Norway 1: Oslo, Capital of Viking Land

As the first team to arrive at 12pm, Team Australia were the first team to depart at 8 am. Simon and Ang read their clue and set out. Their first task was to relocate accommodation to Nini’s place. Once there to off load backpacks, they were given their next clue. They were to return to the centre of Oslo and visit the Slottsparken. With Ang’s helpful understanding of Norwegian, she worked out quickly that this was the Royal Palace park.

Prawns by the freezer load! Pretending to be a seal

Racing on the train back into the town, the team observed the Norwegian city folk going about their business. For Ang this was a little different (she had previously lived in Norway over 15 years ago and a lot had changed). For Simon, as this was the first visit, he noticed the obviously progressive nature of the society and the large number of Russ wondering about. With the journey into town complete, the team made their way quickly to the Slotteparken.

Soldiers in lush Oslo
Royal palace panorama

Running through the pretty park, they headed straight up to the palace building. There they noted the complete lack of fences around the front part of the building, allowing anyone to walk within metres of the wall. They took some photos of the guards and were given their next clue (after a guard raced over to make sure that what they were doing wasn’t for commercial purposes). Their next clue required them to watch a tattoo. Initially thinking they would need to find a parlour, the team remembered that they had seen posters for a military tattoo that would be passing through the central business district on the waterfront that afternoon. So they raced back into the nearby centre of town.

When your normal bank is unavailable, make sure you have an account with these guys

Arriving soon after on the parade route, the team knew they were there just in time, but there was no military tattoo. Ang ran over and asked a roadie who was packing up speakers what the deal was. He told them that on account of so much continual rain the parade had been cancelled. He gave the team their alternative challenge. They were to complete a tour of Akershus Slott. Once again, Ang’s knowledge of Norwegian was invaluable and they set off to the nearby historic castle that protected the town of Oslo from invaders during much of its history.

Akershus Festning panorama
Tulips in front of a castle Arty tulips

They raced around the castle and then were given their next challenge. They were to visit two museums, the Mueseet for Samtidskunst (museum of contemporary art) and the Arkitekturmuseet  (architecture museum). The team raced around these two buildings, checked out the exhibits then received their next challenge. They were to relocate in the morning back to the Cochs. So with no further challenges that evening they returned to Nini’s house where they spent the rest of the evening hanging with Nini, George and Marie over a delicious meal catching up.

Museum of contemporary art hair
Suburban Oslo’s olympic ski jump Biggest cinema in all of the land
Electric car and one of the many charging stations

Waking early, the team raced back into town. Once there they checked into their accommodation and were given their next clue by a cool Norwegian guy who had shoes that had Viking wings. The team quickly read the clue and found that they were to find the Vigelands Sculpture park in the Frogner parken and take some photos.

Parkveien / Riksveg viewed from Cochs Pensjonat

Ang had a bit of a chuckle at this point. She had been there years before and remembered what the sculptures were of. Simon had not so he was in the dark until they eventually found the sculptures after randomly watching some NFL. This again confirmed the progressive nature of Norwegian society. Once they had taken the requisite photos the team were given their next challenges. They were to visit Momo (Ang’s host grandmother) and they were also to complete a viewer task they had received from the Geocacher they had met in Edinburgh to ‘kiss a Viking’.

Gridion, Norweigan style Goooooo Vikings!
Vigeland sculpture park

Racing out of the park the team followed the course of a fun run and were stopped by a Norwegian Amazing Exclusive Race team. The other team asked Simon and Ang as members of the public if they would mind posing for a photo with them showing the clue envelope to allow them to complete a challenge. Team Australia was happy and both teams had a laugh posing with their respective envelopes. Wishing the other team good luck, Simon and Ang ran on.

Bunch of Norweigan dudes on their own exclusive race pose with Ang

Following the fun run route into town, the team ran into a flower shop and bought some flowers for Momo. They then continued into town looking for a Viking. Suddenly Simon had a brain wave. The clue did not say the Viking had to have a beard and a helmet with horns, and remembering the earlier dude with the viking wing shoes, led Ang into a shoe store. Inside they found the Norwegian Viking brand of shoes. Simon completed the kissing task by kissing the shoe.

Majorstuen street scape

Out of the store they raced and onto public transport. They headed over to Marie’s work, Marie drove the team to Momo’s place where they had tea, picklets. Angela was over joyed to see Momo again. Simon just smiled and had his conversation translated by Ang.

