We're in Kenya, often referred to as the 'cradle of humanity'. It is also inseparable from the image of the African safari, vividly brought to life by writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Karen Blixen. And we have a nice(-ish) segue to the Karen Blixen Museum in Nairobi, one of the largest and fastest growing cities in Africa, which was also the latest Pitstop in a race around the world.
The seven teams remaining in the Race in a brief eat / sleep / mingle moment. Phil voices over that teams requested a longer Pitstop because of April's ill health, she had food poisoning and the teams unanimously voted to not continue until she was better. The Producers agreed, though I can't help but think of how that must have affected future planning. [*Probably less than we think, there were production delays on previous seasons.*] There is a lot of debate on the forums, that in real life if you are traveling around the world on a schedule, you're bound to that schedule even if you're sick as a dog. But it is gracious of CBS to agree, even though they are milking the whole 'how gracious we are' angle. Yawn.
9.23am. Lovebirds at the cluebox. Looks like a 24 hour Pitstop, by the timing. Let's see. Arrived at the airport at 5am, by the time they left the statue may be 6.30 or 7am. Half an hour to the orphanage, an hour or so feeding the leopard cub, yeah 24 hour Pitstop sounds right.
They are to travel 125 miles to the town of Narok by matatu and find the Sunshine Travel Agency. A matatu is a mini-van or truck that forms the backbone of public transport in Kenya. Of course we know it by its other name of chicken coop. It's a squeeze for the ladies, back in psychedelic rojak clothing today (they heard me saying I missed their color explosion?). The mini-van they get into probably has a manufacturer's certificate for may be 8 people, today has at least twice as many passengers, a couple of passengers are even sitting on the roof.
"It was scary, and very cramped, inside the van. The air circulation wasn't particularly great, but at least that woman put her chickens on the roof and not inside!" Tara laughs.
11.11am. That's creepy, in a 666 kind of way, perhaps that's just me and my paranoia about consecutive numbers. R.Randy locate the matatu easily at what looks a matatu staging area. They negotiate the price with the driver but have to wait till the van fills up. Randy's impatience is barely disguised and he asks the driver repeatedly if they can be going now. The driver ignores him.
11.29am. Goldies, looking better than last time they were at the starting line. They count out the money, $129. "We're fully rested, pumped and ready for anything," Riley says, together with arm pumping action as he says "pumped" and of course much blowing out of chest cavity. No, I'm not interested in the size of his chest thank you very much.
They find the sardine tin disguised as a van that has, somewhere inside, 2 other sardines known as Rupert and his very impatient son. Randy scowls as he sees Riley haul his bulk inside, Buffy gives him an apologetic smile. Oooh, this will be an uncomfortable ride, in more ways than one, for Randy and Riley. I'm sadistic.
11.52am. I'm not used to seeing Efficiency this far down the pecking order. Go Faith! Go Robin! Show us some more of your hotness, I hope there's much running and sweating, cos I'm missing buff Faith and buff Robin. They get on a different type of vehicle, this matatu is a large truck, the kind you see a lot in developing countries transporting livestock and people, usually both at the same time. They climb on and sit in with the locals.
"We got to ride with a whole family of eleven, the father and mother, grandmother and countless kids. They kids were just so lively," Faith interviews.
"I gave them some candy and the youngest girl, called Keisha, went to sleep on my lap throughout. Kinda makes me wish for kids," Robin says whimsically.
Faith does a double take and obviously finds it difficult to maintain her composure in front of the cameras. Uh oh, the commitment issue rears its ugly head.
12.07pm. TallShort get into the Efficiency truck. Shortly afterwards, Pirates climb in. It's a tight fit and I'm not just talking about Faith's T-shirt.
12.58pm. AAbot finally at yet another van. April is looking less sickly. "I had food poisoning and they let everyone rest for a bit while I received medical attention. It was touch and go at one point, we were this close to leaving the race," she explains. "We have a long way to catch up, but we're hoping there's some opening hours or charter that helps us get even again," says Andrew. Yuck, he says exactly the thing on my mind, that there will most likely be bunching. And knowing Africa, this will be a mega-bunch.
