After an epic three days of launch celebrations the Pioneer’s Adventurists ASEAN Rickshaw Run finally spluttered forth a few days ago, at possibly the grandest launch ceremony The Adventurists have ever witnessed. Organising this beast of an adventure has been rather time consuming of late, hence the slight Itinerant absence.
The epic launch celebrations took place over there days, in the sweltering heat of Jakarta. First up was two days of Test Driving – a chance for the teams to get acquainted with the brand spanking new fleet of 28 ‘Bemo Bemos’. This was followed by a grandiose programme of workshops at the ASEAN Secretariat in Blok M, Jakarta, and a football match at the Indonesian Police HQ. The workshops took place in the ridiculously snazzy ASEAN Hall, more used to hosting politicians and ambassadors than a motley crew of 64 raggle-taggle Adventurists. Amazingly, given the night out some of the teams had had the night before, almost everyone made it to the workshop, and were blessed with pearls of wisdom from a host of dignitaries. Dr William Sabandar, Director of Corporate Affairs at ASEAN, kicked off with the lowdown on ASEAN. He was followed by several highly decorated members of the Indonesian police, their shirts weighed down by medals and badges of distinction. Whilst giving advice on driving in Sumatra, the main leg of the journey, one of them proffered that although there were many wild boars, it was ‘ok to play with them’. Unfortunately the translator wasn’t quite sure what the word for wild boar was, and instead stated it was ok ‘to play with the wild whores’. He was quickly corrected, amidst peals of laughter from the assembled. Last up was Mr Nittee, Director of the Thai Tourism Authority, who informed the teams all about Thailand, including showing them the all important ‘elephants crossing’ road sign: not one most of the participants are used to in their home countries.
The workshop was followed by a splendid, exceptionally hot football game at the Indonesian Police HQ in Blok M. 11 Adventurists bravely volunteered to play, despite the 95 degree heat and a very nimble looking opposing team, three of whom were professional players. Unsurprisingly, and true to form, the home team gave The Adventurists a good roasting, beating them 6-3. Luckily there were no casualties from the heat.
The day was finished off by the launch party, held in Jalan Jaksa, the highlight of which was a performance from a debus group. This involved traditional music, dancers and a large quota of lying on glass, slicing their arms and necks with knives and generally doing things with sharp implements that one really shouldn’t try at home. I was dragged in to demonstrate the authenticity of this, having some of my hair chopped off with a saw, arms sliced with a sword and neck sawed. And yes, it was real, and my arms are still bearing large slices across them a few days later…
The Official Launch ceremony at ASEAN kicked off early on Sunday morning, and teams arrived bleary eyed from 7 a.m onwards to pack up their steeds and make last minute adjustments. The 28 three-wheeled beasts were lined up magnificently in front of the ASEAN building, the flags of the 10 ASEAN member states fluttering overhead. As 9 a.m. approached the teams were engulfed by a gaggle of media – AP, Reuters, Spanish news agency EFE, South China TV, the Jakarta Globe, Jakarta Post and Ant TV to name but a few. Team Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, from Sydney, proved a particular hit, attired as they were in full Chitty Chitty Bang Bang garb. As one Australian team were having their photo taken with their ‘extra’ team mate, an Ann Summers doll, Mr Rajarethnam, Advisor to the Secretary-General of ASEAN said with a chuckle that ‘ASEAN has never seen the likes of this before’.
Interviews were interrupted however by the arrival of a cavalcade of VVIPs in blacked-out cars; His Excellency Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary General of ASEAN, His Excellency Mr Fauzi Bowo, the Governor of Jakarta, His Excellency Mark Canning, the British Ambassador to Indonesia, and representatives from the Ministry of Youth and Sport and the Ministry of Tourism. Teams followed these rather important chaps into the main hall, where they feasted on a wonderful breakfast laid out by ASEAN, as Dr Surin, Mr Bowo and Mr Tom of The Adventurists gave speeches. Both Dr Surin and Mr Bowo have been incredibly supportive of the event, and both said they couldn’t wait for it to become a regular feature on the SE Asian calender.
A quick group photo and it was time for Lift Off. As the teams got into their ‘shaws and the air was filled with the throaty roar of 28 175 cc engines choking into life, the VIPs and media chatted to the teams, whilst drummers and girls scattering rose petals followed them down the line. A quick cut of the start ribbons and they were off! Dr Surin and Mark Canning greeted every single team as they drove out, accompanied by a police escort. Dr Surin even gave his business card to every team…. does he know he’s now going to be getting phone calls from teams stuck in the Sumatran jungle?
In true Adventurists style, one rickshaw didn’t want to start – and only left an hour later after our team of mechanics had tended to it’s needs.
A few days after the launch and the teams are struggling through the Sumatran jungle, although 4 teams have already capitulated. To follow their progress see www.theadventurists.com