Start the Tuk-Tuk

2015-01-25 15:00

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There’s one racing down a rough road in Ranchi, India. There’s another weaving through thick traffic in Dhaka, Bangladesh. There’s a third struggling up a hill in Sri Lanka’s tea country, stuttering but climbing steadily.

Meet thetuk-tuk. The three-wheeler. The auto (an abbreviation for auto rickshaw and a word no self-respecting subcontinental citizen will ever say). It’s humble, hard-working and handsome. The moment I sat in one, I knew I had to have my own.

Of courseLet’s say the idea wasn’t well received, especially from those who had been passengers in my car. They didn’t enjoy the abrupt braking and last-minute swerving that’s second nature to me. Little did they know I was practising for the day I could say: “Start thetuk-tuk.” It’s a phrase used in my job of cricket writing to describe a particularly slow-scoring batsman who finally gets going.

Deep down I knew the only way I could own a tuk-tuk was if I was willing to trade deadlines for driving and my laptop for lugging people around. I didn’t realise that kind of thinking was so narrow.

Vehicles are not just about getting from A to B. They serve many purposes, with the emphasis on the word ‘serve’, like food trucks. Forget the roadhouse and the drive-thru, this is eating on another level – savvy, sophisticated, sexy. How much more streetwise would it be coming out of a tuk-tuk?

The idea appealed to me, but I had twin problems. I had neither a tuk-tuk nor any cooking ability.

Luckily, both can be sourced.

My first search, a preliminary google, found tuk-tuks that had been converted into ice cream trucks, hotdog stands and cupcake carriages. The last of those marinated in my mind.

While my skills do not include searing a great steak, I know a bit about baking and I know that few things are as satisfying as a sweet treat.

I like to enjoy mine mid-morning, in those precious moments after the milestones of waking up, washing the dishes and working out have been achieved.

It’s almost like having what Frodo called a second breakfast – and that was how my company was born.

Second Breakfast started as a concept for coffee and cake, and within weeks became real as I sourced a Piaggio dealership in Durban that sold me a cargo tuk-tuk, a coachwork specialist who had converted cars into cafés and was willing to take on my project, a creative designer to transform the pumpkin into a carriage as well as several suppliers.

Ian Mulligan Coachworks showed me how they built a box to sit on thetuk-tuk that opens up and moves forward to reveal the bamboo counter tops and cake stands. An intricately detailed back wall was put together by designer Lauriane Holme, which also included a hand-illustrated logo.

My thinking was first the eyes will feast, then the stomach. Apart from cupcakes, Second Breakfast will include biscuits, flatbreads and dips.

My tuk-tuk hit the road for the first time at the Newlands Cricket Ground on December 12 last year. Then the road trips will begin. Where to? Anywhere the Cape Doctor won’t blow her over.

And now when I say, “Start thetuk-tuk”, I finally can.

This is the first of a monthly column on Moonda’s venture.

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