Amazing Race 13: Brazil has crappy taxis, beautiful beaches and travel lessons worth learning

This week’s Amazing Race dash from Salvador to Fortaleza, Brazil showed how much crappy taxis can affect travel, and pointed out how much mood and personality play into a person’s good time.

Travel lessons in episode 2:

  • Exchange money at the airport before you leave one destination for another in order to have money on hand when you need it.
  • If you are in a broken down taxi, find another one. Better yet, pick out taxis that look like they run.
  • If you are going to be making a quick stop in a remote location, have the taxi wait for you. This will save you from being stuck without a taxi and unable to easily find another one.
  • Write down names of the places where you want to go in order for someone to help you with directions. Showing people the names of places ensures that you will be understood, particularly when a location is hard to pronounce.
  • Don’t run-off willy nilly without paying attention to your surroundings and what other people are doing. Keen observers have a better chance at successful travel.
  • Knowing a bit of the local language can help make life easier.

Recap, observations and cultural highlights:

The before the crack of dawn start times of this game would just put me over the edge. The first team, bro and sis duo Nick & Starr, left the Pit Stop at 4:07 a.m. for the airport in a taxi with a thing for speed.

“He’s going a little fast. It’s making me a little nervous,” said Starr.

Yep, I’ve been in a taxi with that kind of driver–Nigeria, to name one place. White knuckles and heartfelt prayers of don’t let me die are not the best start before a morning cup of coffee. Close behind was the married, but separated pair, Ken & Tina.

After finding out that the next plane for Fortaleza was not until 11:30 a.m., the two couples refused to believe that nonsense and found a flight departing at 6:45 a.m. One catch though, there was only one seat left.

So what? Here’s a Travel 101 lesson that sometimes works. Refuse to leave the ticket counter and plead–or look flummoxed. A “no” can turn into a “yes.” I’ve looked flummoxed on a few occasions and it once put me on a Japan Airlines flight out of Tokyo when the Korean Airlines flight was sold out. I had a non-refundable, non-transferable Korean Airline ticket.

In the case of our Amazing Race friends, pleading worked like a charm. Tina’s perseverance led to a bigger plane so there was room for everyone. That included dating team, Anthony & Stephanie whose taxi belched smoke all the way to the airport, the first indication of woes to come. “Looks like you’re burning a little exhaust,” quipped Anthony.

At this point, Terrence & Sarah were having the biggest travel dissonance. Terrence, an emotional train wreck, relies on Sarah to make life better for him with kisses, band-aids and apologies. He bumps his head, whines for a band-aid and she gets him one. My word, Terrence, you’ve hardly begun this journey to be falling apart so soon.

Once in Fortaleza, all headed pell mell via taxi to Plaza do Cumbuco and their first task. With a knack for picking out clunkers, Anthony & Stephanie’s taxi stalled. Determined, Anthony tried to get the driver to pop the clutch while he pushed. After dumping that taxi for another, he observed, “Everything is broken in this country.”

At Plaza do Cumbuco, the teams road along the beach in dune buggies, a happy task for all.

“I love Brazil,” cried out one of the South Carolina blonds as the wind whipped her hair. Even Terrence, who has had a hard time deciding if he’ll ever have fun or not–ever, was pleased with the ride and felt love was all around.

On the way to Plaza Cumbuco, Anthony & Stephanie looked at the run down houses and said, “Makes you appreciate what you have,” followed by Anthony’s, “If they learn how to fix a car, they’ll make it rich.”

Humorous, in a way, but there is a point he missed. Fixing items is often a money flow problem. Of all the couples, Anthony & Stephanie are the ones who were shown noticing a bit of Brazil’s economic issues. Perhaps, if their taxis hadn’t had issues, they would have sped by the signs of economic distress as well.

The next task was to “Beach It” or “Dock It.” With Beach It, the teams had to push a traditional boat with the help of a two-man crew a few hundred feet across the sand into the ocean, a process that used logs to roll the boat along.

This task also gave a nod to Brazil’s traditional fishing industry. The other task pointed out Brazil’s role in the shipping world. The teams who chose this task were to head to a shipping yard and look for a specific container out of hundreds that held their clue to the Pit Stop.

Finding the container involved scrolling through the computerized list of all the containers, finding the corresponding area on the dock that held their container, and then finding the number match. Of course, this was right up Mark & Bill’s brain brawn alley.

Southern Belles, Marisa & Brooke also wanted this task because neither of them see themselves as physically strong. Not brainy either, they made a mistake and ended up at the boats instead of the shipping yard. To their credit, instead of whining, they got busy giving their boat the mighty heave hos to get it in the water.

Moving a boat across the sand is not easy, but the logs worked like a charm if placed correctly at the bow–just in case you’re ever in the situation where you need to move a heavy boat.

During this segment, it was evident how maintaining calm and paying attention to details affect outcomes. Terrance & Sarah didn’t pay attention to their surroundings and missed the taxi stand which seriously put them towards the rear of the pack.

Divorcees Kelly & Christy got their tasks mixed up and dug around in the sand for a container after they finished moving their boat. Once they realized their mistake, they sped off to Parque de Vaquejada in Ceará for the next task and another mistake. They forgot to tell the taxi driver to stay at this place that does not have a taxi park.

Who hasn’t had one of those travel days where it’s one thing after another? Hmmmm? Be honest.

At Parque de Vaquejada, one person from each team searched a wall filled with Portuguese words, several of them ads, to find the name of the place of the next Pit Stop. When in doubt, write down every word that looks like a location. It works like a charm as each team eventually discovered.

The Pit Stop, Cidade da Criança was built in Fortalesa as an “oasis for children.” What is an “oasis for children” exactly. It’s a park.

Ken & Tina hoofed it to the oasis, running neck and neck with Mark & Bill, and landed on the mat first. No children were bowled over by the efforts.

What Ken & Tina won: Two off-road vehicles.

Why Mark & Bill don’t care they didn’t win this leg after all. They said that if Ken & Tina’s marriage could be saved, it’s worth two off-road vehicles. How sweet.

Eliminated: Anthony & Stephanie. I was sad to see them go since they seemed to be the two people who were getting the most out of international travel.

Their words of travel wisdom:

Be thankful for what you have at home.

Anthony ran down the list: house, people you love, your looks. You name it, be thankful was the basic message. In his case, I’m sure he’s thankful for having a car that runs.

Irritating behavior to never do while traveling:

Kiss people you don’t know on the cheek. Starr kissed each of the two men who were to help them push their boat into the water. Her reasoning was to give them extra motivation. Gaad.

Funniest part: When Terrence saw an ice-cream shop and wondered if they should stop to get one. Sarah said, “As if we are on a tour.”

For last week’s recap, click here.