DISTANT LANDS

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The Amazing Race 22 on CBS

Meno A Kwena Safari Camp. Botswana - Royal Tree Lodge, Botswana


Botswana is a unique African destination: an unusual combination of desert and delta that draws an immense concentration of wildlife to its complex of wetland. The jewel of Botswana, the Okavango Delta, is the home of the big five: lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhinoceros, and is the pit stop for our globetrotting vagabonds. If they weren’t busy racing around the world for a million dollars they might stop and take in this very special slice of the world. Unfortunately, our racers get a mere 12 hours in the pit stop to nourish their souls, bodies and minds before the race clock strikes: 5:39 AM. First up: Bates and Anthony.

Bates and Anthony have a 32 minute lead in front of the second team. With that, they head down a dirt road where they encounter the day’s first detour and the surprise of an express pass. If they choose to do it, and successfully complete the task, the pass will allow them to by-pass all challenges and go straight to the next pit stop. The challenge: to water ski for over a mile through crocodile-infested waters. If they are able to stay up on skis for the entire mile, they will win the express pass. Despite their reservations, the two hockey players make this look ridiculously easy (that happens when you get hit in the head repeatedly) and for a few minutes it actually seemed like something I might consider if I were signing up for an African safari…then I reminded myself of the crocodiles and reconsidered. But Bates and Anthony were able to do the task and are now headed  to the next pit stop: Royal Tree Lodge in the Royal Tree Game Preserve. With this first-place finish, Bates and Anthony should have a comfortable lead going into the next leg of the race, or at least be thoroughly rested physically, as well as mentally.  

For the others, the race is much closer, with teams leaving at 6:11, 6:17, 6:25, 6:28, 6:37 and 6:49. Being so close together the challenge for rest of the teams is to keep their calm and not make stupid mistakes…but what’s the fun in that!? Right off the bat two teams get caught in speed traps. (If you read the Lonely Planet guide to Botswana and Namibia, you would know this is common.) Driving in Botswana is relatively easy. All you need is to have a current driver’s license (make sure it’s in English, or get an international drivers license); drive on the left; remember that sitting on the roof of a vehicle is illegal (as it should be); wearing seat belts in the front seats is the law; and finally, obey all posted speed limits. Highway police use radar and love to fine motorists for speeding (about 100 pula, plus additional charges according to the rate at which you were exceeding the the limit).  If you do get pulled over you will need to pay the fine the same day at the local police station. The first team to get caught are the country singers Caroline and Jennifer, who at first try to flirt their way out of the ticket. Of course this doesn’t work, and eventually they are forced to pay their fine just like everyone else. Max and Katie, who are the last team to leave the pit stop and are forced to do a speed bump on this leg, are the second team caught in the Botswana dragnet. For poor Max, the speeding ticket is only 1/3rd of a trifecta of car problems. First, they  have trouble finding the car to leave the pit stop, followed by the speed trap, and finally…backing into a pole when leaving the police station, causing a nice dent in the car. Poor guy. 

Back on the race course, the day starts with a roadblock. Teams are forced to transport baby goats upstream in small dugout boats called morkoro. The task seems straightforward, except that these boats are very tippy and they need to pole the boats upriver. (After this task, Max and Katie have to perform a ceremonial seduction dance for the speed bump.) Everyone else will head downriver via water taxi to the Royal Tree Game Reserve. Once there, the teams are forced to choose between two tasks: Brains or Brawn. The “brains” task is to ride horseback through the bush and identify 10 animal silhouettes, then correctly place tiles with the silhouettes on them in the order they appeared along the trail. When they correctly place the tiles in order, the racers can head to the pit stop; if they do not correctly place the tiles in order, they need to repeat the horseback ride. The “brawn” task is to hitch a sand sleigh (like a snow sleigh but it travels across the dirt) filled with wood, to a team of four donkeys. The racers have to maneuver the sleigh over a 1/2-mile track and then unload the wood. Again, it’s straightforward, but if you have ever worked with donkeys then you know they can be stubborn. Most teams pick one of the two tasks and stick with it, but Pam & Winnie moved back and forth between the two tasks like a ping pong ball. In the end this would be their undoing and force them from the Amazing Race.  

THIS WEEKS’ GAME CHANGER: The ability to read a map and understand directions. Joey and Meghan ended up in 5th place largely because of their inability to understand directions or follow a simple map. They could have ended up in 3rd or 4th place, but as they said, they are lost without a GPS to tell them where to go. Learn to read a map, and buy one. Technology can be a terrific aid, but if you don’t know how to get along without it, you can find yourself helpless and stuck when it lets you down…or it’s simply not there.