Argentina 3: Ushuaia

After mandatory rest period and receiving their next destination, Simon and Ang left their favela hostel pit stop before dawn and jumped into a waiting taxi to the airport. Their driver whisked them through the quiet, traffic free post Carnival streets of Rio and they soon arrived at the airport. There they checked in to a twelve hour flight south to Ushuaia. The first scheduled stop for the aircraft was to be Puerto Iguarzú, a very small Argentine international airport.

Once landed, Simon and Ang disembarked and cleared customs. This meant that the flight would no longer be an international flight. For Simon and Ang this was fantastic news as they would not have to pay the $140 pp reciprocity entry charge when they later landed in Buenos Aires for the second stop on the milk run.

Two hours later, the plane touched down in BA. Simon and Ang checked their bags back in and went outside to have a quick look at the river Plate and stretch their legs. After completing the locate reasonably priced ice cream and eat it challenge, Simon and Ang walked back into the airport. There they boarded their flight south.

Buenos Aires airport operates on a 25 hour clock Simon completes the eat an ice cream by the River Plate challenge (note the hat is still safe)

After a third brief stop in Trelew, and 12 hours of travel, their plane landed in the world’s most southern city, Ushuaia. The team instantly noticed the change in temperature, having just come from Rio which was 36 degrees to a place that was only 4.5 degrees. After putting on all the clothes they could in their backpacks, they raced outside and jumped in a taxi. Fifteen minutes later they checked into their accommodation and were given their next task which was to make their way to Antarctica.

Panoramic view of Ushuaia from the hostel
Construction panorama, Ushuaia

Highly motivated, the team race out of the hostel and walked the streets and inquired about prices. Eventually they arrived at a great 50% off deal for a good boat, the Plancius. Checking directly with the boat’s owners, the agency’s price would not be beaten. So the team made their booking and spent the few days before the 27th of February departure celebrating in the Ushuaia style (with good food and wine) with Alison, the solo member of another Team America (who was also soon to race to Antarctica).

Pengiun and Beaver just hanging out in Ushuaia Grim sea captain Simon
Sunset near the hostel
Ushuaia town panorama taken from the waterfront
Panorama of a wreck near the main port
Another angle of the wreck
Panorama showing the mountains behind Ushuaia

….To be continued

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Brazil 2: Rio De Janiero and Carnival

Simon and Ang enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep but woke early.  Choosing to make an omelette, the team quickly realised that despite this being a tasty choice for breakfast, it was not the quickest thing to make when a new leg of the Amazing Exclusive Race was about to commence.

Food was scoffed and the team raced out of their accommodation with their first clue in hand.  They were to make their way to Rio De Janiero, but due to their breakfast choice, they had less than 30 minutes to travel across Sáo Paulo to make the first bus to Rio. They shot into the subway station, boarded the first train to arrive, and joined the commuter rush across town.  With nerves high and 15 stations to pass including one change, they arrived at Terminal Rodoviário Tietê , where they ran as fast as their legs could go through the crowds and straight onto the waiting bus which left within one minute of the team boarding.

The ride to Rio was relatively uneventful.  The team enjoyed the scenery and soon their bus arrived at the outskirts of Rio.  Both Simon and Ang were excited, but also apprehensive as they were aware of Rio’s reputation as being a dangerous, yet cinematically beautiful. Their bus made its way through traffic and arrived at the main bus terminal. Because Carnival was soon to happen, the area around the station was alive with people and jam packed with buses.  The team caught glimpses of the nearby Samba school warehouses and their enormous floats and started to get excited for the challenges ahead.  Getting off the bus, the team made their way to the information stand where they received their next clue.

They were to make their way to the favela babilônia where they would check into the Chill Hostel.  Deciding that the line for the taxi was too long, the team jumped on a bus heading to Copacabana and Leme.  Once there, they walked through the pleasant beachside streets and headed up into the favela.

Regular sight in Rio

Check in formalities were completed rapidly and the team received their next clue to find a local Copacabana Bloco.  A bloco is a street party that occurs during Carnival.  Revellers arrive at a meeting point and typically follow a large truck that has singers, dancers and serious amplification.  With this clue received, the team raced out of the hostel, past the drunk hostel manager who fell into the entrance door and to the ground and made their way down to Leme and into Copacabana.  Finding a quiet bloco truck, they worked out that they had some time to wait until the bloco would actually start, so they checked out the crowded beach and surrounding streets.  Later, after dinner, they made their way to the bloco starting point.  There they joined the party and after dancing for the required time, were given their next clue.  They were to meet up with some of the other Exclusive Race teams they had last seen on the Inca trail leg of the race the next night in Ipanema. There they were to complete the party like it’s Carnival challenge at the Ipanema bloco. The team raced back to their accommodation and on advice of the police officer permanently stationed at the entry to the favela, took motorcycle taxis up the long winding road.