Momo gets in on a promo shot

With these tasks complete, the team were given their final task. They were to meet Louis and go for a walk. Away from Momo’s house Marie drove the team back to her place. There they went inside and met the big guy himself, a brindle staffy called Louis. Simon mused that the dog spoke Norwegian only so there was some communication difficulties, but otherwise was a typical awesome staffy. So Simon, Ang and Marie walked around the neighbourhood and were given their final task. They were to leave Oslo the next morning to the western city of Bergen, travelling via Marie’s car at 10am the next day to the pitstop for this leg of the race.

Lewis, a friendly Norweigan staffy Oslo twilight

To celebrate completing all tasks, the team had dinner at a good pizza place (waited on by a ‘party Swede’) then went to a nearby bar where Marie’s boyfriend Erik worked. Simon and Ang enjoyed the fun evening immensely before heading back to their accommodation in the early hours of the morning.

Datarock plays at their local

Up some hours later the team checked out and returned to Marie’s place. They all jumped in the car, waving goodbye to Louis and Erik and drove out of Oslo.

Heading west they drove into the mountains and stopped at a small ski village before continuing over the high pass through the snow. Down mountains they drove through Vos and across fjords. The party of three didn’t stop talking the whole way and before they new it arrived at their destination Bergen at Ragnhild and Paul’s (aka Mama and Papa – Ang’s host family) house, the pitstop for this leg of the race.

Somewhere on the Riksvei 7
Thanks google for the cheesy snow Waterfalls to the fjords
Classic Fjord
Waiting for a boat

Once again they were the first team to arrive. Simon and Ang celebrated with family and enjoyed their wonderful welcoming company.

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Argentina 7: Valle De Uco Wineries

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, one team of two raced into the city of Mendoza. There they set out to complete a winery tour challenge. After an enjoyable day, with lots of great wines tasted and excellent food eaten, they were the given the task of climbing into the high Andes. After glimpsing the mighty Aconcagua Mountain, the team was given their next clue and raced to the Florentino Bistro. Once there they answered the question provided by Organic Hobo and ate a tasty meal. They were then given another wine tour task. Ang and Simon were obviously super excited at the prospect of sampling more of Argentina’s best, and quickly fell asleep in the early hours of the morning.

Waking early for the third morning in a row, the team was picked up once again by Trout and Wine. They were joined by a team from Germany, another from England and the ever enthusiastic Chris and Rita of Team America. All four teams were then driven south to Valle De Uco.

The first stop was a new winery called Pulenta. There the teams were treated to a complete tour and great tasting experience. Then it was back in the van to the next destination, a tiny winery called La Azul.  There more wine was consumed, whilst the workers flushed a fermentation tank. After trying their range, the teams boarded the van for the short drive to the final destination, Salentein.

This is where Malbec gets made Barrels on their way to deliciousness
Pulenta’s tasting room Training the palate
An exceptional drop indeed Working through the reds
The racers pause for a moment during the tour Wine making art vs science!
The view towards the Andes Happiest Chateau in all the land
La Azul day beds La Azul tasting and fermenting room
Ang poses with the teams fantastic guide Virginia Ang has just been told they have Malbec
Steampunk wine making device

After walking through the expansive grounds, Simon and Ang received their next clue in the underground aging facility, a veritable temple of wine. Simon was amazed at the sheer scale of the wine cave. Ang was too, but knew just being amazed doesn’t win races, so she quickly read the clue. They were to fly to the city of Buenos Aires. Excited, the team raced back to the entry of the winery, but decided to sit down and eat one more fantastic Argentine asado before they were driven back to Mendoza.

The imposing entry to Salentein
Entry art More entry art
Main foyer of Salentein
Water feature sculpture
Welcome to the vineyard
View of the reception building and underground manufacturing facility
Vines! Emptying a vat
Wine making technology
Temple of wine (note the tiny grand piano)
Amazing wine cellar

Back at their hostel they checked the flights on the internet and found the earliest flight was at 7am the next morning. With nothing more to do, the team decided to head back to Florentino once again for dinner. While they waited for their meal, Simon and Ang both agreed that this leg was the tastiest leg of the Amazing Exclusive Race yet. Simon said “I don’t think I have every eaten that much steak ever in my life”. Ang was particularly fond of a variety of wine they got to try for the first time and said “Torrentes rekindled my love for white wines. I wish we could buy it in Australia”. They soon tucked into a great meal and headed back to their accommodation to sleep.

