Three weeks ago, Alex Lindbloom. Oliver Deppert and Jacob Black left the starting line of the 2010 Rickshaw Challenge in Kochi, India on a crazed cross-India race.
Fifteen days, 4,300 kilometers, a mere 75 hours of sleep, and several breakdowns later, Team Shayu Productions arrived safe and sound in Gangtok.
"I am so happy they came in safe and sound," said Molly Banton, Alex Lindbloom's mother. "They had grueling long days but they hung in there as a team. It was such a wonderful experience for them."
Currently resting at the Deppert's house in Katmandu, Nepal, BW caught up with the guys on Skype.
"It's too hard to even try to explain what we saw and what we've been through," Oliver Deppert said.
The 15 days of traveling were long, they said. They would get up at 4 a.m. to re-pack the rickshaw and be on the road by 5. "We couldn't leave anything in the rickshaw overnight. We had to unpack every night and load up every morning." They would end their day around 7 p.m. to eat and go to sleep.
They traveled together with a team of English girls they met before the race and soon decided to go a "slow and steady pace."
"The girls had a bad breakdown right out of the gate," Deppert said. "We were fortunate and only broke down twice."
"That, and two flats," Lindbloom added.
After the breakdowns, both teams agreed that a steady 40 km per hour would be the way to go. They didn't experience any breakdowns after that.
The guys said there were two ways to approach the race. "If you choose to, you could take the highways without encountering any obstacles," Deppert said.
The Boise team took the other, less-travelled route.
"We hit the highway only when we didn't know where to go or to make up time," Lindbloom said. "The small roads were a lot more interesting."
And by "interesting" he means running into military blockades, barely escaping Maoist bombings in Hyderabad, and getting tested for malaria in a hospital that had raw sewage running all around it, people with bloody bandages lying on gurneys in the halls, and a room with a blood-smeared handprint on the wall.
Lindbloom's malaria test came back fine but he has been struggling with a fever and heat exhaustion for a few days. Victoria Deppert, Oliver's mother, took him to a clinic in Katmandu and assured that the medicine is working and Lindbloom is doing much better.
The situation they considered most dangerous, was the day the highway ended into a river. "Between the two teams we had six maps," Black explained. "Each was different. But all had Highway 16 on it so we took that."
After hours of riding through desert climates, without a stick of shade, Highway 16 suddenly ended. They could see a road continuing on the other side of a river but no bridge.
They did not want to backtrack for hours as they had many times before and were determined to cross the river. They managed to convince a man with a little rowboat to let them load the two tuk tuks on the boat and row them across the river. The vehicles weighed a ton, literally, and crossing the river on a little riverboat could have been the end of the race for them but they succeeded.
All three guys agreed that India is an incredibly beautiful country and praised the Indian people for their extreme kindness and willingness to help. Lindbloom said that people in India are the kindest people on the planet.
"They will go out of their way to help you," he said.
Besides surviving a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, Team Shayu Productions raised $1,835 by doing this race to be donated to the Frank Water Projects, which funds sustainable clean water projects in developing countries.
"These boys are great," Victoria Deppert said. "Excited about the world and collecting money for charity while having adventures."
The old junior high school friends will now go separate ways as Black is headed back to Nicaragua, Lindbloom to Thailand, and Deppert to Thailand.
"This didn't stretch their friendship," Banton said. "It made it stronger."