Copacabana bloco

The next day, the team went to Leme beach and relaxed.  They knew they would not need to travel to Ipanema until later that afternoon, so strategically decided to chill.  Simon and Ang enjoyed the beach, but thought the water was surprisingly cold for a place so tropical.  Relaxed and ready to party, the team returned to their favela, changed, then headed to the nearby bus stop.

Leme beach

Soon they were in ipanema and amongst hundreds of thousands of Carnival revellers.  They raced to the designated meeting point, the number eight life guard tower, and were soon meet by the other Exclusive Race teams from the Peru leg.  These teams included those from France, Ireland, England and Australia.  As this challenge required all teams to party hard, everyone did just that.

Ipanema beach at sunset Ang with members of Teams Brazil (partially nude) and team Ireland
Welcome to the carnival!

They were also tasked with finding the actual Ipanema bloco.  This involved making their way through the huge crowds down streets packed with people, and some of which were surprisingly happy.  Simon said later, “it was just like going to schoolies where ten years worth of people all finish high school at once”, to which Ang added, “but with lots more guys kissing guys”.

With all teams unable to locate the Ipanema bloco, they were forced to take a one hour time penalty.  All teams took advantage of this time to drink more caipirinhas.  With the penalty completed, the teams were given their next challenge and were directed to make their way to the maze of streets around Lapa.

Some of the action in the streets

A short collectivo ride later saw them in the centre of a huge crowd.  More caipirinhas were consumed.  Simon said later that “at this point, things become a little hazy for me.  There was such a strong party atmosphere that I probably tried to complete the party challenge a little too enthusiastically”.  Ang added that “Simon was pretty much out of control. Lucky I was able to get us on a collectivo and back to our favela hostel in the morning without any trouble, once we had been told we had passed the party hard challenge”.

Caaaaipirinhas! in Lapa

The next afternoon, Simon and Ang woke and headed to the beach to wait until they were given their next clue.  Soon a beach vendor provided them with the challenge.  They were to return to Ipanema and party hard some more.

Whilst tamer than the previous night, this involved drinking yet more caipirinhas.  The team was given an ‘Antarctica’ band hat to keep safe. They were then directed to party on the beach.  There they stayed and listened to the terrible beach DJ that suffered from ADHD until the rapid changes (no mixing at all) of the music drove them back to their favela hostel.  This time Simon and Ang were able to take motorcycle taxis up and were given their next clue upon arrival.

Teams completing the Glittery Carnival Ladies challenge Team Australia is ready to roam the streets

After another days sleep they continued the routine afternoon laze on the beach, where the team was given their next task. They would be required to attend a samba parade at the Sambadrome.  This huge km long street stadium complex is the site where tens of samba schools duke it out to be crowned the best samba school of carnival. Each spends millions of dollars on creating the most outlandish floats for a parade performance that lasts ninety minutes.  Simon and Ang were tasked with watching four performances.

A guy selling his balls on the beach One of the many beach bands

Racing to the Sambadrome, the team arrived early at 7.30pm to secure good spots on the benches.  After an hour and a half, the popular bleachers were filled and the parades started.  What followed was four over the top performances involving hundreds of people, tens of floats and the same beats played over and over again for ninety minutes during that schools parade.

Sambadrome float Mermaids did samba?
Velo samba Giant inflatable samba girl
Sambadrome panorama
The team at the Sambadrome

The performances were back to back, and after a marathon seven and a half hours of watching and waiting time, the team observed the Samba in Space (including giant Martian rover samba float) themed performance and finally completed the challenge.

With this task completed, the team were given their next clue and set about the marathon journey back to their favela.  Simon said of the Sambadrome challenge that “it was perhaps one of the more ridiculous things I’ve seen.  Each samba school went over the top, but the crowd loved every minute.  The Brazilians really get passionate about samba”. Ang enjoyed the experience however was disappointed at the huge amount of waste and said “they just piled the costumes high after each parade and then men just filled up rubbish trucks headed straight to land fill!”. This night marked the end of the formal Carnival period.

The hostel lounge each morning during carnival…. less beds than people

Waking later that afternoon, the team as usual went to the beach until sunset approached when they were handed their next clue. Their task was to travel to Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) and watch the sun set.  Ang in particular enjoyed the awesome view, but regretted not bringing cheese and wine to enjoy. With this task completed, the team was then given the challenge to travel up to the base of the big giant Jesus.

