Getting lost in Auroville and a chance meeting with two incredible Aussie travelers

Azza Mate and Alex Anderson with their auto rickshaw. Pic: Akshatha M

The way life throws surprises at you!

It was on July 29th evening I was standing all alone in some corner of Auroville, located at a distance of around 12 kilometres from the main town of Pondicherry. I had arrived at this experimental township on the same noon, curious to know and understand how this township is experimenting in human unity.

I had done my prior booking with a vehicle rental service agent belonging to Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry who was suppose to drop me off at Auroville along with a bunch of other travellers and bring me back to Pondicherry in the evening. The service provider’s itinerary included a visit to a nearby temple after the whirlwind visit to Auroville.

The segment of temple visit did not particularly interest me. For I knew Auroville is not a place that one would see in two hours and return in a haste, but it’s a place to stay for a few days and experience an altogether different life. But then I had a packed schedule and I had to make the best out of it.

I told the travel coordinator that I would like to skip the temple visit, hence I would return on my own before it’s dusk and the vehicle need not wait for me. The coordinator insisted that I travel back in the same vehicle as the place lacks good public transportation. Therefore we struck a deal: I would skip the temple visit and stay back in Auroville, but wait at a junction from where the vehicle will pick me up at 5 pm on their way back from temple visit.

At 5 pm, to my utter disappointment the vehicle ditched me. I was two minutes late in reaching the boarding point. I was obviously saddened to see the vehicle passing by while I was just a few metres away running to catch it. That feeling of being left in the lurch in an unknown place, was certainly bad. I was feeling desolate.

After a wait for half an hour or so, hoping to find an auto or bus that can take me on to the main road, I realised if I wait for a little longer I am in no way going to reach Pondi before its dark. I was thinking of all possible ways to get out of this remote village.

I asked a shopkeeper if I can get any auto or bus on this road. She replied in negative. On hearing my conversation, a boy standing next to me suggested may be I should ask for a lift if somebody is traveling in that direction. Then he showed me a fancy auto parked a few metres away, full of graffiti work on it. “Give it a try,” he smirked.

Without a second thought I approached the auto driver. To my surprise, there were two foreigners seated – one on the driver’s seat and another guy behind.

In a hurry, I explained them my situation and asked if they can drop me off to the main road. During all this I had absolutely no idea who these auto guys were; why were they driving a fancy auto. My easy guess was that they were into providing auto service in Auroville. How silly I was!

On my request, the guys immediately agreed to give me a lift. But they said they do not know the route. I hopped on and we checked the map and decided on the route. They laughed at me and said “you are our first customer.” (not really a customer, it was a free ride!) I did not care who and what, all I needed at that moment was help, even if it was from two strangers.

Me with Azza and Alex.

The next few minutes of the rickshaw journey turned out to be a revelation. I learned that these two guys from Australia are on an astounding journey across India and Nepal in their auto rickshaw.

The journey that started in Chennai three days ago reached Pondi over the weekend. They plan to travel across Southern India before venturing into the North and then head to Nepal, all this in a tiny but vibrant tuk tuk. I was overwhelmed to hear their story of mind blowing adventure.

While chatting with them during the ride, which then continued over a cup of tea, they narrated their fascinating story. Alex Anderson and Azza Mate, two friends from Brisbane quit their jobs to take up an unconventional trip. They decided on traveling in an auto for they wanted this trip to be different and they liked auto rickshaws.

They told me why they choose India and Nepal for their trip, how excited they are and how they planned it. The duo recently purchased an auto rickshaw from Chennai Garage, modified it according to their needs and got a makeover.

I was awed to see the graffiti on the auto, something that immediately caught my attention. The backside of rickshaw read: “Yoga Flame.” When I asked about it, they said the graffiti was of “Dahlsim.” “Dahlsim” is a famous video game character from Street Fighter series of 90’s. One of his special moves is Yoga Flying and the Aussie guys wanted an Indian character to be the theme of their vehicle.

As we ended the conversation and was about to leave, I realised – whatever happens, happens for good. I am so glad that I missed the vehicle that was to drop me off to Pondi, for I got a chance to meet Alex and Azza, travel in their tuk tuk and listen to their story over a cup of tea.

Their kind gesture of helping a lone woman stuck in an unknown place made me reconfirm my faith in humanity; that goodness still exists in this world; that there are people who are willing to help a stranger and help may come from any corner. It was a chance meeting them both and I hope we meet again in the paths of travel, somewhere sometime.

I wish them all the best for their four months of journey. May this journey throw all the more surprises at them and they both succeed in this trip of a lifetime.

P.S: If you spot this auto moving somewhere in your city/town, do spare your time to say a hello to them and listen to their experience. I promise it is going be worthwhile!


  1. Aryadeep S. Acharya says:

    Thank you for reporting your experience. On the other day, I also saw from distance an auto near Town Hall in Auroville with a lady sitting behind and young Westerner driving. I kept looking curiously, wondering at the uncommon scene but it drove on. Now I seem to get the answer.

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