Amazing Race Season 13: Excitement begins and new destinations

As much as I enjoyed watching I Survived a Japanese Game Show, there is no better way to vicariously travel than watching the Amazing Race when it comes to reality TV. It’s been months since T.J. and Rachel, our favorite hippie couple won the million in Season 12.

In last night’s episode, the first of the season, a different cast of characters headed off from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in a pell mell dash for LAX airport and the first leg of their journey to a fortune. And if not a fortune, a heck of an adventure. The teams ranged from a separated middle-aged couple looking to see if they can salvage their marriage, to an older hippie bee-keeping older couple wanting to love the world, to divorcee women friends who think their bad marriages have honed them for the challenges of travel.

True to real life, the airport proved to be one of the biggest hurdles as some of the teams tried to find the right ticket counters and delt with overbooked flights as a result of standing in the wrong line.

First destination: Salvador, Brazil

Recap and impressions and cultural sites:

In the midst of gearing up for completion, there were friendly hellos and glad to meet yous when there wasn’t much else to do but wait for a plane to board.

Although Salvador, the first colonial capital of Brazil, is known as being a fun and easy going place, our eleven new couple friends didn’t have much time for frolic. From the minute they scrambled out of their American Airlines and United Airlines flights after a plane change in Rio de Janeiro came the unnerving task of making it around a bustling city they didn’t know. That was after the stress of delayed and over-booked flights.

Salvador looked like a stroll-worthy city with it’s gorgeous architecture and narrow streets that meander through markets. Instead of strolling through the bounty, the teams first headed to a O Rei Do Pernil sandwich shop where they learned they were to push a loaded vendor’s cart to Praca Da Se, a popular square where they would find the next clue.

The carts were piled with snack food candy that dropped off with the tiniest bump on the cobblestone. That was no wonder. From what I could tell, the carts weren’t much bigger than a balance beam, probably so that they could be maneuvered through crowds.

The candy with the most camera time was Blong (the pink and blue boxes in the picture). I have no idea what it tastes like, but I’m curious. If I’m ever in Brazil, I’m trying some.

Although candies fell off the cart like rain at times, the couples kept their cool for the most part–everyone’s still in that “I’m a good little traveler mode.”

Traffic didn’t present too much trouble as heavy as it was, and no one went the wrong way despite language barriers with the taxi drivers once the cabs were found. At least, I didn’t pick up on unbearable tension.

Once the teams delivered their carts, they were off to a military base to spend the night in the jungle with mosquito nets protecting them from attack. I assume there were mosquitoes, but no one talked about them. The jungle stay did point out that this part of Brazil is lush with rain forest.

On the second day out, the first stop was Pelourinho, the historic center that is the original town. Dating back to the mid 1500s or so, it is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The first details of the day’s task was found at a gorgeous church.

There were two tasks to choose from: “Hard Way Up” or “Soft Way Down.” Everyone but Andrew and Dan chose Soft Way Down.

Soft Way Down meant scaling a rope webbing down the 236 feet of Elevador Lacerda, a building with an elevator that connects the upper and lower sections of Salvador.

The view from the top was stunning, but like one of the blonds said, “I cant’ even enjoy the view because I’m about to pee in my pants.” Once the height factor was dealt with, scaling down wasn’t too difficult. They were strapped into a safety harness so no one would go splat and ruin the show.

The Hard Way Up involved climbing a serious off weathered stone stairs leading to the cathedral Escadaria do Passo on hands and knees. Devotees do this, we were told. Although not exactly fun, the task wasn’t particularly difficult except for the samba drummer who stood at the top playing loudly the whole time. Once at the top, Mark & Bill were asked the question, “How many stairs?” Since they weren’t into stair counting the first time up, back they went to do it again. Number of stairs? 53

From the Elevador Lacerda, the next stop was the Pit Stop at Forte Sao Marcelo, a floating battlement off the shore. accessible by boat. From the elevator, it’s quicker to walk then take a taxi as brother/sister team Nick and Starr found out. They arrived at the Pit Stop first due to their quick thinking.

For their first place standing, they won a five-day trip to Belize.

Eliminated: Anita and Arthur, the hippie bee keepers/blueberry farmers came slightly loping in last, but seemed okay with the elimination. How many people can say they scaled down a 236-feet building in Brazil?

The moral is, if you don’t want to come in last, you have to hustle. Anita and Arthur’s speed never revved up. The heat held them back, they said. Being from Oregon proved to be a liability for this gentle team.

Their words of travel wisdom: You can be assertive, but treat people well.

Travel Tips pointed out in 1st episode:

  • When driving in Los Angeles, use the commuter lane on the left. It will save you loads of time.
  • If you ever have to wind a vendors cart, or any kind of cart and things keep spilling off, wrap your jacked around the loot. It works wonders as Mark and Bill discovered.
  • When in Portugal, it helps to know some Portuguese like Sarah does and helped put Terence and her in the front of the pack.
  • Ask for help from local people. One woman helped one of the teams push their candy cart and because Starr and Nick asked
  • Spend time in Pelourinho if you’re in Salvador. An important detail, not mentioned on the show, this area was central to the slave trade. For its counterpart in Senegal, head to Goree Island.

Who I am rooting for: It’s too soon to tell. No one popped out as a total idiot, or root-for worthy yet. I did like that Andrew and Dan were the only two to climb the stairs. I’d have felt bad if the drummers were all set to play and no one showed up.

Why to stay tuned: Which teams lose their cool first? Plus, new destinations where the show has not been filmed in the past are on the horizon. The teams also go to India, one of my favorite countries.

((Photos from Amazing Race Web site.)