Taj? Almost...

For the last three days, we have been running hard to get to the finish line. However, we have also been able to see some fantastic sights along the way.

At one of the hotels, one of the employees told us that we must see BiBi-Ka-Mukbara.

What we were told is this is another tomb similar to the Taj Mahal. Even with the same type of story. So, knowing we weren't going to see the Taj on this adventure, we knew we should try to spend some time there.

It was great to see this, and the architecture alone was magnificent! Allowing ourselves to explore a bit, we had a chance to go inside and take a peek. Underneath the dome was a large room, below, that people were continuously tossing money in.

We quickly went through the building and then headed back to find our rickshaw and keep on moving. The next stop was about 150 kilometers north, the Ellora Caves. These caves were separated into three different areas. One area was for the Buddhist, another was the Hindu, and finally was the Jain. It all depended on who occupied the area at the time. They were built from the 7th - 9th century. A guy came up to us asking if he could be our guide. Knowing that we really knew nothing about the place, we were in. Afterwards, we all decided that was absolutely the best choice. These caves were amazing and every single room in these huge caverns had a purpose, depending on the religion that occupied at the time. Through out the tour, many Indians, in the habit of our adventure, stopped and asked to have their picture taken with us. We were told that this entire structure and everything within was cut from one large rock that was in the side of the mountain. Once this rock was discovered they pulled back any dirt that could be layering the sides and top and then began carving from all directions. On the way out, we were bombarded by shop owners, begging us to visit their stand to look at their goods. We decided to buy a few things to take home. What we did notice was the "walk away" technique worked perfect in this instance. As soon as they thought you were leaving the shop, the prices dropped dramatically. Usually to almost 1/2 the original offer. As we headed out of the caves, we noticed a few other runners driving in to see the caves including our original caravan partners, "Fire it Up". We got to our destination village late in the evening and, once again, the Here navigation program took us on a very creative route. Next thing we know, Danny is driving through an extremely busy town market. Of course, everyone has to stop and stare or laugh as we tuk-tuk through this area, making his driving job that much more stressful. With a little help from the locals, we were led out of the market before we did any (major) damage to any of the 100's of carts or motorbikes that were completely thrown in to sell goods (we did clip one bike's footrest says Danny.... Joanna and I are sure he ran it completely over and backed up to make sure he bent the frame the first time over....why let the truth get in the way of a good story!)

Splitting up from the Convoy

Ha!!! So many crazy things happened today! Not really even sure where to start. Again, we got up at about 5am and started our trek to the western coast. There is a rickshaw run party in Goa on the 5th of January and we thought it would be great to get back with the big group and try to refocus our plan north. To get back to coast meant we had to go back down the mountains and across. It should be a full day’s journey but our goal with a night at the beach has us all pumped and ready to get moving.

On the way down, we noticed a nice park that had a beautiful observation deck to let people see the view from the top of the mountain. We stopped for a bit and then made our way down. Until now, we have been using the GPS program “HERE” navigated by Joanna and once we get into a local city we switch to Google maps and that usually gets us where we hope we want to be. When both those fail (which they do at least 3 -4 times a day), we switch to our trusty paper map, which we sometimes have to remember how to use.

The fun part of Joanna’s “Here Program” is that it really has no idea that it is in India. And that what it may consider a road is really a rocky dirt path, possibly an open field, or even a 4 lane major highway. All are referenced the same and give you the opportunity to really explore india in a way that you may never have expected. Which brings me back our journey down the mountain. Are you sure this is correct? This is the last question I heard as I slowly drove “Lady Karma” down the steepest embankment we have traveled thus far. Imagine how steep the embankment would have to be for us to topple over, not side to side, but forward. Now imagine it as wide as a 4 foot sidewalk. Now when you have this image settled and ready to move forward imagine going down this path for at least 5 miles and from time-to-time have other vehicles coming in the opposite direction, just to mix things up a bit. One car stopped us and asked us what we were doing. We explained to him that we were trying to get to highway 88 and he told us there was a better way…that we should go back up since this road is just about to get steeper. Knowing we could not get the rickshaw back up the path that we had just come down, our only choice was to continue on. Keeping it in 1st gear and riding the break we inched further, praying we did not hit a sandy patch or that team “Fire it Up” wouldn’t slam into the back us. Admittedly, there were times that we did hear Bryan and Roel screaming “”GO, GO, GO!!!” behind us so I am sure things were just that much more eventful behind us.

