Today on The Rickshaw Run: Into the Himalayas

Lost Map

After about 5 days without phone or internet connectivity, we’ve re-surfaced, in Darjeeling.  Today’s climb of 8,000 feet was interesting.  Tracey and Richard needed to hop out and push up the steepest bits while Miles navigated the switchbacks like a pro.  When we reached the washed out road, a half dozen road workers picked up the entire rig and carried it safely to the other side. Now nestled in the middle of Nepal, Tibet, Butan & Bangladesh, it feels like we’ve left India entireley.  Tomorrow we start the descent and head to Assam.

Into India


We leave our cats and home in good hands and head to India for the start of a grand adventure. Arriving in Delhi feels like stepping back in time as we disembark the ultra-modern Airbus 830 and head into the very early morning streets of the city filled with thousands of cows, goats, dogs and people…hundreds of people…wrapped in blankets and sleeping on the sidewalks.

At the train station, we have a brief opportunity to visit with our friend Abishek who has come from his home in Udaipur to meet up with us. He’s been a great help in getting us ready for this trip and we’re disappointed that we can’t manage more time together.

Before we know it, we’re stepping onto a crowded, dusty train for our 18-hour journey through the state of Rajasthan to Jaisalmer, near the Pakistani border. As the sun rises, we are immersed  in the sandy, scrubby scenery that we will face for several days once we begin our drive back across the country for the Rickshaw Run.

After a good night’s rest in our abode for the first six days of the trip, the Nashna Haveli, we’re off to explore the spectacular hill fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only fort in India to still be inhabited.

In the sweltering heat of the afternoon, we return to the haveli, former home to several Maharajas, to be greeted by the Prince. He still lives here, along with his sister, brother and each of their spouses and children. We truly feel like guests in their home as we dine on their ancient family recipes sitting alongside them on the rooftop patio enjoying spectacular views of the fort and surrounding city.

The next morning has us up long before sunrise and heading into the middle of the Thar Desert for a camel safari, exploring an abandoned city and hiking through the Royal Cenotaphs.  After a fantastic thali for lunch, we are off to the Rickshaw Run headquarters and finally have an opportunity to be face-to-face with our auto rickshaw. We chat with the painter, Amrit, who patiently spent two days duplicating the fabulous rickshaw design created for us by Mark Cromwell back at home. He’s done a fantastic job and all that he will accept from us as a token of our gratitude is a Canadian coin to add to his collection.

rickshaw run

The next few days include lots of opportunity for vehicle modifications and test driving before the  Rickshaw Run kicks off on April 6. Beginning to get acquainted with our little motorized beast, I squeal with delight when I actually manage to muster the super human strength to get the engine going using it’s crazy pull lever starter. The rest of the operation is pretty much like a motor bike and Miles, Richard and I all pick it up quickly, receiving our official auto rickshaw/lawnmower permits without much effort.  It’s looking like we’re almost ready to roll off into the great Indian unknown.


The Fundraising Dilemma

Smiles & Miles consider ourselves privileged to be able to roam the world as we do. We are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, healthy sustenance, endless learning opportunities, and a chance to do work that we enjoy. We have the resources and time to do some truly amazing things, albeit with lots of work and several compromises along the way.

Over the years, we’ve seen individuals asking for money from others to pay the costs of their personal travel. One particular example featured a donation jar at the till of several local stores to fund an individual’s trip to South America – with no supporting information to state any reason why this person could not just save up and go. We can understand fundraising to assist individuals in taking advantage of unique opportunities which they have worked hard to earn but can’t manage financially.  ie. Scouts raising money to enable a trip to a faraway jamboree. What is confusing is that more and more we are seeing firsthand how some individuals are giving the impression of raising funds for a charity, when in reality they are spending the money raised (or some portion of it) to fund personal expenses. We understand that the fundraising itself incurs costs that need to be paid, but when a traveler undertakes a trip primarily for their own personal benefit, we’d prefer that they funded this in some other way, without blurring the view of where donors’ funds are actually going. These past experiences created a great deal of discomfort for us when we decided to participate in an adventure with a charity fundraising component. We do not want to leave anyone with the impression that we are raising money to fund our personal adventure.