The best place for wine and cheese
Sugarloaf mountain dusk panorama

For their final full day in Rio, Simon and Ang were first climbed to the summit of the big giant Jesus hill. They took the funicular up and then marvelled at the slightly hilarious sight of a heap of people taking funny perspective photos involving the big JC. With this challenge completed it was back down the funicular, then straight to the Escadaria Selaró, a crazy mosaic set of steps all done by a forgotten mad Mario Brother, Selaró. After a challenge which required the team to locate and photograph the kangaroo tile, the team were given their final task for the Rio leg. They were to enjoy one last afternoon laze on the lovely Leme/Copacabana beach they had become so accustom too enjoying.

Giant Jesus! Ang holding Big JC’s hand
Panorama from Christ the Redeemer hill
Ang racing to the top of Escadaria Selarón The Kangaroo tile on Escadaria Selaró
Mad Selaró himself

With this challenge completed, the team finished the Rio leg in style and checked into the pit stop for this leg of the race, their favela hostel. Celebrating this victory, the team ate a delicious typical “by weight meal” at a nearby Brazilian restaurant.

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Brazil 1: São Paulo

Both Simon and Ang were up early, checked out of their accommodation and then received their next clue. They were required to make their way by bus to the mega city of Sáo Paulo. Once again they headed back to Puerto Iguazú where they jumped on a regular local bus for the trip across the border to the Brazilian town of Foz do Iguaçu.

Ang hiding in a tree at Foz do Iguaçu border

The border crossing was unremarkable and the team raced into Brazil. Unfortunately while the bus connects the two towns, it doesn’t connect the two bus stations. So after being dropped off in the middle of Foz, Simon and Ang decided to take a taxi rather than skate like some of the other teams did, mainly owing to the heat and humidity.

Once they arrived at the station, the team bought tickets to Sáo Paulo on the cheaper overnight bus. This once again was a long bus ride, made all the more challenging for the Team by the switch from Spanish to Portuguese. During the course of the long ride the bus was stopped three times at police check points, one woman kept collecting five reais from approximately 80 percent of the passengers for some unknown purpose and an elderly lady who liked to talk didn’t stop until two am (she had a captive audience and received many barrels of laughter). Because of all this action, the team got very little sleep. And once again, due to all the stops, a fifteen hour bus journey became a twenty hour journey with the bus arriving in Sáo Paulo five hours late. With the bus edging its way through early morning traffic, both Simon and Ang regretted the decision to purchase tickets on the cheaper bus as they now ran the risk of elimination.

Arriving at the Terminal Rodoviário da Barra Funda, the team was given a clue that required them to purchase onward tickets to Rio De Janeiro. They quickly enquired at the ticket windows, but found out that the bus service they wanted departed from another bus station, the Terminal Rodoviário do Tietê, the second largest bus terminal in the world and eight metro stops away.  Racing down into the metro, Simon and Ang quickly pulled ahead of another Team Australia on their own exclusive race, but with the same clue.

After 30 minutes, they raced into Tietê.  There they purchased tickets on the moderately premium bus service to Rio, mindful that they would be travelling their along with a huge number of people and keen not to have a repeat experience of their earlier bus ride in Brazil. Simon and Ang then were given their next clue and made their way to their accommodation. After checking in the hostel, they set off to explore the large, but surprisingly accessible city in search of a suitable upgrade to Ang’s ancient SLR.

Busy Sao Paulo street Graffiti all the way to the roof. A Pro for sure.

The team raced around the centre, from shop to shop before the stumbled on a large collection of small electronic and computer equipment retailers over several blocks. There they were able to negotiate a price that was approximately similar to what would be paid back in Australia for the same camera type.  Due to the bad experiences of previous races, the team had no credit cards on them, so they raced back to the metro and their accommodation, hoping to meet the six pm close time, the only opportunity to purchase before their early departure to Rio the next morning.

Sao Paulo tech street

Once they had a chance to think about the potential purchase, the team decided to not go ahead and instead took a time penalty.  Simon said “while the deal was good and the new camera would have been useful for upcoming legs of the race, I think we were tired and the prospect of heading out into the centre of Sáo Paulo on dusk was not appealing”.

Ham cheese and Tomato sandwiches come to Brazil

With the time penalty completed, the team remained at their accommodation, the pit stop for this leg of the race. Once again they were the first to arrive. After a great celebratory sushi meal, they went to sleep.

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Argentina 2: Mercedes to Puerto Iguazú

During the optional rest period, Simon and Ang enjoyed Sam and Nora’s hospitality.  They assisted with meals, Ang made beaded jewellery with Nora, hopping in and out of the welcoming pool and generally relaxed with wine in hand.  Trips into town were had to sample some of Argentina’s finest ice cream at Cremolatti and to visit a local bar with Nico, Sam and Nora’s son.

