Rickshaw duty

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Rickshaw Run, Feasting In Footscray/Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, Footscray Central

Being typically Consider The Sauce early for the 11.30am check-in time for my first experience of rickshaw pulling allows me the opportunity to get the inside scoop of these marvellous vehicles.

Deputy mayor Grant Miles, today in fluoro-vested blue-collar mode, tells me that after a long search, a single job lot of them were found in a small Chinese town, where they were dismantled and packed into a container for Melbourne.

Here they were re-assembled and fitted with bearings.

And now they’re a seemingly excellent and permanent fixture of the Footscray scene as the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival rolls around for another year.

This year’s Rickshaw Run sold out in a couple of days, but there’s still plenty of scope for volunteers, so I plan on making myself useful – and doing it all again in a week’s time with Bennie.

I’m told that in the previous year there were stacks of volunteers, so each rickshaw puller stayed with the same couple of guests for the whole run.

Today, there’s more to-ing and -fro-ing.

And even though the run travels no further than a block from the registration point near the corner of Leeds and Byron streets, a good deal of concentration is required.

A loaded rickshaw takes more grunt to get moving – and stop – than I’d figured.

And manoeuvering along crowded footpaths and avoiding clashes with people, especially children, and retail displays and signage is tricky.

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First stop for punters – even before they board their rickshaws – is D&K, where they feast on icy, freshly shucked oysters.

I never knew!

Apparently, this delicious trick can be done any old time – with prices ranging from about $9 to $13 a dozen depending on size.

I’m so there!

My first passengers are Cathy and Anita (top photo), who are followed by Wendy and Lucy, and then Mike and Dosh.

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I enjoy asking them all how their Rickshaw Run is going as the day progresses.

And I tell them: “If an oxygen mask should drop down in front of you, make sure you place one on your own face before doing the same for your children!”

First stop after oysters is Little Saigon Market, where guests get to sample such exotic treats as mangosteen, rambutan and dragon fruit.

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At Sen Restaurant, Rickshaw Run punters make their own rice paper rolls.

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At the corner of Hopkins and Leeds streets, they receive a massage while chomping on bo la lot – beef in vine leaves – and taking in some rowdy Vietnamese music.

I grab a skewer of bo la lot at $3.50 for myself. So good and chewy, with a heavy garlic hit and sublime chilli afterburn.

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From there, it’s on to Sapa Hills for bun cha Hanoi (grilled pork, noodles, salad and dipping sauce) at Sapa Hills and, finally, Dong Que for traditional spring rolls made with rice paper.

A big part of the day have been the wide smiles and guffaws of laughter coming from many amused locals as we’ve made our way around Footscray.

Maybe some of that’s due to the inherent post-colonial humour of having people with pale skin – in my case, very pale – hauling rickshaws around streets on which brown skin is very much the norm.

And for just a moment, on our last run along Hopkins Street, I see, hear and experience these so-familiar streets, sights and aromas through a visitor’s eyes.

So very, very cool!

Yet someone had said to me earlier in the day: “I’ve never eaten much around here – I’ve always been too scared!”

It’s been a fine experience.

Rickshaw Run volunteers still needed! Contact president@footscraytraders.com.au

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