Early the next morning the team raced from their accommodation to the Mendoza airport (which even has its own vineyard). They boarded their flight to Buenos Aires and arrived soon after. Sharing a cab with an Australian American mixed team, the team was deposited into the heart of Palermo and checked into their hostel, the pit stop for this leg of the race. They were once again the first to arrive, continuing their unbroken winning streak.

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Argentina 6: Aconcagua and the Andes

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, Simon and Ang raced to the town of Mendoza. There they embarked on a tour of four of Mendoza’s fantastic wineries. They ate and drank lots of delicious food and drink before falling into restful sleeps. Their next challenge would begin the next morning.

Once again the team was picked up early in the morning by Trout and Wine from their accommodation. For this leg, Simon and Ang were once again joined by Chris and Rita, two Amazing Exclusive Racers from America. The two teams were then driven out of Mendoza and up into the Andes.

Heading to the Andes Mirror Mirror on the Truck…
This dam supplies water to Mendoza
Like the surface of the moon Dióxido de carbono truck

Retracing their route from the Chilean border, the van stopped at the Puente del Inca before continuing on up to the enormous Aconcagua. There the teams were required to complete a little walk to a mirador that afforded an excellent view of Aconcagua mountain, the highest in the Andes and the western hemisphere. With this challenge completed, the team was directed to a nearby ski resort for lunch.

Puente Del Inca
The team pauses for a promotional shot in front of the bridge Museum piece building that is a museum
Looking up towards Chile Leave them ducks alone
Mighty Aconcagua
High Andean mountains
Abandoned bus Inside the abandoned bus (powered by internet explorer, which is probably why it was abandoned)

After another fantastic steak based meal, Simon and Ang were provided with their next clue. This viewer challenge had been sent in by Organic Hobo. For this task the Team were to find Florentino Bistro and ask what the in season salad is. Team America, received a different food related challenge to complete. Both teams raced out of the ski resort and back to Mendoza. They were soon dropped off at their respective accommodation. Simon and Ang took the opportunity to rest before they headed back into the centre of town.

Avalanche protection up close Lunch time equals more wine to try

After walking around for a little while searching for the restaurant, Simon asked inside a hotel for directions and they were able to locate Florentino Bistro. There they met the head chef, Sebastian and asked what the in season salad was. Completing this challenge, Simon and Ang were provided with their next clue at this point, but instead of racing off decided that the food at Florentino sounded too good not to eat. Reading their next clue, the team was tasked with completing another wine tour, this time to the Valle Ucon south of the city.  They enjoyed a delicious salad, risotto and excellent dessert before they raced out of the restaurant (making a booking for the next night on their way out).

Pre dinner drinks Ang is still impressed by the Argentine Malbecs

Excitedly, the team raced back to their accommodation to get ready for the next day’s challenge.

…To be continued.

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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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Guatemala 2: Flores to Semuc Champey

Arriving sometime in the pm, the team were the first to depart at 7am.  They had some concern that the shuttle ticket they had been sold the day previous would not be honoured.  Making several inquiries, they were able to confirm that it would indeed be honoured and they would be able to continue racing.

The team met with the agent who sold them the ticket to double check that their ride would be arriving.  It was confirm much to the teams relief.  When the bus did finally arrive 15 minutes later (Guateamala time), after paying the outstanding money, that they would told to get on the same bus as Team Ireland (as previously predicted).  The one and only bus to Semuc Champey then departed Flores at 9.30am.

Both teams (from the separate series) then travelled south before they were forced to stop just before Sayaxché.  Heavy rain had flooded the road and their driver was concerned that the van would not be capable of passing the floodwater.  After some negotiation with the driver,  he agreed, but only do it if everyone sat in the back of the van and on the roof to make it back heavy.  Simon volunteered to walk through the shin-high floodwater to confirm depth and the van soon followed.  Passing through some additional shallower floodwater, the van was driven on to a car ferry via a loading ramp made from gravel.  Locals, used to seeing other Guatemalans on top of vans, took the opportunity to photograph the members of Team Irish, Australia, Britain and Sweden.  Soon the van crossed and was back on the highway, speeding south.

Driver checking river on the ferry ramp Waiting for the ferry
No cable tonight Supra drives on the barge
Sayaxché town Dude driving the barge
Restaurante with a water view Crossing the river
View of Sayaxché The barge arrives
Small town church Service station Mary statue
Guatemalans on their mini bus

The remainder of the drive was relatively uneventful with the van passing through the town of Cobán, before driving along a dark bumpy dirt road.  At this point rain commenced and the team transferred to a 4wd for the remaining 5km to their accommodation. This drive was the worst off-road travel the team had experienced to date.  The driver needed to continuously demist the windscreen inside the car with an old wiper blade.  Simon, who was sitting on everyone’s backpacks in the boot, had a particularly uncomfortable ride to the lodge.