Sam’s farm pool Sam’s farm well
A cow next to Sam’s farm Nora inside Sam’s farm
The throne Racers at a bar in Mercedes along with Nico
Nico after time in the work shed

Ang really admired Nico’s gorgeous craftsmanship seen all around the house (carpentry and paintings) so Nico began making Ang two lovely timber bracelets and a painting. With the relaxing and hospitable time given by Sam, Nora and Nico the team said they would like to return sometime in the future when they weren’t in a race. Ang said “Mercedes is such a nice French colonial town and We have to go back to collect the Nico painting master piece someday”.

With the rest period over, and sadly too short, Simon and Ang once again packed their bags in preparation for the start of the next leg of the Amazing Exclusive Race.  Soon, they received their clue and were on their way to Puerto Iguazú.  The journey began with the team being driven to the Mercedes bus station where they boarded a bus to Corrientes.  There they purchased tickets for the fifteen hour overnight bus to Puerto Iguazú.  Once again this was a bearable, but less than comfortable journey.

Sunset outside of Mercedes

They arrived early the next morning in Iguazú and were given the task of finding suitable accommodation. Both Simon and Ang were confident that this would easily be achieved, but they soon realised that there was a big bubble of people heading towards Brazil. They walked around for a couple of hours in the intense heat before they were able to secure beds in a dorm room at a party hostel.

With this challenge completed, the team received their next clue.  They were to make their way to Iguazú falls, a massive watercourse that has flows three times greater than Niagara falls, a natural wonder previously visited by the team.  Once at Iguazú, Simon and Ang would be required to complete a grand tour of the Argentine side.  Racing back to the bus station, the team jumped on a Iquazú bound bus and arrived at the national park at two pm.

Iguazú falls

They entered and raced through the lower circuit, heading over to San Martin Island on the last ferry of the day.  Simon and Ang were impressed at the sheer majesty of the spectacular cascades.  Ang was disappointed that no one had mentioned you could swim, but had little time to wallow as the team still needed to see the other two sections of the extensive Argentine trail system.

Falls panorama
Iguazú from another angle is still spectacular

Racing out of the lower circuit, the team jumped on the train and were driven around to the Gargantra Del Diablo, the largest plunge of the falls. The team was impressed at the scale of the waterfall and took a number of photographs before they raced back to the train station for the last returning train of the day.

The main Iguazú falls plunge, Gargantra Del Diablo
Rock within Iguazú

They arrived back at the second train station soon after and instead of giving up and riding the final train back to the entry gate, set out to complete the last component of the race.  They headed back to the entry of the upper circuit where they jumped over the closed gate and raced along the boardwalk.  The upper circuit provided the final perspective of the falls and the team was able to enjoy the magical sunset light and take a few photographs before a nice park ranger gave them their final clue directing them to make their way to the pit stop and kicked them out.

Returning to Puerto Iguazú, the team checked into their accommodation, the pit stop for this leg of the race.

That evening, they enjoyed the rest period by walking around town, eating exceptional steak and finally more Cremolatti ice cream.  Both Simon and Ang knew that from this point on the race would be turned up a notch so they both took advantage of the rest.

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Argentina 1: Tupiza to Mercedes

As the first team to arrive at the Tupiza pit stop, Simon and Ang were the first to depart at 9am the following day.  Their first clue required them to make their way as quickly as possible to the city of Salta in Argentina.  Racing out of the pit stop, they jumped into a shared taxi and raced to the border of Bolivia and Argentina at a town called Villazon.

Arriving at the dusty border town an hour later, the team changed the last of their Bolivianos and walked to immigration. As they walked down a long shop lined hill, they noticed a long line of people queuing for something. When they eventually arrived at the international bridge, and after asking a Bolivian border guard, the team reluctantly trudged back up the hill to the back of the queue. There they shuffled along with the crowd of Bolivians, Paraguayans and assorted backpacker types in the long procession to the immigration office. Having changed all their currency and planning to have breakfast across the border, the team was not impressed. They were even more unimpressed with the people who pushed their way to the front of the queue.

Villazon, a dusty border crossing town Even the vendors are bored
Completing Gail’s photograph a naturally red haired South American challenge. This guy is from Paraguay

After a marathon six hour wait without food or water, the team finally made it into the office.  There they discovered the entire passport control consisted of one guy and a computer.  He had to manually enter in everyone’s passport details, so the process was very slow, and given the large number of people, took a very long time.  Both Simon and Ang were concerned that with this delay they would be forced to arrive in Salta after dark and may be eliminated from the race.

