Tuk tuk test drive...
Trip Start May 23, 2008
26Trip End Jun 22, 2008
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Just on the outskirts of the city, the heavens opened and enormous hail stones rained down on us - we could barely see out of the windscreen and I think we were both beginning to wonder what we had let ourselves in for.
We did however manage to navigate without hitch from Bristol to Mayflower Park - and are now looking into whether Google Maps can also provide directions from Kathmandu all the way to Pondicherry...
The skies cleared as we arrived at the park and it was great for me to see some of the other teams who I had previously met in London in February, and for Sharon to meet them for the first time. Someone overheard Sharon greeting fellow Rickshawers and came over and introduced himself as being from Southampton's local paper, sent along by the Bristol Evening Post to take photographs for them. Cue more nervous laughter from us... We are both really looking forward to seeing a photo of us in print!
I could not have been more wrong. I drove round the park, a distance of perhaps 400m, probably no faster than 15mph, in second gear - and it was probably one of the most terrifying experiences of my LIFE!!! I could not get the hang of changing gears - coming off the throttle, controlled by the right hand, pulling what looks like a pushbike brake with your left and slipping round the handle slightly to engage a gear (but when going from first to second, avoiding neutral which is inconveniently positioned between the two) and then slowly releasing the clutch and increasing the throttle. That is a LOT to be thinking about all at the same time (though with hindsight, kind of what you do with your feet when changing gears in a manual car...) To be honest, I wasn't even going fast enough to get out of second - and I think Sharon may have sustained some whiplash injuries due to my lack of confidence when accelerating. And of course, because we were driving round the periphery of the park, turning was involved too. I thought we were going to tip over, even though we weren't going anyway near fast enough.
All in all, I really did not enjoy my first experience behind the wheel.
I probably spent the next thirty minutes or so thinking either that Sharon would be chauffeuring me the entire 4,000-odd kilometres, or that she should start advertising for a new team mate, such were my feelings of terror at the whole debacle. But, anyone who knows me knows I am not a quitter. So I managed to get myself back behind the wheel - this time with a couple of extra passengers hitching a lift, something I wasn't expecting.
And this time, I was marginally better. Actually, Sharon very kindly said I was a LOT better. I made it to fourth, even though I was still only going about 15mph and again only stalled when I was trying to find neutral (which seemed to cause no problems when I was running up through the gears but disappeared altogether when I actually wanted it!). There is a foot pedal but we were going so slowly we just ground to a halt. I have to say, although that trial went much better than the first, and boosted my confidence marginally, I was slightly disturbed when one of my passengers jumped out while I was accelerating. I hope that was nothing to do with my driving!!
After all that excitement, we adjourned to the Grapes pub for something to calm the nerves before heading on to Kutis, a fabulous
Some left the party early, but others showed their mettle and continued
Verdict: although the day in fact added to my nerves about the whole experience, I cannot wait to get there and get started!!!