Eventually, they arrived at El Zapote, a rustic jungle lodge and the pit stop for this leg of the race.

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Belize 2: Belize City to San Ignacio

Previously on the Amazing Exclusive Race, due to the bad weather, the team was not required to complete the main tasks whilst at Caye Caulker. Instead they boarded a water taxi and raced to Belize City. They were provided with a new clue on the water taxi that required them to leave Belize and head to Guatemala by the fastest way possible.

Arriving in Belize City, they avoided the touts and walked straight to the bus terminal, about 2 kms away. The team were accompanied by team Ireland on this walk. Once they arrived there, they were told conflicting information that seemed to indicate there were no express buses leaving from the station. And they discovered that the cost of a taxi ride to the border was expensive. Remembering there were signs for direct transfers to Flores from the water taxi back at the dock, both Simon and Tarun walked back to the water taxi terminal.

Belize City Marina

Walking back to the dock, without their bags, Simon and Tarun soon arrived at the terminal and found out they had just missed the only shuttle bus for the day. This meant their options were solely local bus or a taxi. They returned to the other team members and given the late hour, decided to pay for a taxi heading west.

The drive was quickly completed with only a few moments of terror in the heavy rain. As the light was quickly fading, the teams decided to take the clue’s suggested option to overnight just before the border in San Ignacio and cross in the morning. The two teams were dropped in the town of San Ignacio where they quickly found accommodation in the Tropicool.

Dat classic from Cantinental Catt… Wah Be Mi Friend?

After returning to main road into town to watch the new bridge go under water, the teams enquired about tours to nearby Cayo attractions. Unfortunately these were closed due to flooding, so the teams headed up the hill in town to check out the view and to have a drink. Returning to the centre of town, the Australian Team had Sri Lankan curry and changed most of their remaining Belize cash into USD.

The road into town… Shopping for breakfast
The view of town

The team retired for the night, to get ready for another day of racing…

… to be continued

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Puerto Rico 1: San Yuan

With only limited time in Puerto Rico, the team commenced their exploration of Old San Juan on foot.  They toured the town and visited the major fortifications that were the oldest Spanish constructed in the Caribbean.

Old town street Old town fort
Old town doors
Panorama looking south over old town

After getting information on local nearby attractions, the team hired a car and headed east.  Unfortunately they were unable to secure passage to Playa Flamingo on Culebra Island as the ferry was not operating and flight schedules were not achievable.

Instead, the team visited first the national park of Yunque where they successfully climbed to the summit of Mt Britton.  After completing this task, the team headed back north to Laquillo beach before they continued to the most north easterly point of mainland Puerto Rico, and swam at Seven Seas Beach.

Lizard in Yunque Just like a dinosaur
Lizard close up Gross snail
Laquillo beach In case you didn’t know where you were

The final challenge was to return to old San Juan and avoid all toll roads.  The team was able to successfully achieve this and once again went to sleep for a few hours before their flight to Mexico.

Plaza Las Americas

Returning the car prior to the car hire office opening, the team checked their bags in, then returned to pay for the hire in cash, despite protests from the customer service lady.  They then raced back on foot back to the departures terminal where they boarded their flight to Mexico.

Transiting via Miami, the team arrived in at Cancún, Mexico.  There they met Sandy and boarded an ADO bus to Playa Del Carmen, the pit stop for this leg of the race.

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France 1: Guadeloupe

Waking a few short hours later, the team travelled by car service to JFK airport where they boarded a flight south to Puerto Rico.  There they changed aircraft and continued on to French Guadeloupe, to complete Merryl’s detour.

Flyin’ ova da Caribbean mon

Guadeloupe is a special administrative department of France and is located in the Lesser Antilles approximately 2170km southeast of Miami.  The two islands that form Guadeloupe, Basse Terre and Grande Terre are connected by bridges.  The team’s challenge for this leg of the race was to hire a car and complete a survey of all of the beaches on both of the islands.

The vehicle of choice on Guadeloupe is the Peugeot, so naturally the team’s hired car was a 303 hatchback.  Angela remarked “Guadeloupe, the land of the Peugeot, where Peugeots outnumber humans” and Simon was also impressed with the sheer number of cars.   The next few days involved driving the circumference of the two islands, pulling into the various beaches along the way before returning to kind hosts Camile and Vivien’s home each evening.

