United Kingdom 1: Hexham

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, Simon and Ang of Team Australia raced from warm tropical lush Brazil all the way via Switzerland to cold lush Hexham England, the pitstop for that leg of the race. Simon and Ang were once again the first team to arrive.

Hexham green

After an optional rest period (and after Ang’s bags had arrived 24hrs later), the team were given their next clue. Leaving the pit stop, they read their tasks for this leg of the race. They were to complete a pub crawl, visit Bamburgh Castle and Hadrian’s wall, and finally, make ice cream and felt.

Pub that serves wine? Flower power
Ironic rabbit statue Beez!
Fantastic flowers Pretty

With the pub challenge complete, the team was joined by Janie and David in a drive through the pretty English countryside to the fantastic Bamburgh castle. A tour of the grounds was completed, along with a few walks along brisk nearby beaches before heading back to Hexham.

Fabulous pub lunch at the Rat
Resting after a pub feast
Sir Simon
Bamburgh sitting room
Coastal views
Mighty Bamburgh
The knights built this place for the beach views
Seaside England
‘Barmy’ seaside waterway
Mossy old England

A highlight for Simon and Ang was the chance to walk along Hadrian’s wall to Sycamore gap, where four years earlier Simon had proposed. Whilst the weather was not the same blue skies of that memorable day, the team had Northumberland’s iconic gap all to themselves. Simon and Ang enjoyed the brisk conditions and reminisced.

So pretty Northumberland farm along the wall
Sycamore gap!
Airborne racers next to the tree

The other challenges of ice cream making and felting were easily bested by the crafty team Australia over the next couple of days.

In and around completing the race challenges they even managed to squeeze in time to see a film, go for a run or two and help wrangle a bee hive whilst they enjoyed Janie and David’s wonderful hospitality at the pitstop. Simon and Ang both agreed that this time was excellent in its normality and a good reintroduction to post race life, which the producers had let slip would be in a little over 15 days away.

David and the hive
Tyne Green
River Tyne
Hexham church

With all challenges completed, the team returned to Janie and David’s house, the pitstop for this leg of the race. They were once again the first team to arrive and celebrated with delicious double chocolate ice cream that Simon made.

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Brazil 3: São Paulo to Trindade

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, Simon and Ang raced through the ultra relaxed country of Uruguay. They marveled at the huge volume of maté the locals consume, and completed a number of challenges in the very relaxed and laid back country. With all their Uruguayan tasks completed, they boarded a flight from Montevideo north to the Brazilian mega city of São Paulo..

The team’s Gol airways flight touched down in the early evening and the team raced out of the airport hunting for transport to their next destination, the colonial port town of Paraty. They jumped on the airport shuttle and just made it in time to the Tietê bus station. Once there and after the team found the right ticket window, they bought tickets on an overnight bus to Paraty that was departing moments later. Simon and Ang raced through the bus station for a second time to the right gate, just in time to board the overnight bus. Unlike their previous overnight ride in Brazil, this one was not too noisy, with only the last hour’s continuous speed bumps interrupting the team’s attempts at sleeping.

Arriving at Paraty, the team jumped off the bus at 3.40am along with a few locals at the deserted bus station. There they met a friendly Brazilian lady called Monica who had also just got off the bus. She surprised the team by telling them that their surprise destination was actually the nearby seaside small town of Trindade. Simon and Ang were excited as the town and importantly beaches sounded awesome. As the first local bus to Trindade wasn’t until 5.20am, the team occupied themselves by chatting with Monica and looking for a working ATM.

Soon the sky lightened and the first local bus of the day pulled in. Simon and Ang jumped on with Monica and immediately the driver shot off into the early pre-dawn light at hellish speed. Passing the outskirts of Paraty, the road entered the jungle and became more twisted than a curled twisty. The driver obviously enjoyed this part of the journey as he put the pedal to the metal, with the bus becoming airborne at one point. Ang rightly squealed, which only seemed to egg the driver on even more.

Minutes before sunrise proper, the bus crossed through a flooded creek and over some rocks and into the small town of Trindade. The team jumped out and raced to the Mairs Do Trindade, a pousada that Monica said was run by the ever friendly Lucas, an Argentine expat living the good life in Brazil. As it was a little after 6am at this point and Lucas was still fast asleep, so the team was unable to check in. They left their bags and went down to the spectacular beach to watch the day lighten properly and chat with Monica while they waited for Lucas to wake up and check them in to the finish of this leg of the race.