The next 6 hours consisted of hairpin turns and descents finally coming out of the mountains. At one point, we passed a religous festival. We were not sure what it was until a man passing by informed us. About every three minutes, we passed about 3-4 police men all carrying M-16’s or some type of automatic rifle. We assumed to keep this rally/festival peaceful.

The closer we got to the coast, the more we wished to see some other areas than going to Goa would permit. Although as soon as we saw the beach, I must admit flip-flops and shirts were tore off and we ran to the water and jumped in immediately. This not only amused Joanna but also a small audience of people wondering what these crazy white people were doing.

We all agreed that this may be the our last time to see some of these sights and that it may be a good time to separate from Team “Fire it Up,” to head inland again (after a night at the beach) to see Jog Falls and the ruins at Hampi . Upon deciding this, we came up to team “Wheels of Glory”, broken down on the side of the road. They had already called for help at the next town, further up the road. Not wanting to leave them stranded on the side of the road (since you really never knew if help was coming or not…), we tied them up to the back of our rickshaw to give them a tow. About 20 minutes into the this towing situation, the rickshaw mechanic apparently had called them and told them he would meet them exactly where we were at that time. Not wanting to somehow miss this guy, they thought it was best to untie and wait for him. Talking to them via WhatsApp later in the race, we found that indeed he did pick them up and that their clutch had fallen to pieces…

Team “Fire it up” had headed solo north to Goa and we began to search for a place to stay. In this town (according to google maps), there was only one hotel and it was an Ecostay. Our definition of an Ecostay would be possibly a hotel with no running hot water or electricity. Although, we realized that this may be our really our only place to stay for the night and that we were exhausted… and I was also feeling exactly what Danny was feeling a couple days back…. Delhi Belly situation #2… :(

The Ecostay had a long dirt driveway which we slowly went down, passing rice patties and farms. After about 10 minutes, we reached a gate that opened up to this gorgeous cabin-like yoga resort. It was beautiful! We anxiously asked if they had rooms and they did. With a quick bartering process with their onsite business man, we got 2 cabins for $60.00 each. They were fantastic in their hospitality and really wanting us to stay longer then we did. They also helped us drive our rickshaw onto their private beach where we were able to take some terrific shots! As soon as we were finished with the photography beach session, we started planning our next day travels to Jog Falls and opened up a fresh Kingfisher Strong beer. This would have been heaven on earth…except that, it was also about right here that my Dehli Belly was hitting on at 6 pm, I took Cipro and headed to bed…..(but I heard that Joanna and Danny had a great dinner).

Waking up the next morning, everything was much better. Although taking the Cipro is seriously a ride in itself. It causes you to throw up (usually) and also cause night sweats with a fever as it fights against your stomach infection…but, man, you feel better when it is finished. We were woken up with a great breakfast on the beach before we headed inland once again to see the Jog Falls.

The word on the Jog Falls is that it is about 4 times taller than the Niagara Falls. It isn’t monsoon season, but we figured it should be pretty impressive. It absolutely was!! And, when we got there, we saw one of the other American teams there, “Guys just being dudes.” They are one of only five other American teams (including us) in the race. After a brief hello and some great shots of the Falls, we continued inland to Hampi. Hampi contains an 8-square mile area of 16th-century ruins. We had been to Pompeii before and that, too, was impressive but this was something completely different. It was seriously like walking to an episode of Indiana Jones. Monkeys + elephants + temples = Crazy!

The ruins had Shaman and Dieties in all parts of the working temple. At one point, we were asked to take off our shoes before continuing any further. This would of been great except I am sure I stepped in something that quite possibly was Monkey Urine.