They finally got their passports stamped and exited Bolivia.  They raced across to the Argentine migration control and waited in line for a hour and a half (two people were working in immigration) before entering the country proper.  By this stage it was just after five pm in the afternoon.  The team ran over to the taxi stand and took a taxi to the nearby bus station.  There they bought tickets to Salta, with a transfer in Salvador de Jujury, for a journey time estimated to be six hours long.

The bus trip was relatively uneventful, and they changed with little issue.  By the time they reached Salta it was one am.  The team was exhausted but still needed to find accommodation.  They took a taxi into the centre of the city and found a hostel.  They slept for a few hours before checking out in the morning and then into a better hostel.

Still tired and hungry, the team walked through the rain back into town.  For the first time during their trip since the US, they were able to withdraw a respectable sum of money from a Citibank branch.  This meant they would be able to save on bank fees and would not need to visit the ATM again until at least a week later.  Happy with this and the modernity of Argentina (particularly when contrast with Bolivia), the team had their first steak lunch.

Upon exiting the restaurant, within moments, someone pick pocketed Simon.  After asking back at the restaurant in case anyone had seen something, they returned to the hostel to lock the card, then returned to the police station where they completed a police report.  With this unfortunate development, and after dealing with the insurance paperwork, the team were issued with a new clue and set off to the bus station.

Ang and Simon enjoy a delicious Argentina steak lunch

Their new clue provided by Mary was a detour that required them to make their way as rapidly as possible into the heart of Argentine Gaucho land to Sam’s farm.  To do this they would take an evening bus to the town of Resistencia and continue on to nearby Corrientes.  Tickets were purchased and after dinner, the team returned to their hostel to spend the night.  There they chatted with a Team Argentina and they were told that Salta is a hotspot for pick pockets.  Simon and Ang were sad that this information had been provided too late.

Happy gas

The next day was low key and after eating some Argentine empanadas and Tamales, the team raced to the bus station for the overnight bus to Resistencia.  This semi-cama (semi bed) ride was not totally uncomfortable, but the team was glad to arrive in Resistencia early in the next morning.  They quickly changed to another bus going on to Corrientes.  Arriving there, they raced out of the bus station and rapidly found a taxi.

Completing the eat empanadas challenge at the Patio de la Empanada

They explained they wanted to go to Sam’s farm and gave the directions provided in the clue, but were told while they were in the right province, they were in the wrong town!  Corrientes city, the capital of the Corrientes province is located approximately 300km north of the town of Mercedes (which, by using the directions that included reference to the local football club, the taxi driver and friendly fly fishing guide said was the actual destination).  With this new information, and given they were in South America, the team set about confirming the actual location of Sam’s farm.

Both Simon and Ang were once again worried they would be eliminated due to this costly delay as if the information was correct, their best option would be another five hour bus ride, which wasn’t leaving until later in the day around midday.   Thanks to a friendly information desk lady, the team was able to get in contact with Sam and confirm the town he actually lived was indeed Mercedes and that he would meet the team when their bus arrived a little after five pm, approximately 24 hours after they left Salta.

The bus ride to Mercedes was long and boring.  Simon and Ang both marvelled at the similarities of the Corrientes cattle country with the farm land back in Australia and tried to nap.  Eventually their bus pulled into the Mercedes bus station where they met Sam and were driven to Sam’s farm, the pit stop for this leg of the race.

Ang with Sam in the car speeding to his farm and the pit stop
Car parked in Mercedes Classic car for sale (cause it has a bottle on it)
Panorama of Sam’s farm house

In a post race interview Simon and Ang once again expressed their anger at the pick pocketing incident and but were glad neither was hurt.  They both vowed to be smarter with their decisions in the future to get better cheaper accommodation and activities to help recoup the lost money. They laughed at the mix up with destination, but were glad that this mistake didn’t cost them the race.

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Bolivia 4: Tupiza

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, one team of two raced into the unearthly high Bolivian desert.  They left the town of Uyuni aboard a 4WD and spent four days, three nights travelling through some of the world’s most spectacular desert scenery before racing back to Uyuni.

Arriving in Uyuni late that afternoon, the team raced to the nearby bus office and bought a ticket on that evening’s 8pm overnight bus to the town of Tupiza.  After a quick farewell dinner with Team Organic Hobo, they were aboard, heading out of town.  Owing to the heavy afternoon rain, their bus soon stopped 45 min out of town at a swollen river crossing.  Their driver informed the passengers that they could not pass but would wait for the river to go down. Simon left the bus and visually checked the depth of the water, but could hardly see much in the evening gloom.  Returning to the bus Simon and Ang settled in to wait.

