Couple to ride across Indian desert to raise £1m for elephants

Garreth Wood is the founder of the Boozy Cow group. Picture: Greg Macvean
Garreth Wood is the founder of the Boozy Cow group. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A leading Scottish restaurateur and his wife are to travel through one of the world’s most inhospitable regions in a motorised rickshaw to help raise £1m for the endangered Asian elephant.

Garreth Wood, the founder of the Boozy Cow group, and his wife, Nicola, will embark on the epic journey across the Indian desert state of Rajasthan at the end of the month.

Inspired by their late friend, the conservationist, adventurer, and travel writer, Mark Shand, they hope to raise money for his Elephant Family charity over the week-long event.

The inaugural Travels To My Elephant initiative, held two years ago, raised £1.3 million towards conservation efforts, and organisers hope to break the target this time around. The Woods hope to raise around £25,000 towards the total.

It represents the latest charitable drive by Mr Wood, whose burgeoning restaurant group has donated nearly half a million pounds to good causes since it was launched in 2014.

The 39-year-old philanthropist, who is the son of oil tycoon, Sir Ian Wood, has previously taken part in the Gumball 3000 rally, but described the rickshaw journey through north-west India as his most exciting challenge yet.

He said: “It is going to a real assault on the senses. I ride motorbikes, but a rickshaw is a very different experience. We’re going to see the elephants first hand and the communities the elephant families impact on.”

The Woods met Mr Shand several years ago at an event in Edinburgh and formed a lasting relationship with Elephant Family. Mr Wood described Mr Shand, the brother of the Duchess of Cornwall, as someone who had “a real charisma and passion for philanthropy and India”.

Mr Shand, who died in 2014 at the age of 62, was travelling in India in 1988 when he came across an emaciated captive female elephant being used by beggars. He bought the animal, who he named Tara, and rode her 750 miles from Konarak on the Bay of Bengal to the Sonepul Mela, where the Ganges and Gandak rivers meet.

His subsequent account of the journey, Travels on My Elephant, was a bestseller and earned Mr Shand the coveted Travel Writer of the Year award. According to Mr Wood, the rickshaw trip is the ideal way to help protect the animals while experiencing an adventure. He added: “There are traditional forms of philanthropy and modern approaches, and it’s about raising money and awareness.”