After 9 years of success with the Rickshaw Challenge, named by Lonely Planet as one of the “World’s Greatest Adventures” in 2012, we conjured up a brand new adventure embracing India’s vibrant car culture. Headed up by the beloved Ambassador, the inaugural India’s Cup kicked off 20 January 2015 on an epic journey round South India for over 3600km! We covered 6 Indian states in 13 days, with a lot of driving, a few breakdowns and saw the best South India has to offer!
Our 5 teams with 14 participants from 5 countries kicked off in their brightly coloured cars from Chennai to Vijayawada for the first day, which posed quite the challenge initially. Our beloved Ambassador cars are not known for being the marvel of engineering so we had a couple of breakdowns at the very beginning of the adventure, which adds to the fun.
The iconic Hindustan Ambassador was the first car manufactured in India, and was once called the “king of the Indian roads” before it ceased production in May 2014, Top Gear also declared it the “best taxi in the world” in 2002. It’s great for short distances, challenging for longer ones.
Once we broke the journey on the first day, it was then onto Hyderabad which presented us with the tough task of navigating through Indian traffic. We already battled our way out of Chennai, but getting into Hyderabad felt like an odyssey in itself.
Because of the traffic, some of the teams opted to leave at the crack of dawn, while the rest of us tried to make the most and saw a bit of the city with a detour to Golconda Fort. This is India’s second largest fort and is located just outside the Hyderabad. After a small break to see the sites, we then braved the terrible roads that took us to Hampi.
After recovering from the bumps and bruises on the way to central Karnataka, we got the chance to visit one of India’s most fascinating archaeological sites, which really sprawls out of kilometres on end. We only dipped our toe in the water where Hampi was concerned, but we got a feel for the vastness and epic proportion this ancient capital of the Vijayanagara Empire. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was not the only such sites we passed in the India’s Cup, since we had 5 official sites on our route and 3 additional tentative UNESCO Sites as well!
Once we were done with Hampi, our teams got to chill out for a day in Goa before we headed down to Mangalore, Mysore, up into the tea fields of Ooty and then down into Kerala and back up into Tamil Nadu and Chennai.
However, only the strongest teams made it back to Chennai, one team, The Sarriors, abandoned ship in Trivandrum, and decided they wanted to spend more time on the beach in place of driving, and Hungarian team Rabbit Adventures went down from 4 to 2 participants, since a couple members of their party had to leave India for work related reasons. The winners of our very first India’s Cup were Brits Hindependent Racing, who ploughed on no matter the circumstances! It was a bumpy ride, in an Ambassador at that, but memories were definitely made in the process.