Saturday, 4 April 2009

Amazing Race, amazing fun

The Amazing Race (full name, The Amazing Thinking, Laughing Race for Charity) on Saturday afternoon was an absolute blast. It is a car-driving event that takes participating teams to clue-based locations around Joburg's suburbs. The event is organised by a guy who works with me, Dean, so I asked whether I could enter a team on bikes - like we do for regular urban events. He gave me the go ahead and so I was joined by Lauren, Debbie and Mark for an afternoon of superb fun.

One of the race's really cool elements is that you are encouraged to dress up - and to dress your car up. Being on bikes, we didn't go the full hog, but we did don blue glitter wigs, fasten those bobble things to our helmets and wear long pink socks. Next time we'll have to be more creative; there were some incredible outfits on show.

The race clues are pretty difficult to decipher. Some are quite cryptic, others require an alphabet key and yet another was a 'predictive text' code. We did buy lifelines pre-race so that we could phone race organisation for help; we used it for the predictive text clue.

There were 10 clues in total (the 11th was a clue that essentially translated as "you're wasting your time there are only 10 clues" - hahaha) and because we were on bikes we needed to work them all out before we started so that we could plan the most efficient route. We only got the clue cards at the start, which was from in Bryanston at 13h30-ish.

We started working through the clues, checking on those that required us to be at a specific location at a certain time. We decided to stay at to watch the programme on CNBC, looking for the answer to the clue in the ad break. But first we needed to get a balloon, draw a face on it and give it a name. He was briefly christened 'Barry' and had to appear in photos of us at each location. We got 'him' from the garage Wimpy across the road; then we zipped back to to finish working out the clues and to watch the telly.

As soon as the ad was over (right near the end of the show!) we left for the roof top parking at Sandton City. This would have been at 15h00 and we had to be on the roof by 15h25 to watch for skydivers and to see where they landed as this would give us our next clue. From to Sandton City this means flying down William Nicol, heading South (nice) and then hauling up Sandton Drive. Oh my goodness! This was helluva tough and I was feeling quite lightheaded by the time we stopped on the roof.

The skydivers landed in that park below Sandton City (down the hill again!) but as we needed to get to Sandown High (up the hill) we decided to shoot off there first and then down to the park, certain that the skydivers and crowds would still be around. Lauren and Mark know Sandton well so our route to the school was super fast. There we had to kick a rugby ball over the posts. Mark had one attempt and then Lauren took advantage of women being able to kick from a little closer. She let fly with the most brilliant kick to score our conversion. Snap-snap photo time and we were off to the park. The answer here told us to get a drink from News Cafe in Woodmead.

One of the really cool things about being the only bike team is that the cars were absolutely phenomenal. Every where we went the other competing teams would hoot and cheer - a really great vibe from start to finish. In terms of numbers - doubled from 95 teams last year to 195 teams this year.

From the park we headed up again and along Rivonia, heading South, to Oxford Road to look for the fake political poster. Took a while to spot it "Togetha we can lurn mor" for political party 'ABC'. Now in Saxonwold we shot through to Zoo Lake, nailing the next clue, which directed us to Sandton Field and Study Centre for an Easter Egg hunt. Fortunately we hit the sign at Zoo Lake spot on (purely luck!)- other teams we running all over the place. Before going to Sandton Field and Study we decided to go for the Bordeaux clue.

From Zoo Lake we wove long quiet road to get back on to Jan Smuts, heading North through Rosebank, Dunkeld and Blairgowrie to a park in Bordeaux. Here there was a big gumtree with a red ribbon tied around it that read " 'Search A.R.". We already knew about this because I'd been getting dozens of calls from competitors who found in their search. What the clue actually meant was to search for Amazing Race on ''. We didn't get this clue either. The answer would send you to the lemon-something church in Linden. Great unintentional advertsing for and really funny that I happened to be taking part in the race!

We'd decided to leave the location at Randburg Waterfront out because we only had just over an hour left until the cut-off at 18h30. That gave us enough time to get to Sandton Field and Study and the Paint Ball place, Battle Zone, near The Campus on Sloane, not far from the finish.

The cool thing about Sandton Field and Study is that we could take advantage of being on bikes to short-cut across the spruit and through the park to get back on to William Nicol. Then an uphill haul to Battle Zone. There Mark and I hid behind targets while Debbie and Lauren shot at us. They're good shots so within seconds they'd hit the boards twice.

Back on our bikes and off to the finish at We clocked in just after 18h00.
Of the primary clues we left out the one for Action Sports in North Riding (clue 5), the place (restaurant?) in the Fourways Gardens Shopping Centre (far end of Cedar; clue 8) and the Twinkle place at the Brightwater Commons (Clue 10). Of the additional re-direct clues we did Sandton Field and Study but left out the drink at Newscafe Woodmead and the lemon church.

Back at a party was in full swing; we only left hours later.

In terms of distance and stats... My GPS gave us a total distance of 46,92km. This accounted for an elevation gain of 842m; that's an accumulative 1600m ascent and descent. We climbed some BIG hills, which is no wonder that the average ascent gradient was 15%.
Talk all round is that the clues this year were way harder than previous years (very, very clever clues). Only 10 teams completed all the clues within the cut-off; some making it with only a minute or two to spare! Last year the winners were in two hours before cut-off. Most certainly challenging even in cars.

This race is awesome and whether on car or bike it is a must-do. I would definitely do it again - on bike - even if we don't stand a chance of getting to all the places, because it is just so much fun. It was also my first chance to do an event with Debbie and Mark (Debbie did Kinetic's race last weekend with me and Lauren); and together with Lauren we had a great afternoon of biking. Thanks for your enthusiasm team ;)

Dean, the organiser, really put on an incredible event. The company that we work for, Penquin, sponsors the running costs of the event. All entry fees go to the supported charity.

Great concept, superb event and this race will be a fixture in my diary. Well done Dean and your team.

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