We chose to take part in the Rickshaw Run because it seemed like a great opportunity to do something we’ve dreamed of – driving across India in an auto rickshaw.  What an amazing way to see a fascinating country! We’re pleased that The Adventurists have created this unique opportunity.  We’re also pleased that, like us, they quite like the world, adventuring in it, and giving something back. In fact, their efforts have contributed to raising over £5 million for charity.

Similarly, we’ve seen fellow travelers using the attention that they’ve drawn to their adventurous undertakings to cast attention on worthwhile causes. Some of them have raised significant funds which have been put to great use.  We applaud them.

Smiles & Miles contribute to our local and global communities in a number of ways and are in the fortunate position that we can afford to provide the minimum fundraising component for the Rickshaw Run without the need for fundraising from others.  But leaving it at that seemed like a missed opportunity.  And so . . . We’re taking advantage of the interest surrounding our upcoming adventure to draw some attention to a couple of causes that we support:

FreetheChildren_1230pxA Canadian charity and educational partner, working both domestically and internationally to empower and enable youth to be agents of change.



Cool Earth1230pxA UK charity working alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction.



We’re thrilled to report that our efforts to-date have raised over CDN$6,000 for these two worthwhile causes.  A huge thank you to our donors for your generosity and support. If you’re interested in joining in our efforts, please visit the links above to learn more about each charity and how you can contribute directly to them.

We are also pleased to let you know that our Rickshaw Run teammate, Richard Desilets, is using this opportunity to draw attention to his chosen cause, The Calgary Poppy Fund & Veterans Food Bank.

Calgary Poppy Fund

We encourage you to learn more about this organization and to contribute to their valuable efforts on Richard’s behalf.


With generosity of spirit,

Tracey & Miles

Introducing the Smiles & Miles Rickshaw Run Team

Long-time friends and members of the Hot Potato Auto Racing Team, the three of us normally travel together for racing events throughout North America. When we were looking for a new adventure, we briefly considered the Ice Run, but we’re from Canada and drive an Ural year-round, so that really seemed like just another day. The Rickshaw Run seemed like a fairly calm and relaxing change of pace, and a great way to draw some attention to our causes – Cool Earth, Free the Children and the Veterans Food Bank.


Miles (The Brains)

Instigator, inspirer, and ingenious mind.

Age:  kid-at-heart.

Early years:  playing bagpipes & racing a luge to the Olympics

Role on the Hot Potato Race Car Team:  Team Manager, Speedy Driver, Mechanic, Chef

Adventure Credentials:  Travelled around the world overland, drove an Ural sidecar rig through 20 countries & 3 continents, and took passage on a cargo ship across the Atlantic.

Normal mode of transport:  Very fast, frighteningly fast & blindingly fast.

Driving accidents:  Nothing that everyone hasn’t walked away from (unless you count the luge).

Most likely to be found … enjoying a gourmet meal I whip up on the side of the road.


Tracey (The Beauty 😉 

Detailed, delicate and derailed.

Age:  I’m neither a wine nor a cheese, so it doesn’t matter.

Most comfortable language:  Charades.

Early years:  Working my way through University as a fashion model. Yes, that was a long, long time ago.

Role on the Hot Potato Race Car Team:  Umbrella girl.

Adventure credentials: 25 years side-by-side with Miles…need I say more?

Most spontaneous adventure:  Flying half way around the world for a birthday weekend.

Normal mode of transport:  Karmann Ghia

Most likely to be found … sipping a mango lassi.



Richard (The Brawn)

Handy, hard- working, and hardly ever at home

Age:  Old enough to know better.

Family:  Father to Sarah, husband to Nancy. They’ll both be cheering on the team and following along from 11,000 km away. Sarah is counting the days until she’s old enough for a motorcycle license & her own Rickshaw Run.

Early years:  Milking cows (before the dawn of robots)

First time managing motorized handlebars: Seriously? At the age of 5, I was herding cows on a homemade scooter.

Role on the Hot Potato Race Car Team:  Transport driver, Paddock manager.

Adventure credentials:  No stranger to conflict zones, Richard has been part of several U.N. missions and maneuvered through some of the world’s toughest conditions.

Driving accidents: None… yet.

Bionic part: Hip

Most likely to be found … munching on something out of a crinkly cellophane bag.

Keep reading for more stories from these three adventurers as we head to India next week.

Tracey, Miles & Richard