Arggg Ang is a pirate (note the imported Australian & New Zealand birds) Arrg Simon is also a pirate (what car hire place lets their birds climb on you?)
Beach at sunset Ya mon, we be on da beach
Drinking proper Gwada rhum Smashing some creole chicken
Waterfall in the middle of Basse Terre The mighty Peugeot conquerors the Col des Mamelles

Over the 5 days, the team swam with Hawksbill and Leatherback turtles, walked along white, yellow, coral and black sand beaches. They were also able to determine the answer to the second part of Merryl’s challenge by working out that that Gwada is the Creole short form for Guadeloupe.

Cute beach dog! The town of Basse Terre
Painted palms Ang is a fan of white sandy beaches
Working out on a beach Clear waters off Guadeloupe
What a beach Another beach
Mightly Peugeot next to some Gwada houses Just like a proper pirate
Gwada coastline Ruin!
Coral coast Off-road Peugeot
Red crab at a beach in Gwada The view from our room – suburban Gwada

With all the two island’s beaches visited, the main task for this leg of the race was completed. The team returned the car and checked into the pit stop for this leg of the race.

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Canada 3: Rocky Mountains – South from Jasper

Waking early, the team drove south back along the Icefield Parkway.  On the earlier north bound journey, in the race to get accommodation in Jasper, a number of points of interest were strategically skipped.  These were visited on the return trip and included:

  • Mount Edith Cavell (the team met an Australian retired couple who had driven more than 10k km in their hire car that they picked up in Vegas.  Inspired!)
  • Athabasca Falls
  • Mistaya Canyon
  • Parker’s Ridge
Icebergs at Mount Edith Cavell Athabasca Falls
Glacier behind Parker’s ridge

Just before the Columbia Icefield, Ang, had gone from not wanting to come across a bear to being disappointed with the numbers seen thus far.  She said to Simon ‘I really want to see some bears , keep looking into the forest as we drive as we don’t have much time left’.  Banff and Jasper National parks were soon to deliver.

Standard Canadian flood plain
Yet another Standard Canadian lake

The first animal the team came across was a Caribou.  It had run into the middle of a freezing stream to avoid being eaten by a wolf.  The Caribou jam it caused had the usual assortment of high powered camera and lens assemblies.  One ‘imager’ was kind enough to let the team have a look through her scope.  The Caribou didn’t seem too happy and the wolf was nowhere to be seen.  An earlier photograph taken by the ‘imager’ allowed the team to see the wolf. After seeing the picture, Simon remarked that “the Caribou seems to have the right idea”.

Swim buddy!

About 2 km further down the road, the team spotted the next jam.  This one was for a juvenile grizzly bear that was feeding on berries.  The bear attracted about 30-40 cars and twice as many people.  The team observed the bear for a good 40 minutes as it came progressively closer to the road.  At one point the safer option was the back of a nearby pickup truck when the bear came within 30m of the road (recommended distance is 100m plus).  The team stayed amongst the crowd until the bear decided it was time to go eat a salmon, or that thing bears do in the woods.

Large bear jam
Close enough to see the whites of the grizzly’s eyes Right on, maul that bush

Back in the car, the team stopped briefly at the Athabasca glacier, then soon after spotted the next bear jam up ahead.  This time, there were two black bears, munching on the roadside berries.  The advantage for the team was little time was lost as the convenient roadside location allowed photos to be taken from the car.  Fading light meant the team was soon driving again. The Icefields Parkway came to an end and the team arrived at Banff.  There they slept before the short drive the next day back to Calgary.

Bears want berries eh? Black bear random berry walk

Racing into Calgary, the team attempted to complete an ongoing challenge of the exclusive race – find and purchase unique cowgirl boots for Ang.  By the time they had arrived in the city centre and checked the location of western shops, less than 2 hours remained to return the hire car to the airport.  Racing through the city streets, shop after shop was checked by the team, but with no success.

Back to the car and then out of the city and on to the airport they went.  At this point heavy rain made driving conditions difficult, but the team managed to navigate their way to the hire car drop off.  Then it was onto the red eye flight to Montreal, some 3028 kms to the east.

Arriving in the middle of the night, the team took a crazy taxi ride through countless construction sites to Merryl’s place, checking into the pitstop for this leg of the race.

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