An engineer travelling from India to the UK in a solar-powered tuk-tuk to promote clean energy has been thwarted within touching distance of his goal after being being robbed in France.
Naveen Rabelli, who set off from Kochi, Kerala, in February, has had to pause his journey one country short of his intended destination after his passport and wallet were stolen from his parked vehicle in Sarcelles, north of Paris, while he was using a bathroom.
The 35-year-old is now awaiting a new passport so that he can cross the English Channel and finish his journey at Buckingham Palace.
Till yesterday I had zero bad experiences, Rabelli said. People were absolutely loving my project/mission. Especially for them to imagine a guy from India to do this, [it] is exciting for them. I left the tuk only for 10 minutes or so. Normally I always have my things with me all the time. It was just this time, since I had to urgently use the toilet. I left my passport in the tuk-tuk.
He has travelled through Iran, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria, Germany and Switzerland, and when he gets to London – hopefully on Monday – he will have racked up 6,200 miles (10,000km) in the vehicle he has named Tejas, which means radiance or brilliance.
Rabelli bought the tuk-tuk for $1,500 (£1,100) and spent $11,500 customising it. As well as making it run on solar and electric power, he installed a bed, solar cooker and a cupboard, which he stocks with food donated by wellwishers.
After initial difficulties communicating with French police, he said they were very helpful when they found an English-speaking officer and came to understand the details of his trip.
Rabelli has contacted the Australian embassy in France for an emergency passport. He became an Australian citizen when he worked there for three years as an automotive engineer. He later returned to India, where he was born and brought up, and pursued project Tejas.
He said the theft of the cash would not prevent him reaching his final destination as he needed money only for food, much of which was donated anyway. As well as food, people have offered him accommodation and the use of showers. Rabelli said he had washed at police stations and petrol stations and in shops, lakes and rivers along the way.
Until the theft, he said, his worst moment was travelling in the mountains in Turkey in hailstones on a narrow road with a sideways incline, with one set of tyres close to the side of the mountain and the other close to the edge of the cliff, an experience he described as terrifying.
Rabelli says his goal is to create awareness of the potential for solar-powered passenger vehicles in Asian and European countries, presenting an Indian solution to the world.
News Source TheGuardianNews