Main road into town
Brazilian sunrise

At a little after 8 am they returned to the Mairs Do Trindade. Lucas had just woken and he informed the team that they were the first to arrive. As the first team to arrive, they were given a reward, they were to spend the next four days enjoying the beach and surrounds that this part of Brazil could offer.

Ang and Simon were excited to win yet another race, and after a rest, set out to explore all the nearby awesome beaches.  They consumed a number of caipirinhas and enjoyed the relaxed pace of Brazilian small town beach life. They went on walks north and south of the town to stunning beaches the nearby Playa Brava. They also took a couple of day/night trips into Paraty for excellent food and to watch the old town flood for the month.

Beach time
Yo dog
Ang hits the beach
Paraty Red window trim, Paraty
Paraty twilight
Cobble streets Paraty
15th century church Flooding Paraty streets
Self cleaning streets
Paraty pony Paraty bike
oooh pretty street scape
Restaurant (with mandatory bike) Paraty Caipirinhas!
Delicious!

When they weren’t relaxing, one of the team’s favourite things to do was to watch the Trindade locals walk around with cafe umbrellas when it rained (as it did often in the late arvo given the tropical heat). They also enjoyed making friends with other holiday makers, all of whom were Brazilian tourists.

Lots of rain can only be stopped by cafe umbrellas Yellow giant umbrella and matching shirt
Sleepy cat
Long Paraty building
Townscape in Paraty
Relaxed dog Defaced legal tender
Another Paraty pony Street of Fire
Daytime unflooded street
Paraty bay Paraty party boats
No words Paraty bus station
More caipirinhas! Dessert deliciousness

On the final morning, after an enjoyable rest period, it was sadly time to check out of the pitstop. They were given their first clue for the upcoming leg of the race. Tearing open the envelope and reading the clue, the team found they were directed to make their way back to Rio De Janeiro for a second time!

They jumped into a random van that took them back to Paraty, where they bought tickets on the direct bus to Rio. Five hours later the team arrived once again at Rodoviária Novo Rio. They raced out and straight into a waiting cab, as this was non-carnival time and there were hardly any people around.

Marine Pirates!

To be continued…

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Uruguay 1: Colonia, Montevideo and Punta Del Este

The start of this leg marked the 265th day of the Amazing Exclusive Race. The producers, whilst not telling the teams waiting at the pitstop where they were going next, did tell them this leg would start the final 30 days of racing. Simon and Ang were super excited to hear the news. They had won every leg since the beginning many months ago and they could almost taste the scent of sweet victory at the final finishing check in mat. But they knew that with a race as unpredictable as the Amazing Exclusive Race, it would require them to give it their all to be that first team over the finishing line on the final leg. So they packed their bags and readied themselves for the challenges ahead.

As the first team to arrive at 2am at the end of the previous leg, after an optional 12 hours rest period, Simon and Ang were the first to check out of the pitstop at 2pm. They were excited as their clue directed them to make their way to Colonia, Uruguay across the Rio de la Plata. With start formalities completed, they raced out of the hostel and over to the subway. A quick ride later they arrived at the Buquebus terminal.

Tickets were purchased and the team set about going through the shared customs post, receiving an officious Argentine stamp followed by a super ultra laid back Uruguay entry stamp. They walked around to the waiting concourse and sat. Thirty minutes passed quickly and the team headed to the gangplank to board the catamaran. As they headed along the walk way, Ang spied none other than Team Ireland! They were on a mandatory rest period and had come down to the boat to see team Australia off, having just checked into a pitstop themselves. Both Simon and Ang were pleased and had a yelling conversation across the concourse to the jovial fellow Amazing Exclusive Race team until the final departure was called.

The Buquebus is a large catamaran that plies the Rio de la Plata between Colonia and Buenos Aires. The ferry mostly transports cars, but does have a passenger section with a rather impressive duty free shop. Simon immediately began singing ‘the love boat’. Ang tolerated this, but got annoyed after the tenth repetition as Simon only knew those three words and nothing else of the song. Aside from awesomely bad singing by Simon, the crossing was smooth and they arrived at the Uruguayan docks.

