Amazing Race 13, episode 3: La Paz, Bolivia, where a taxi can make or break you

The competition is heating up on the Amazing Race. Season13 has hit its stride. When the teams landed in La Paz, Bolivia, each team sped or wobbled along depending upon their ability to deal with the altitude.

Although most teams seem to be trying to win the race by just doing their best without creating drama between them, Starr has decided she doesn’t like Kelly and Christy and is out to do them in. The divorcees aren’t too thrilled with her either. I think it’s because the three of them all look alike.

Although, perhaps Starr really didn’t push Christy’s sports bra off a window ledge. Perhaps, she did. Whatever. The sports bra incident created drama that darted in and out this episode. Whenever the focus was off these three vixens, I was a happier viewer and enjoyed the other people’s company.

Travel Tips from this episode:

  • When traveling at a high altitude, breathe deeply, not quickly.
  • Keeping your mood light and being friendly can entice local people to help you out.
  • Walk in La Paz when the distance you want to go is not that far. It’s faster.
  • Read directions carefully. It can save you a lot of trouble and heartache.
  • If the person you are with is having a hard time breathing, be supportive and don’t bitch. You’ll have a better time and your traveling companion won’t talk badly about you.

Recap and Cultural Highlights:

The initial shots of La Paz were magnificent. The blue skies and mountains showed off the beauty of the city’s surroundings. Once the teams landed they were in the dark, literally and figuratively. All headed to the statue of Simon Bolivar for their next clue. The right after midnight departure time was more to my liking than last week’s 4 a.m. start.

Because the clue wouldn’t come until daylight, each person was handed a wonderful Bolivian blanket from a female vendor wearing a signature Cholita hat. The blankets helped pad the hard sidewalk where the team members staked out a space for a bit of shut eye before the morning newspaper arrived. In its pages was the next clue.

During this segment, I wondered what the Bolivians thought of this rag tag group of Americans sleeping on the plaza as if they were homeless.

As soon as the newspapers arrived, there was a flurry and group pounce to snag one. As normal, some of the teams immediately spotted the ad that directed them to their next destination. Southern Belles Marissa and Brooke were not in this group and appeared more and more worried as they were left behind, still searching.

The ad, specific to the race, directed the teams to Narvaez Hat Shop near Plaza Murillo. There they were to buy a cholita hat to take along with them. The blankets were left behind.

I would have had a hard time leaving such a souvenir, but oh, well for the chance of a million dollars, there’s more blankets where they came from.

The next leg of the race was a lesson in transportation woes. Teams that walked got to the shop faster than those that took a taxi. Keep that in mind if you’re in La Paz.. Taxis are not always the fastest way to travel. Ask a local what he or she would recommend. Knowing Spanish helped.

At the hat shop, the teams received the next clues with the Road Block choices: “Musical March” or “Bumpy Ride.” In Musical March, the teams were to walk between two plazas to gather musicians at each location in order to form a band with a range of instruments.

In Bumpy Ride, teams were to walk to Mercado de las Brujas, pick up locally made bicycles made almost entirely of wood–including wheels, one for each person, and ride them down the hills of the cobblestone streets and through a tunnel to the next clue.

Each of the tasks ended at Plaza Abaroa. With these two tasks, the action picked up, and it became clear how the teams’ different choices and the ability to deal with Bolivia’s altitude could influence their outcome.

Mark & Bill, who normally do so well with written information, didn’t read their clue carefully enough and missed the edict that they were to head to the bicycles on foot. As soon as they hopped in a taxi, pleased as punch with themselves, I felt bad. I like these two.

Sarah and Terrence also hopped in a taxi but, immediately felt that something was wrong. They reread their clue, noticed their mistake, and went back to the hat shop location to hoof it. This pair, a focal point of last week, were having smooth sailing except for the snafu with the taxi so they didn’t have much camera time. Maybe Terrence has stopped whining.

Only two teams picked the Musical March. Marissa and Brooke loved the experience, laughing and clapping the whole way. Again, these two seem unflappable. Their band played a fairly lively tune keeping up the pace.

In contrast, frat boys Andrew & Dan were morose. It wasn’t like they were on a death march exactly, but their lack of fun didn’t encourage the band members to step it up much. Their band plodded along the streets, playing their instruments in a tired sort of way, perhaps wondering how they got stuck with such complainers.

The bicycle riders had a more challenging time of it. The best parts were the funky hats and gloves the team members put on for protection. They were similar to what I imagine the Bird Man of Alcatraz might like to wear.

Here, two distinct team personalities emerged. Those who bitched at each other, and those who helped each other out. Ty was annoyed at Aja because she wasn’t quite fast enough for him and Dallas began to get annoyed with his mom for being slow until she reminded him she wasn’t going slow on purpose. The altitude can be a real downer. Aja woefully said that she hadn’t seen this part of Ty’s competitive side before.

The bicycles weren’t a match for the cobblestones and there were a couple of nasty spills. About the time Christy took a fall, Starr hoped that Ty and Aja would U-Turn the divorcees. All decided there wasn’t a point of U-turns quite yet, although Aja was happy to tell Christy later that Starr was out to get her. I’m thinking that they’ve been watching Survivor and are missing out on the fun of Bolivia. Also, it would have been in poor form, I think, to U-Turn someone who is lying on the sidewalk and probably skinned a bit.

Once the teams reached Plaza Abaroa, off they headed, this time by taxi to Los Titanes del Ring where one of the team members learned to wrestle cholita-style. I loved this part. First though, the taxi ride there was a stress producer. Depending on bum luck, some teams were stuck, barely moving, while others had drivers who found more direct ways. Poor Mark & Bill, still unaware of their earlier mistake, were in a taxi that needed to stop for gas.

Donning traditional wrestling suits, after handing a cholita wrestler the bowler hat, each member learned a wresting routine with six moves. Each move had to be done correctly and in the wrestling ring with a real cholita in front of a real audience. If a mistake was made, back to training before being able to try again.

These are the types of tasks I like the best. They highlight part of the culture with depth and give the contestants a chance to interact with people in a more authentic way. I’m sure the Bolivians who were part of this segment are still talking about it.

Although Ken took to wrestling a woman like a pro, his cape flashing as he slingshot himself off the ropes, landed on his back, flipped over the woman he was wrestling, landed on top of her, and eventually raised his arms and hands above his head in triumph, poor Mark had a time of it. Eventually, the hard work did Mark in for awhile. After screwing up the routine twice, he had to breathe in oxygen from a tank before his third attempt. Luckily, third time was a charm.

At this point, I’m enjoying Tina, Marissa, Bill and Toni the best. As spectators of the cholita wrestling matches, they’re enjoying everyone else’s experience as much as they are enjoying their own–a real bonus when it comes to being the perfect traveling companions.

Because Tina & Ken once again kicked it to the finish first. As they stepped on the Pit Stop mat at el Mirador del Monticulo, a park with a view of La Paz, they hugged and kissed as if all is forgiven in their troubled marriage. Maybe the trick to doing well in the Amazing Race is to have a personal history to work through.

The saddest moment in this segment was when Mark & Bill arrived at the Pit Stop to find out that they had a 30 minute penalty because they took a taxi way back when they should have walked. Because they came in 8th, it wasn’t hard for Christy and Kelly to show up before the 30 minutes were up. To Christy and Kelly’s credit, although they were thrilled to find out they were still in the race, they did look dismayed that their win was because of Mark & Bill’s loss.

What Ken & Tina won:

A seven day trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Word of travel wisdom from Bill & Mark:

When your traveling, pick a person who you enjoy. As Mark said, “Bill’s one of my best friends. I couldn’t have picked a better person.