After what turned out to be a restless night that included a twelve piece impromptu Argentine bus band forming, to complete their own Exclusive Race challenge, and playing until two am, the bus driver finally consulted with the passengers at 9am the next morning as the river still was impassable.  Consensus was reached and it was decided to return to Uyuni for breakfast and long awaited use of a bathroom.  They would attempt to cross again in the early afternoon before any later afternoon storms could flood the road again.

Back in Uyuni, Simon and Ang quickly located a bathroom then ate breakfast before jumping back on the bus with the rest of the mostly Argentine passengers.  As their bus approached the blockage, it was clear that the water level had fallen, however it was unclear by how much.  The team was hopeful they would be able to get through otherwise they feared they would be eliminated.

Their bus arrived at the back of a queue that consisted of more trucks, cars and buses than earlier that morning.  The road remained impassable, so once again they settled into wait.  Simon commenced looking at alternative routes.  He managed to work out there was a chance to take a six hour detour north to the town of Potasi, change buses then head six hours south.  But in discussions with Ang, they realised this was probably a silly way to go.

Yep, that road is closed Watching flood water with the locals

About two and a half hours later, a particularly loud, hoarse speaking Argentine guy screamed out “una mapa de Bolivia por favour” (a map of Bolivia please).  He was quickly provided one and about twenty minutes later had worked out the same route that Simon had, and began chanting ‘Po-tasi! Po-tasi! Po-tasi!’, to drum up support for his detour.  He then started negotiating with the driver to get him to turn the bus around.  It was about at this point another double decker bus decided it could make the crossing (without anyone physically checking water depths in the raging current) and ploughed into the flood waters.

Blasting through, the double decker bus proved the way and soon others, including the team’s bus followed.  Hoarse Argentine guy remained quiet for a little while, then got back into the music jam session with the other Argentinean folk.  While they were almost fifteen hours delayed, by driving now during the day, the team was treated to more spectacular scenery, which they would have missed had the bus passed during the night bus.

Just like a chocolate milkshake, only flooding Everyone celebrates the crossing
Putting backpacks back under the bus Empty, but flooded Bolivia
Bolivian landscape at its best Like a matte painting!

Eventually after travelling through mind blowing canyons and countryside, the team arrived in Tupiza on dusk after almost twenty-two hours of travel.  They were given their next clue and owing to opening hours being 9-5pm, decided to find accommodation.

Tupiza building Velo shop, Tupiza
Local bike seat Andean sandals made of car/truck tyres
Dried chillies, Tupiza (oddly missing from restaurant menus) Dried pasta (present on all menus)
Small Bolivian market

Waking the next morning they were picked up and set off to complete the Tupiza Triathlon along with another Team Australia.  This event was a combination of a jeep tour, horseback riding and a downhill mountain bike.  Ang was excited by the prospect of more downhill mountain biking, but was fearful as she previously had bad experiences with horses.  Their jeep driver took them on a tour of the surrounding countryside that included spectacular rock formations and canyons.  They soon arrived at a ranch where they were put on horses for a three hour ride around some canyons.  Ang was informed she would be been given the most placid, friendly calm and slow horse, given her history of being thrown off a few, but this soon proved to be quite the opposite.

Panoramic rock formation during the jeep leg
Cutting in the rock wall Ouchy catcus!
We’re on horses! Bolivia’s wild central plains

Ang’s horse, sensing they were racing, took the lead of the herd.  It cantered on and off as it pleased and made sure no other horse would pass.  Simon tried to spur his horse on, but unfortunately it seemed broken, only cantering once during the ride out.  On the ride back, Ang’s horse was attacked by a rouge juvenile horse, which scared her and almost threw her off as her horse was buck kicking the juvenile.  But thankfully they were all able to canter on the downhill and returned to the corral with the only casualties being one of the other Team Australia’s iPhones being thrown from the horse (it sustained minor scratches only).  With this leg of the triathlon completed they all jumped back into the jeep and headed to the next task.

Unique rock formations Ang in the lead
Simon playing cowboy Racers on horses

Their final task of the Tupiza Triathlon was to complete the downhill mountain bike leg.  They were driven to the top of a long dusty dirt road.  After picking bikes the group set off.  Simon and a member of the other Team Australia took an early lead.  Unfortunately, the rough gravelly road caused the other guy to get a flat tire.  This left Simon alone to complete the final stretch.  Eventually the other team and Ang caught up.  Ang was particularly displeased as the standard of the provided bikes was less than those provided as part of the World’s Most Dangerous Road.  Simon thought later that single shocks should be banned from downhill off road riding, after the jarring but fun ride.