Entering the country was straight forward, as they had already cleared customs and so the team was quickly on its way. The team mingled with runners in a road race as they headed straight to the bus terminal. There they left their luggage, then raced into the center of Colonia town. The team roved around the quaint old settlement and had a great lunch with outstanding customer service, easily the best random lunch stop service in South America. This surprised and pleased the team immensely. After they had surveyed the old town and found an ATM that would accept their travel card, the team received their next clue. They were to make their way to the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo, as quickly as possible.

Cheap bank! Relaxed Colonia street
Colonia lighthouse Ah, a good stretch!
The River Plate

Simon and Ang raced back to the main street and headed back towards the bus station. On the way back they ran into couple that they had previously seen on the Antarctic leg of the Amazing Exclusive race. They chatted briefly and found out that the couple were on an indefinite race around the world. Knowing that time was the essence given the clearly sleepy nature of Uruguay, Ang and Simon bid the other team good luck and fair well and continued their run back to the bus station. They soon arrived, and after collecting bags they were just in time to purchase tickets for the evening bus to the capital.

Classic with fish? In need of some TLC

A relaxing couple of hours later the team’s bus pulled into Tres Cruces terminal, the main bus station in Montevideo. They were then handed their next clue. Their challenge was to complete a tour of the old town of Montevideo to work out why Uruguayan businesses don’t seem to open early. With the rest of the evening free, the team set out to get another feed of steak at a Uruguayan paradilla, before calling it a night sometime in the early hours.

Waking the next morning, the team checked out of their accommodation at 11am and set out for a long walk around the quiet streets of Montevideo. Ang was amazed at the complete lack of open shops and banks for what anywhere else would be a busy Monday morning. Nothing seems to be open for some reason. The team were certain it wasn’t a public holiday after their previous issues on the first Nicaraguan leg, and would have asked someone if there was someone to ask. After walking for about an hour the team suddenly worked it out. Either Uruguayans are naturally so laid back they don’t get moving about until mid afternoon or after they’ve had enough maté. After they completed the walk, both Ang and Simon agreed it was a slow wake up with maté.

Montevideo shoreline
Old style Uruguay ride
Classically sleepy Uruguay building (with confused Uruguay dude)
Uruguayan crowds
Packed Uruguyan street Ang’s red scarf
Street art Bookstores are better in Uruguay
Trippy Uruguayan book shop

With their walk complete and the correct answer determined, the team received their next clue. They were to make their way up the coast to the seaside town of Punta Del Este and find the giant hand. Not sure where they would find the hand, but knowing Punta Del Este is about an hour north of Montevideo, the team collected their bags from the hostel then raced to a nearby bus station to take the trip to the main terminal.

Whilst they waited for their bus to arrive, they got to see a Rip Van Dike one man band play Mary Poppins inspired tunes to entertain the emerging Uruguayans. Simon and Ang were so thoroughly entertained by the performance and the huge volumes of maté that was being drunk by people passing by that before they knew it they were on the bus to the terminal.

One man band! Random statue

Arriving at the terminal they quickly secured tickets on an intercity bus to Punta Del Este. A relaxed ride later through pretty countryside, their bus pulled into the bus station. The town of Punta Del Este by the beach in peak season is probably pumping, with huge high rises packed with people. As it was cold, the place was a ghost town. Simon and Ang however did not care as the sky was amazing and they were racing to find a giant hand. A chilled bus dude pointed them to the beach, so the team raced off with backpacks on.

There in the fading twilight the team saw the huge half buried hand statue. Having successfully found the hand, the team were given their next clue. They were to make their way north by bus to the small seaside town Paraty, Brazil. Excited to be heading back to the land of Portuguese and that their destination sounded kind of like Party, the team raced back to the bus station.

Giant hand! Reach for the sky buried hand!

There they found that the earliest bus wouldn’t leave to travel north into Brazil until 11.30pm, and that it wouldn’t take them far into the country. By Simon’s estimate there was at least 30 hours of bus travel needed to get to Paraty. With the news the team considered their options and hefted their backpacks in the early evening around the quiet Punta streets till they found a heladería with wifi. There they ate ice cream, searched for and booked a flight from Montevideo airport the next morning to São Paulo on Gol airlines. Simon and Ang knew they probably would be facing a time penalty, but after their previous overnight bus experience in Brazil, thought it was a risk worth taking.

With the rest of the evening free to enjoy Punta’s quiet night life, the team checked into a hostel, had one more asado meal and went to sleep.

Waking the next morning they checked out of their hostel, raced to the bus station and bought tickets on the first bus back to Montevideo. Their friendly driver dropped them right at the front door of the ultra modern terminal and the team soon cleared customs.

