Racing across India in a rickshaw

Frank
Frank Gale
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Travel-adventure documentary features Stephenville native Keith King

Nerve-wracking. An amazing experience. Something he will never forget. Those are just a few of the thoughts that came to Stephenville native Keith King when talking about “Hit The Road: India,” a travel-adventure documentary featuring him and his friend Ric Gazarian from Chicago.

Stephenville native Keith King  peeks out of the rickshaw he and friend, Ric Gazarian from Chicago, used to cross India during the filming of “Hit the Road: India.”
— Submitted photo

 King, who now lives in Nova Scotia but still considers Stephenville his home, participated in a 14-day-long rickshaw rally across India.

The race has been recognized by travel guide “Lonely Planet” as one of the Top-10 greatest adventures in the world.

The film was made by a crew of two people, brothers Gor and Mushegh Baghdasaryan, with shootings taking place during two weeks of August in 2012.

The film crew followed the team from Day 1 of the race, filming their journey across the country while they battled never-ending monsoon rains, terrible traffic and numerous mechanical and mental breakdowns.

The film was completed a year later with a selection of songs for the soundtrack.

“I was stunned,” Kin said of seeing the finished product. “(The producers) did a great job on it. Before seeing it I was wondering how I was going to look on film, but a short ways into the race, instead of worrying about being on screen, I got lost in it,” he said.

King said the trek was a wild experience and driving the rickshaw is really like steering a motorcycle as it has the same type of handlebars. However, the wiper is not motorized, so you have to manually turn the wiper while steering with one hand.

King met Gazarian while in Thailand training in Muay Tai, a martial arts combat sport. As the two shared a thirst for adventure and visiting different places around the world, Gazarian asked him to join him on the India trek. He agreed.

“There were a lot of scary moments during the race with cows, buses, large trucks, cars and no order to the traffic, coupled with monsoon rains most of the time,” King said.

During the race they were on the road 10 to 12 hours a day and pretty much stressed the entire time.

He said the monsoon rains were steady and it just poured for hours, which they didn’t really expect in August.

During the race the friends stayed in 14 different types of lodging and saw quite a lot of India  — they even got lost several times as they weren’t using maps or GPS.

Being a chef, King said he enjoyed a lot of the food they had while in India and said people there have an amazing way of cooking.

However, care had to be taken as in some places the food was actually dangerous to eat.

During the trek, King and Gazarian came upon an incident where they were taken into a police station and questioned for about three hours.

The pair had been at a local McDonald’s restaurant where a bomb went off just hours after they left.

King said there was a lot of relief when they realized the police finally believed they had no involvement.

The 2,000-kilometre race ended up being 2,300 kilometres for the duo, as they got lost quite a bit. They ended up finishing dead last for which they received “the bonkers” award, which they are trading back and forth annually.

“It’s a great piece of conversation,” he said.

After the rickshaw race, the two friends spent another six weeks doing a more relaxing tour of the rest of India and enjoyed all that went with it, including sightseeing and cuisine.

Travels for the pair are far from over — they plan to travel to every country in the world eventually. Since their India experience, the two visited North Korea recently, a trip King admits had moments when they wondered if they had made the right choice in going there.

“But that’s what travelling is all about, experiencing new cultures and exploring new food and for single guys like us, new women across the world,” he said.

The two now have their sights set on Peru as their next trip, with The Philippines or Siberia also on the radar.

King still gets back to Newfoundland as often as possible and — with his work doing consulting for restaurants and food safety training — he does that quite often.

He said his zeal for travelling was born in Newfoundland as he did a lot of exploring throughout the province when he was younger, taking pictures as he went.

“Newfoundland is a unique, amazing place where there’s lots to do. Although my parents (Eric and Marilyn King) no longer live in Stephenville, I still like to visit as I have a lot of friends there and still call it home,” he said.

As proof of that, King flew the Newfoundland flag in the rickshaw during the race featured in the “Hit the Road: India” film.

Although the film was an independent project with a tiny budget and no marketing strategy as such, it was pronounced “An amazing adventure” by video-sharing website Vimeo, featured in the magazine Vanity Fair Italy, and other media and received many positive reviews from audiences around the world.

 King said the “Hit the Road: India” is available for purchase from the website www.hittheroadmovie.com or from amazon.com.

The digital version can be downloaded through iTunes or Vimeo.

The Georgian

Geographic location: India, Stephenville, Nova Scotia Newfoundland Thailand North Korea Peru Siberia

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