And so it begins… - 05/04/2012

Whilst the Alesburys blog their side of the beginning of all things Indian there is another group following a slightly different path to the start line. It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you, for your entertainment, 40% of this year’s Furballers. The Hattersley Twins will tame one of the mighty steeds whilst Paddy will be joining Smally to form Team Smearne in the other wagon and take Smally’s furball virginity.

The final preparations began back in a surprisingly sunny Oxfordshire. The four gathered at the Team Booze Oxfordshire HQ and, on Sunday night, headed to the pub to get moderately sloshed on quality ale. This left slightly fuzzy heads for the Monday morning where the final rush for supplies began. Everything fell in to place but it did cost Craig the clutch on his MX-5. When the airport taxi turned up later that evening, having assured us that it would be big enough to carry us all with our luggage, it left again fairly rapidly as the driver realised that a Ford Mondeo would not be capable of carrying 30 metres of lion fur plus a selection of enormous baggage such as Paddy’s North Face duffle that had come to be known as ‘The Widowmaker’ due to it’s unbelievable weight – more on that shortly. The kit was finally loaded on to a more accommodating Ford Galaxy and off to Heathrow we trekked, decked in a tasteful mixture of tweed, bow-ties, pink stripey-linen and summer dress.

Check-in brought the first hurdle. ‘The Widowmaker’ and Co. proved to be just too much. The friendly chap from Jet Airways suggested a re-pack into more, smaller bags. We dug out our canoe dry sacks, turned four bags into eight and crossed our fingers, toes and everything else as we watched our highly questionable attempt at hold luggage roll off down the conveyor belt. Having overcome our first challenge we sailed through security and ensconced ourselves in the restaurant opposite the boarding gate to quaff gin and feast on a non-curry meal. Movement from that point on was surprisingly smooth, if not occasionally unfeasibly warm and a little laborious.

A collective sigh of relief was heaved upon the arrival of all eight pieces of our luggage set and we jumped in a taxi and set off for our hotel. Cue our first experience of Indian driving… dear god…we are all doomed. In fairness, Craig still managed to fall asleep and the 45 minute taxi ride only cost us nine pounds – Oxfordshire taxi drivers take note! By some miracle of God/Buddha/Vishnu/ (insert deity here) we rolled up in one piece outside the gates of our 4 star hotel in the hectic business district of Kochi. The security guards greeted us with a sharp salute reminiscent of a colonial heritage and days gone by and then the staff swarmed upon us and welcomed us in to air-conditioned splendor on the banks of the Erakulum Marina. It would appear that the secondary nickname of ‘Team Money’, earned during the 2010 Mototaxi Junket was holding good for the latest Furball adventure. After a much-needed shower we sampled some of the most amazing Keralan curries in the hotel restaurant we opted to sample an ungodly quantity of Keralan cocktails in the hotel bar with its view over the bay. The next day saw us roll from breakfast to a full day by the pool enjoying the sun whilst Craig taught the rest of us how to juggle. We took a brief break for lunch before returning to our palm-tree paradise until late afternoon when, several beers down the range, the dark and brooding cumulus nimbus clouds of tropical thunder rolled in. ‘Surely you packed up and ran for cover?’, I hear you cry. Nope. We ordered gin and played water polo whilst the heavens opened up around us… and oh, was it fun!

We decided to attempt a departure in to the outside world that evening and wandered off in to the busy night streets of our part of Kochi. What we discovered that, whilst our area of town housed some rather nice hotels, it had very little else. We found a cash machine then turned back towards home plate for more cocktails. What was rather reassuring was the fact that, at no point did we ever feel unsafe or threatened, even with a girl in tow. Everyone was really quite friendly. So, back to the bar to work on the next hangover.

I now write this on Thursday night sat in… anyone…Bueller…anyone? That’s right, the hotel bar. However, today was a day of incredible productivity. After breakfast we gathered our kit up and went off to find the ferry over to Fort Cochin, the home of our rickshaws. The first boat driver we met tried to convince us that he was the only boat that went our way and he would do us a fantastic deal for 800 Rupees (84 to the pound, you do the maths, I’m too tired). Fortunately we found the official ferry and got four tickets for 10 Rupees!

Matt, the adventurists contact (our man in India) arrived almost on time and in the right place (which gives him a significant head-start on Dave, our contact in South America for the Mototaxi Junket 2010) and the rickshaw acquisition process was completed with very little hassle (once the wagons turned up, following a great lunch on the roof terrace of the hotel that we booked in to for the night before the start). Like a couple of hopefuls wandering the halls of Battersea Dog’s Home looking for a new best friend, we eyed up the selection of rickshaws that had made it to the parade ground thus far and picked the only two that weren’t already being pawed over by a plethora of teams from all over this wonderfully explorable earth of ours. It was at this point that the hard work began in earnest. The 35 degree heat under a blazing afternoon sun combined with oppressive humidity left four drenched bodies cutting and gluing lion fur on to our new toys for the next five hours. The morale rollercoaster wound its way through the day as we ate and inhaled far more fake fur than any government would recommend on a daily basis and the language became ever-more expressive as the day went on. The effort was worth it though. The level of admiration from both locals and rickshaw runners was colossal and the finshed, named products now look exceptional. Team Smearne a have christened their friend ‘Simba’ and the Hattersely boys have adopted ‘Leo’. Four incredibly damp, dirty and tired furballers ferried back to the hotel for the best shower ever and settled in for more incredible food, a bit of blogging and a spot of booze. On that note, we bid you good night good people… now sponsor us!

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Posted : 21/04/2012

Falakata: One thing Paddy did miss out of his blog was the way in which the fur ballers were informed of Na’s collapse; a young lad with very good English poked his head around the corner and announced ‘Sir, I think your friend is in an extreme situation!’ This was pure comedy on looking back, alt...