As they waited for their flight to take off, Simon mused that he really enjoyed the brief time they spent in the country, saying “it was an ultra short and rushed four day stay, but we saw most of the coast line and oddly I feel really relaxed. I’d be very surprised if Uruguay has a blood pressure problem. If they did, it would probably be low blood pressure”. To which Ang added “it’s the maté”.

Their flight was called and they boarded the flight and bid Uruguay goodbye.

After all these flights, finally leg room!

To be continued…

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Argentina 9 – Buenos Aires Porteño Party

Previously on the Amazing exclusive race, one team of two raced to the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires. After completing several tasks around the a city that could be the New York of Latin America, they returned to their hostel for a brief rest.

Up early, at 11 am, the team headed out and raced to a huge shopping center in the sprawl of BA. They ran around multistory mall, finding two other McDonald’s before they located their challenge location. Fearing they would be required to sample some of the food (both Simon and Ang had gone years without eating any McDonald’s), the team was relieved when they read that they were to make their way to the historic suburb of La Boca. Simon and Ang mused as to the novelty of the kosher McDonald’s as they bounded down the escalators and out into the street. They were on a bus soon after and were racing to through the streets of BA.

Argentine dog with stick
Palermo panorama
Kosher McDonald’s? Yep, in BA Obelisk

Changing in central BA, the team boarded a second bus to La Boca. La Boca is a famous working class neighborhood home to the Boca Juniors. The team’s task was to find Caminito and take some photos of the colourful buildings along the street.

La Boca Caminito (or calle turística) The racers pause for a moment to enjoy the local colour

After arriving they quickly made their way around the streets. Simon and Ang both thought the houses reminded them of Valparaiso except the terrain was flatter. Having completed the La Boca challenge, the team was directed back to the hostel. Simon and Ang decided that since they were so near to the home of the Boca Juniors, they would go and have a look at the Stadium, La Bombonera. They had a look at the stadium and all of the blue and yellow merchandise, before walking back to the bus stop, noticing the shutters and roller doors on all the houses that lined the nearby streets.

La puerto del Boca panorámica
Caminito, La Boca
Caminito panorama
Caminito vendors
Torre Monumental (formally English clock tower) Mas Helados – dos para uno todos las lunes

On the way back to the hostel, the team stopped off at Puerto Madero to walk along the waterfront and checked out the pink house, Argentina’s presidential palace. They then rode the subway the remaining distance back to the hostel. Arriving back on the red roof they were given their next challenge. They were given tickets to attend a Boca Junior game the next evening!

As they had some time to kill, they extended their stay at the hostel, then set out to meet up with Chris and Rita from team America for dinner and a modern tango show. The event was highly entertaining and after they had the mandatory helados, the team returned to their hostel for the night.

Homeless, but has a TV?
Modern tango Not a computer
Palermo Skyline

Waking the next morning, and with no great urgency, the team walked about Palermo and the local parks watching people slack line and enjoy the great weather. As the afternoon approached, the team left the hostel for the journey across the city back to La Boca and La Bombonera for the friendly Boca Junior versus Venezuela soccer match.

Palermo rose garden BA slackliners
The good flavour…Not sure if they served croc Tastey beef
Funky BA cafe BA street art
Bakery The bread… 20 pesos. Sexy eyes… free
Que rico postres! Yellow car

Thinking they would have plenty of time since the game didn’t start until 8pm, they change from the subway and waited for a bus with a bunch of Boca fans. Simon and Ang had no luck getting on board a bus, as they were either completely full of singing Boca fans or the drivers didn’t seem to want to pick up the crowd gathered at the stop. After waiting for thirty minutes, Simon and Ang decided to catch another bus that was going roughly in the right direction (along with some other fans), and then walked the remaining kilometers to the ground.

As they walked, they were joined by hundreds of mad Boca fans streaming in the direction of the ground. Many were signing various club songs, and their pace of walking quickened as it neared 6.30, an hour before game time. Simon and Ang also quicken their pace, not wanting to be left behind. They were soon at the southern end of the game and after asking a local for directions (“disculpa, donde es puerta ocho?”), they arrived at their gate. They made their way through the police check points and discarded their water (Bocas games are notorious for people throwing urine at other fans), reaching their section (no seats) just in time for kick off. Ang and Simon jumped and sang along with what they both agreed was the most energetic passionate crowd they had ever been part of. Ever. For the record, Junior won, two nil.