Traffic on the Bolivian downhill road Simon gets ready to ride
Giant Ang gets ready to ride
Fantastic Bolivian canyon panorama
Another canyon panorama
Bolivian downhill road panorama
Ang flys past and on to the finish line

Once all team members had rendezvoused at the bottom of the hill, they rode back through town.  There they received their final clue directing them to the pit stop for this leg of the race.  Arriving tired but happy, Ang and Simon were the first to check into the pit stop for this leg of the race.

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Bolivia 3: Salar de Uyuni

Simon and Ang who were the first to arrive at the pit stop at 8pm, were the first to depart, after the optional 21 hour rest period, at 5pm in the next day.  They proceeded on foot up to the nearest main road where they hailed a cab for the bus station.

Soon, they found themselves in the late afternoon commuter traffic jam.  Talking with the taxi driver it became clear to the team that the best option was to walk.  Paying the driver and taking their bags, they set off up the hill, walking the short distance remaining to the bus station.  Moments later they were waiting with the rest of the passengers in the chaos of the La Paz bus station for the double decker overnight bus to Uyuni.  It was here they met Bruce and Harry from Team Organic Hobo.

Initially, the bus ride wasn’t that bad.  Both Simon and Ang agreed they had been on much worse in the past.  Once they travelled past Oruro, the bus left the sealed road and bounced along the dirt road.  During this sleepless bus ride, the team chatted with Bruce and Harry and found out that their exclusive race around the world involved filming the various organic and tasty foodstuffs to make into an accessible travel show.  Both teams were required to complete a tour of the Salar de Uyuni, so they agreed to form a temporary race alliance once they arrived in Uyuni.

Almost 10 hours after it started, the bus finally bounced its way along the dirt road into Uyuni. Both Simon and Ang were relieved they had survived the trip that included at one point the bus almost rolling over.  They collected their bags from the hold and raced into town, somewhat energised to locate a good value tour and not stick around unmemorable Uyuni.  Team Organic Hobo was also similarly motivated.

Walking towards the train station, the two teams delegated the negotiation task and asked several companies for prices and itineraries.  They ended up selecting Expediciones Lipez and a professional guide Lewis, who agreed to a discounted tour rate for the two teams.  With only an hour to spare before departure, payment was made and the teams set off to purchase last minute snacks.

Returning to Expediciones Lipez’s offices, bags were loaded into the land cruiser and they all drove off, joined by another pair, Team France.   The first stop on the tour was a surprisingly interesting train graveyard on the outskirts of Uyuni.  There Simon and Ang amused themselves climbing over the rusting hulks and taking photos of the industrial wastage.  Team Organic Hobo did their piece to camera and soon all teams were back in the 4WD, heading towards the Salar De Uyuni.

Simon workin’ out and gettin’huge Ang on the train swing
Graveyard of the trains The racers pose for a photo

After a quick drive through town, their driving guide Lewis took them out onto the partly flooded Salar De Uyuni.  The Salar is a 10,582 km2 salt plain that was formed 13,000 years ago and contains between 50% and 70% of the world’s lithium reserves.  Home to flamingos and the Bolivian salt mining industry, the site has become a major tourist attraction and the place to take interesting perspective shots.  Simon and Ang were provided with a challenge that required them to take photos that took advantage of the flat terrain to change the perspective of scale.

This truck really needed to be treated for rust Piles and piles of salt on the flats
Miniature Ang! Super Shrunk Simon!
Simon flying over the salt flats Simon on a mountain of salt
Salar de Uyuni

With these photos taken, the team had lunch in a building built entirely of salt before they visited a working salt factory and were given their next clue.  They were to proceed to the Valle De Rocas (Valley of Rocks) and find the highest point.  With the clue received their 4WD raced across the bleak landscape and headed south.

A couple of hours later, the team arrived in more unworldly valley.  Both Simon and Ang raced into the rocky playground.  The three teams set about completing their respective challenges.  Simon spotted a rocky outcrop in the near distance and soon climbed on top.  With this completed, the team were provided with the next clue and set off to visit a ‘Surreal Rock’.

Valle de Rocas Flamingos and mountains
Harry, from Team Organic Hobo summits a rock Bolivian rabbit
Green lichen on tan ground
Panorama of the unreal Bolivian landscape

After spending the night in a small village they continued south through increasingly alien landscape (if that could even be possible).  A brief toilet stop allowed the teams a chance to chat with an Irish guy who had ridden his motorcycle from Alaska (and was lost).  Back on the road and after a few hours of driving, they arrived at the Salvador Dali Rock, an ancient weathered rock formation.  There photographs were taken and the next clue provided to the team.  Once again their 4WD continued south and the team entered the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve at Largo Colorado.  The night was spent at a sprawling tourist 4WD complex.

