the Indian Highway and the hierarchy that is cow, bus, truck, car, tuk tuk. So, to survive, you rapidly learn how to drive them, and how to (mis) behave on the roads. The tuk tuk has a top speed of 55km downhill, but realistically you average 25/30 kmph in the constant river of traffic. This equates to 7 to 10 hours of driving per day to achieve the goal, not allowing for breakdowns, repairs, and any sightseeing.

Having been to India a number of times on business, where you are treated like royalty, this seemed an ideal way to see India from a completely different angle, and whilst originally I registered it as a 50th birthday treat, it evolved into something more personally important to me.

If you don’t mind the question – what was your personal motivation to do it?

I wanted to do something different for my 50th, something I would remember not for luxury, or for materialistic value, but that I would remember for the experience. At the same time, I wanted to raise some money for charity, specifically Motor neurone disease (MND), which was something my father died of at the age of 52 in 1996. The run was postponed twice due to covid, and eventually, the 2022 date was released. By coincidence, the start date of the race was exactly the date that I would “outlive” my father, which has always been a date that preyed on my mind, not just because he died so young, but also because MND does have potential hereditary consequences.”

We noticed you had some support along the way, who and what helped you through it?

I needed support along the way!

At 6 foot 3 and 19 stone I’m not built for a tuk tuk, and the experience of driving the roads in monsoon rains the first couple of days had me near to defeat. However the support from back home, from my family, my colleagues, and friends, along with their kind donations motivated me to continue on, and actually, once I overcame that hurdle the experience became better, and the daily challenge easier and more enjoyable.”

I should also add that the support of the Indian people was immense. Every mile had a hundred smiles and waves, every stop had selfies galore, and irrespective of their own personal circumstances, the people’s first desire is to help and assist. We constantly heard “welcome to India, you are our guests” or “have a wonderful journey” – whether it be from the attendant at the petrol station, the family of five on a motorbike, or the mechanics that waved us off every time they took pleasure in fixing the tuk tuk; she was named “Teresa Tuk Tuk,” as in “Theresa May or may not” get us to the finish line. She did!

Have you got any pics and videos we can share?

Hundreds with an incredible myriad of experiences.

What was your favorite stage or sight along the 3500+ km journey?

Everything is possible in India, and you never stop being surprised, or incredulous, so the two favourite days for me were driving through the Purna Wildlife Sanctuary and across the mountains, was just unbelievable, with endless views that went on for miles and miles. And visiting the Ellora Caves, which were built between the sixth and tenth century, where one cave would take eight generations, or 200 years, to build. They were immense.

How much money have you raised so far and where can people go to donate more?

We’ve raised over £5,000 online and offline Tuk Tuk Boom fundraising on JustGiving

If anyone is inspired enough to go on the same journey what are your top tips?

It’s not a holiday. It’s an adventure. No amount of planning will prepare you for the journey, as you plan each day at a time.We never booked a hotel until 4/5pm of the day of check-in.

India is incredible. It will open your mind to a whole new way of thinking, the value of a smile and a thank you, and how to appreciate what you have and what others don’t have. 

Embrace everything as part of the experience; we broke down numerous times, but luckily there are millions of tuk tuks in India and everyone knows someone who can fix them, so there’s never a shortage of people wanting to help – or have selfies.

What’s next?

Acclimatization with normal driving, and then I may do the Sri Lankan Rickshaw Run in 2024!”

What a journey, so inspiring and thank you for sharing it with us, Ian.

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