Gooooooooooooooooool! Post match celebrations complete with riot police entertainment

With the game over, the team was directed to return to the hostel, but had to wait out the mandatory thirty minute holding period to allow Venezuelan fans a chance to escape. They then joined the singing throngs making their way back into the center of the city. They walked the entire distance to el Centro where they then jumped on a subway back to the hostel. As it was a little after midnight by this stage, and the team was hungry, they detoured into the heart of Palermo for some more asado, this time at the delightful Don Julio. Despite being seated at 12.30am, the restaurant was still filling up with many arriving after the team ate for their evening meal.

Both Simon and Ang decided that this was the life as they ate their steak and toasted malbec. Stomachs full and with Boca club songs still ringing in their ears, they made their way back to the hostel roof. On the way through reception they extended their stay once again (the receptionist just laughed). Once on the roof they were given their final BA challenge, this would be to check a range of cultural attractions.

The next day they visited the galleries of Eduardo Savior and Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba), checked out the Opera Pampa, raced into the city heart to visit El Ateneo, before racing on to La Cabera for some delicious paradilla meals along with teams from America. Their last stop for the night was the funky bar Magderlina’s Party. With these challenges complete, the team raced back to the roof of their hostel, the pitstop for this leg of the Race. Simon and Ang were once again the first to arrive.

Giant round about statue Organic seat in the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires
The racers stop for a refreshment in a 1950s inspired American diner cafe Palmero Funky light fixture
Ang drinking a ridiculous coffee
The world’s second most beautiful book shop El Ateneo
Palermo street nightscape Last to leave the restaurant

As both Simon and Ang had thoroughly enjoyed BA, they requested an extended rest period. The hostel reception staff were able to extend their stay, so the team could live the Porteño lifestyle a little longer.

By far the best helados ever – Cremolatti Classic out front of Don Jesus
Cool organic cafe Yet another classic
Metal school bus
BA blue sky Asado de bife – note the hand for comparison purposes
Just when you thought you’d left South America – shrine to Difunta Correa … and the ubiquitous party train

In a post race interview, both Simon and Ang were impressed with Buenos Aires. Simon called it the ‘Latin American New York’ and Ang said ‘it was downright awesome’!

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Argentina 8: Don’t Cry For Me, Buenos Aires

Despite having just arrived at the pit stop, the team was only given a one hour rest before they climbed to the red roof of the hostel. There they received their first clue for the Buenos Aires leg of the Amazing Exclusive Race.

Their first task was to make their way to the suburb of Recoleta.  After a short bus ride they arrived. Ang was given the task to visit all the market stalls and purchase a ‘special item’. Not knowing what this item was, Ang set off to find it. Simon took advantage of this time to sleep on a patch of comfortable grass in the middle of the park, resting for the challenges ahead.

Ang soon located the special item, a ballerina doll. With this item purchased, the team was given their next clue and they raced into the Recoleta cemetery to locate the grave site of Juan Felix Levie and find out what he was. Their only clue as to the location of this mausoleum was that it was near the grave of Eva Peron.

In their haste to find Juan, the team unfortunately missed the helpful map near the entry and set off in the wrong direction. While this cost them time, it allowed them to see much of the amazing monuments to the dead around the cemetery as they raced up and down the streets of the necropolis. Eventually they stumbled across the crowds beside Evita’s grave and they found Juan’s tomb nearby. Reading the inscription they determined his former occupation was a doctor.

Recoleta Another tomb
Don’t cry for me Evita!

Back to the hostel they raced as evening fell. Once there and on top of the roof, they handed over the ballerina doll and advised of the occupation, they received their next clue. They were to head to the San Telmo markets and eat a choripán. The markets were only open the next morning, so the team decided they would take advantage of this rest time to go to a nearby fantastic eatery called Social Paraiso. There they had a delicious meal in typical late evening (11pm) BA style before heading back to their hostel and bed.

Subte panorama
Subte platform

Waking in the mid morning, the team made their way over to the San Telmo area. There they walked through the long crowded market street, searching the stalls looking for one Choripan store in particular, “El Rey De Choripan”. Soon their noses led them to the delicious smells of sausages being barbequed. Ang opted to complete this challenge with Simon not able to eat gluten. She tucked into a delicious Chorizo sausage in bread and listened to the throaty singer sing throaty Argentine ballads. Ang scoffed, and once the judges were satisfied that the Choripan had been completely eaten, the team was directed to return to the hostel to receive their next clue. On the way back, Simon stopped in for a quick Argentine-Indian meal followed by some amazing helados.