Lunch spot panorama
Flamingo portrait Ang mocks the important signage
Panorama of a lake
Flowers and Lake Colorado Simon doing his bit to help green the desert
Salvador Dali rock The three teams meeting for a meal
Hotel workers building another wing on the complex

Early the next morning they continued heading south firstly to a field of active geysers and to hot springs and onto the spectacular Salvador Desert and then on to the beautiful Largo Verde.  More photographs were taken and presented to the park wardens who approved and gave the next clue directing the team to return to Uyuni and to make their way by bus to the town of Tupiza.

Sun rise at best hot springs ever The three teams in the hot springs
Simon and Ang share a special moment Testing the force of the geyser
Ang walking through the geyser zone The earth vents
Ang reprising her fist pump jump from the Monument Valley leg of the race Simon punches it in the Salvador Dali Desert
Ang helping the Organic Hobo guys complete their hand stand photography challenge
Rich Bolivian mountain range

Apart from the spectacular scenery, the return trip to Uyuni was uneventful, with exception of a huge thunderstorm and at one point the 4WD almost bogged in a ditch as a semi trailer passed by.

Abandoned car on the hill Simon goofing around and driving the car
Coca Cola in Bolivia Lewis demonstrating his skill at driving a 4wd

Here is a short video Organic Hobo shot as part of their Exclusive Race:

…To be continued.

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Bolivia 2: La Paz and the World’s Most Dangerous Road

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, one team of two travelled to the Bolivian town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titiaca.  There they visited the Isla Del Sol where they received their next clue to travel to La Paz and soon after were on a bus bound for the high altitude city.

The bus ride climbed up away from Copacabana and soon arrived in the estrecho de tiquana (Tiquana Strait), a body of water that needed to be crossed to avoid having to re-enter Peru.  There they disembarked and the bus drove on to a waiting ferry.  Simon and Ang boarded a launch and followed the bus across the straight over to the other side.  The remainder of the bus journey passed without incident and the team soon found themselves in La Paz.

The ‘road’ to La Paz from Copacabana

After checking into accommodation next to the witches’ market, they received their next clue.  They were now required to ride the World’s Most Dangerous Road (WMDR) on downhill mountain bikes.  The vehicle of choice for this extreme event was two dual suspension disc brake down hilling monsters, full face helmets, thick jackets and pants, elbow and shin pads.  After this equipment was chosen, the team returned to their accommodation for the night.

The place for your dead llama fetus shopping needs (they “bring good luck to a new home”) Busy streets of La Paz
Jolly Bolivian guy who gives you real stuff if you give him miniature versions of what you want Ang inside some closter grounds
Bolivian guards being guarded by MPs Standard South American shoe shining
Rooster! ‘Splendid’  ice cream
Typical Bolivian bread street stalls
Panorama of the La Paz city skyline

Leaving early they, along with other exclusive race teams from Australia, Holland and Mexico, raced out of La Paz and to the start of the downhill course.  After a quick safety briefing, they set off on the asphalt road.  Hitting speeds of up to 90km, the team quickly completed the first stage of this challenge, the new road that had been built to replace the original WMDR.

The team is kitted out Ang is ready for some extreme downhilling
Simon’s might steed The downhilling racers stop for a moment to admire the view (Simon and Ang on right)
Ang hits 80km/h Simon breaks a personal MTB speed record
Ang hits 90km/h Cloudy moutains on the warm up section

After some snacks, the team again hit the road, which now had turned into the original dirt WMDR.  Flying down the bumpy and highly rocky road, around blind corners and over small jumps, both Simon and Ang, along with the other teams were able to pass many other riders.  Eventually after 40km of extremeness, they arrived at the base of the hill.  Simon was able to place third and Ang almost crashed on one corner, but high fives and other extreme hand gestures were given all around.  Top recorded speed on this dirt downhill stretch was 50km per hour.

The racers pause for a photo before the dirt road starts The old world’s most dangerous road
A drop off into the clouds Ang scouts out the next stretch
Simon blasts through a waterfall The riders pause to illustrate the position of the road
One of the many crosses on the side of the road
Panorama of the world’s most dangerous road
Simon is really enjoying this challenge
The racers pause for a promotional shot Simon and Ang enjoy the view
Third across the finish line, Simon is congratulated by the lead guide

After a quick lunch, the team was taken back to La Paz where they checked into the pit stop for this leg of the race.

Simon celebrates the conculsion of this leg in style… with ice cream Heading back up the world’s most dangerous road back to La Paz
Sunset on the road back to La Paz
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