Evita on a building Ang checking out some antiques
Antique matchboxes Library Tank
Tango next to the tank Jolly fat pasta dude
Is that Moby?
Old port crane
Tango 1 Tango 2 Tango 3
Ship panorama
Argentina’s pink house

Back at the hostel, the team were given their next clue. This challenge had been provided by Chris, previously seen during the Mendoza legs, and required the team to locate the only Kosher McDonalds outside of Israel. Once again, as it was late in the day, and hours of operation were limited for the McDonalds challenge so the team decided to wait until morning. They headed out once again into the heart of Palermo and found a delicious asado restaurant for another late night (11.30pm) meaty malbec fueled dinner.

Palermo pengiunl

To be continued…

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Chile 6: Santiago

Simon and Ang, who were the first to arrive at the Bariloche pit stop at 6pm, received their next clue at 6am.  They were to make their way back across the border to Puerto Montt via bus. After reading the clue, the team left their accommodation and jumped into a taxi. A quick ride to the bus terminal and they were soon on a bus heading back over the Andes and once more west.

The Argentine border crossing passed quickly and the team enjoyed the marvellous scenery on the bus ride between the Argentine and Chilean borders. Arriving at the Chilean side, they were lined up with the other passengers whilst the sniffer dog did its thing for illegal food and drugs on people and in bags. Unfortunately the Chilean customs official was not as thorough as his dog and while chatting to a traveller, missed the paw on one lady’s bag. Simon and Ang were forced to discard a carrot, but were lucky the dog didn’t get stuck into their enormous haul of chocolate.

Back on the bus and the rest of the trip to Puerto Montt passed without incident. At the bus station they were given their next clue. They were to make their way to Santiago where they were to check into the Bella Vista Hostel. The clue said that there was an interchange ahead.  An interchange is where two separate Amazing Exclusive Race teams join together to complete a challenge.

Simon and Ang were both excited at the prospect of meeting up with another Exclusive race team and were looking forward to visiting Santiago. They weren’t looking forward to a 36 hour bus ride, and knowing that they were racing to win they decided to purchase flights.  Running to a nearby Sky Airlines office, they picked up last minute flights for not much more than the cost of a bus trip for that evening.

While they waited out the time to head to the airport, they sat in a friendly karaoke bar and amazed the locals with their Australian accented Spanish. A few hours later it was time to leave Puerto Montt, so they collected their bags from the bus station and raced to the airport for a quick multiple stop milk run of a flight up Chile to Santiago.

Arriving in Santiago, they raced out of the airport and straight to a taxi for the quick ride into the city centre  and onto the suburb of Bella Vista. There they checked into the Bella Vista hostel and were given a room for the night as the interchange would not begin until the other team arrived later the next day.

Waking, they checked out Santiago on the free walking tour, and in the afternoon headed back to the accommodation to begin the interchange. There they were reunited with none other than Team Ireland. The teams had not seen each other since Colombia. After they had a chance to catch up, the two teams were provided with the interchange challenge. They both were to attend a BBQ party that evening with hostel-residing Chileans and party as they do.

Panorama of Santiago city
The presidential palace, Santiago
Conquistador founder of Santiago

Both teams were excited by the challenge and decided to have some pre drinks and get some additional supplies for the evening. The actual party was a blur and at around 4am the team found themselves in back in their room and were soon sleeping.

Waking at 10:30 am for checkout at 11:00, it was clear that this would be an enforced rest day. Ang was not capable of moving and Simon was just as seedy. Meeting Tarun from Team Ireland, the two teams waited in the reception foyer until it became clear that Ang could not move away from the bucket. With Ang checked back in to the hostel, only this time being forced to serve out a penalt, being a single bed in a 16 bed dorm for the team to share, Simon tucked Ang in, and went and saw Tarun off to Valparaiso. Both Teams were supposed to head here for the next race challenge so it was a disappointing day for team Australia to be left behind, but happy they were happy that Tarun could continue.

Tired Plaza Del Armas residents

The next morning, after serving out the enforced rest break, they woke early and were given their next clue. They were directed to find the Mercardo central to eat a fantastic seafood meal. They raced through the metro and found their way to the small, not touted, locally frequented restaurant where they ordered a hearty seafood meal. Ang ate what she called the “best freak’n seafood of the whole trip”, and said “it was cooked to perfection”. With this challenge passed, they were given their next clue.  They were to make their way to Easter Island!

Mercardo Central

Simon and Ang were pumped about heading to the famous Easter Island. They were booked on a six hour flight the next morning. For their last night in Santiago, they ate a delicious paradilla and went to bed early, sharing a single mattress on a bunk bed yet again as the hostel was completely full.

Santiago coyote style

Waking early they raced to the airport and boarded their flight to Rapi Nui. Five hours later after flying across half of the Pacific, they landed, bought their national park tickets, and were met and driven in the back of a ute to their accommodation, a seaside hostel, the pit stop for this leg of the race.

There they expected to be checked in, but were told they were still racing…

…To be continued.

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Argentina 4: Bariloche

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, one team of two set out from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt, Chile aboard the Navimag ferry.  After travelling for four days the team arrived in Puerto Montt and received their next clue instructing them to make their way back into Argentina to the town of Bariloche.

With disembarkation formalities completed, the team raced to the main bus terminal in Puerto Montt.  There they booked passage on an afternoon bus to San Carlos de Bariloche.  With several hours to kill before the bus departed, the team decided to visit the little nearby town of Puerto Varas, the Chilean equivalent of Bariloche.  After a quick minibus ride, they arrived in the small village and met up again with Team Wales (after running into Team America and another Team Australia last seen on the Navimag). Lunch was had and Simon and Ang returned to Puerto Montt.

The bus ride over the Andes across the border into Bariloche was smooth and uneventful.  The team checked into their accommodation and set about completing the main task for this leg, to eat as much chocolate and ice cream as possible over the next two days. Simon elected to complete this challenge (although Ang did help), and sampled a variety of well known and artisanal chocolate and ice cream manufactures, including such giants as Rapi Nui and Helados Jauja (now with a store in Melbourne).

A church in Bariloche
Progressive Bariloche Great Scott!

With this challenge completed, and once again the first to arrive, the team decided to celebrate with another fantastic Argentina asado.

Delicious meat ¡Qué bien! Asado de Argentina es muy rico y muy sabroso!
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Antarctica 2: Port Lockroy to Paradise Bay

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, Team Australia embarked an epic voyage south out of South America to Antarctica. After a turbulent and seasick mired trip across the infamous Drake Passage, the Plancius navigated the Neumayer channel and arrived in the calm waters around Goudier Island. There they embarked on a series of challenges including kayaking, hiking and finally an amazing night of camping.

Waking early the next morning, the team packed their bedding the set about enjoying the surrounding area. Many photographs were taken and, after Simon climbed to the top of the nearby hill, they returned to the zodiacs and the Plancius for bathrooms and breakfast. Receiving their next clue after eating, the team attended the photography workshop briefing.

Early morning at the camp site

Laurent, a French-American Associated Press contract photographer, provided the team with their next challenge. They were tasked with photographing wildlife in its natural environment focusing in on taking a strong photograph. With the briefing completed, Simon and Ang boarded a zodiac and were shuttled to shore at Dorian Bay. There they carefully made their way around the Gentoo penguin rookery and took the required photographs. Simon and Ang both agreed that they took too many photographs of Gentoos, that they poo a lot and they are completely awesome creatures.

Ice! Cool Gentoos in their cool home
A Gentoo takes time out of its busy schedule to pose for a photo Stretching Gentoo
The magical Antarctic landscape Malting Gentoo!
A penguin trying to re-evolve the capability to fly A Gentoo finishes its swim
Gentoo filth

Racing back to the Plancius, after a quick zodiac cruise to photograph some otherworldly icebergs clogging Dorian Bay, they had yet another delicious lunch and were given a road block. They were to complete a snowshoe hike to the top of a hill where one of the team members was required to build a snowman. As Simon had never built one before, he volunteered to complete the challenge. Reaching the top of the hill, Simon completed his snowman quickly, using algae smears for eyes, and the team was allowed to continue of the snowshoe hike. Half way up the next hill, another task was presented.

Swan ice berg
Rookery panorama
Simon and Ang celebrate completing the snow man challenge
Snow shoeing panorama

Three separate Amazing Exclusive race teams, Simon from Team Australia, Ray and Damo from another Team Australia and Ryan from Team Canada, were required to have a snowball fight. Each team fought valiantly and they were all given their respective next clues. After a quick visit to the old 1980s Damoy research hut and spotting of a lone chin strap penguin and random Chilean Navy ship, the team returned to the waiting zodiacs and headed back to the Plancius. Yet another delicious dinner was had along with great company and lots of wine, after which Simon and Ang retired for the night.

Moments later a snow ball fight erupted
Ang enjoying a moment on the rocks The Chilean navy arrives

In the morning, preparations were made for the Plancius’ departure. The previous nights camping had been cancelled due to dangerous winds so the crew was out early packing up the campsite and collecting the tents that had been blown off into the channel during the night. With one of the three missing tents recovered, the Plancius raised its anchor. A course was set for the spectacular Leimer channel and the team was tasked with enjoying this navigation in all its splendour. The weather was clear and the steep Antarctic mountains majestic. Most of the passengers were on deck and those who were not, were looking through one of the many windows so they could complete the Leimer Navigation challenge.

Ants in Antarctica! This photo completes Gail’s challenge More other worldly landscape
Recovery of one of the tents
Leimer channel panorama
Another amazing coastline
Layers of ice
Ice berg!
Blue ice berg with very little air in it

After this navigation was complete the Plancius continued on to the Argentine Islands. As the ship approached, the weather turned rainy. Simon and Ang were given two choices of challenges to complete. Simon elected to complete the hikeneering challenge and Ang went to complete another photography challenge by photographing the historic Wordie House.

Simon’s task was relatively straight forward and involved climbing a small hill that overlooked the Ukrainian Vernadsky Station, before walking down the hill to the station itself, whilst wearing snowshoes. This task was completed quickly by Simon, mainly because it was raining on and off and a little bit too cold this day. Simon said at the time that “this was a pretty easy walking challenge, but the landscape was still utterly spectacular due to the bleak weather. I just wish I had some way to keep the rain off the lens of the camera and a few more moments to make the snowman I made even more epic in size”.

Ang set out to complete her task and soon had taken some fantastic photographs of another historic British station, Wordie House. Unfortunately she was the last Exclusive Racer to leave the hut and was almost left behind on the little island. Ang luckily was able to hitch a ride on the zodiac that had come to close up the hut.

Classic Wordie House (as it was left) Wordie House pantry

Both Ang and Simon then completed separate guided tours of the working Vernadsky station. This base had been purchased from the British by the Ukrainians and includes a, until recently, working bar. Unlike the ice free Port Lockroy, Vernadsky had been isolated for most of the summer and so had only seen one other supply ship before the Plancius’ arrival. Simon and Ang both noticed the slightly scared and unusual way the Ukrainian scientists conducted their respective tours. Simon said that “I particularly liked the wall of over winter fame, with the crazy deranged types and one Ukrainian researcher who was doing an impersonation of a suave sea captain saying ‘hello ladies'”. After checking out the Faraday bar, the team completed this challenge. The damp team soon reunited back on the Plancius to trade stories.

Ukrainian humour at Vernadsky Station Simon completes the pour a beer challenge behind the Faraday bar in Vernadsky
Cracking jokes with the other team Australias on board the Plancius Another delicious desert

Overnight, to escape the wind, the Plancius motored north. Waking, the team found themselves floating next to a high Antarctic fjord. The challenge for today was to walk around the other worldly Petermann Island, whilst other teams attempted to summit Mt Scott.

The view from the deck outside the team’s cabin

Owing to the high winds, Simon and Ang, along with the other exclusive race teams, were rapidly shuttled ashore. There they completed an excellent hike that included photographing a variety of wildlife and unexpected animal behaviours. They also took a large number of stunning landscape photographs.

Happy feet! Damo gets told off by a Gentoo
Green Antarctica on Petermann Penguin egg!

After summiting the small peak on the island and observing a Gentoo build a wind break for its feet with specially selected rocks, Simon reunited with Ang and they returned to the ship, having completed the challenge for the morning.

Gentoo building a wall Seals and Penguins living side by side in perfect harmony
Seal portrait

Soon the mountaineers returned and the ship steamed north. The afternoon’s activities included navigation up the Lemaire channel to Paradise Bay, a calm, spectacular anchorage, where they spent the night.

Twin peaks panorama
Ice berg floats by the window

…To be continued.

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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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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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