Our first team on the road, and it's a bumpy one. "The road out from Nairobi started fine, we climbed a bit, then there was a change of scenery and we were at the Great Rift Valley," Willow takes up the narration. "We leave the Rift Valley escarpment behind and the roads turned bad, it was bumpy, dusty and sometimes there didn't even seem to be a road, just dust and gravel. Worst are the potholes so large you can park a truck inside, the driver had to detour all the way round, and then there'd be another one."
The teams that feel it most are the ones in the truck, cos inside a van at least they can hold onto the seat in front of them or brace themselves against the roof. No such luxury in the back of the truck, where we have 3 teams, Robin's new family and other assortment of passengers.
Anya spots a herd (or whatever the correct term is) of camels at the side of the otherwise empty road and points it out to her fellow racers, they crane their necks and oooh and aaah away. Xander, however, is firmly seated at the bottom of the floor.
"You want to look at the camels?" asks Anya.
"Love to, but my internal organs are too busy playing musical chairs," Xander says with a grimace as the truck bounces, and when I say bounce I mean bounce like it's hooked up to a bungee rope on a trampoline. And oh my god, he's bouncing up and down in perfect rhythm to certain parts of Faith's anatomy that cannot be missed however much you cover your eyes. Aaaah, burn, baby, burn!
Amidst all the bouncing, and I mean more than just Faith's, um, globes, Lovebirds arrive at Narok. A completely chaotic town, with cars and trucks everywhere, bicycles interweaving between them, and young boys steering donkey-driven carts. The town has a kind of frontier cowboy ramshackle feel about it, any moment now I expect a gun fight to break out and the sheriff arriving to quell the troubles. Not to mention the tumbleweeds, we've got to have tumbleweeds. [*er, I think we're in the wrong thread ...*]
As they emerge from the mini-van, and even before they can take a breath, they are mobbed by people wanting to sell them things, gawk or just plain beg. For the first time on the African trip, I sense the girls getting anxious. They ask for directions to the Sunshine Travel Agency and the mob follows them. "You kinda expect to attract attention, being tourists, with our white faces and being females, but the type of aggressive harassment was a little hard to stomach," Tara recounts. "This woman wanted me to buy her bananas in return for taking her photo, well aside from the fact that we're not allowed cameras on the Race, I don't want to pay $5 for a bunch of rotten bananas I can't even eat. If I wanted to subsist on moldy fruit, I would have gone on Survivor," she adds, with more venom that I've seen from her at any time on the Race.
They force their way into the travel agency, I don't know how, may be they use a Moses spell to cut a way through. They are told to travel to a traditional Masai manyatta (village) on transport organized by the travel agency. Okay now I'm freaking out about this 'transport' business. I have visions of them on camels, tied to the back of a goat-cart, or unceremoniously ditched in the middle of bandit country and it starts getting dark. What are you doing to my favorite team, Amazing Producers?
My overly furtive imagination need not worry, it's only a battered van, much like the matatu they traveled in from Nairobi, but the owner tells them they have to wait till there are enough people. Uh-oh, potential bunching situation brewing. They ask what is the additional price for taking the whole van and negotiate a deal with the owner. Oh, smart!
Goldies / R.Randy van, at a roadside stop. The driver tells all passengers to get off, to the consternation of our teams. Randy, his earlier impatience unabated, asks why they are stopping and is met with a toothy grin, and nothing else. The non-Race passengers scatter around, looking like they expect this stop. Rupert asks a fellow sardine and is told that the driver is waiting for refills. "What refills?" the Professor asks. His informant shrugs.
Buffy and Randy in conversation, Randy is updating her on the refill situation, there's a respectable distance between them. Riley storms over in a huff and he's just short of shoving Randy aside. Man, I know the cheek-sucking-scenery-stealing ninny has been trying to get up close and personal with Riley's girl/possession, but look at the situation! They should be allowed to have a normal conversation without bull-boy getting his back up. Sheesh.
Some time later, a truck arrives. It's a mobile gas station! The truck driver uses a garden hose and the traditional suck-and-spit technique to connect the oil drums on the truck to the van's tank. Well, this is convenient, imagine being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no gas, you call up the AAA and they send gas. Except when they ask you for your location all you can say is 'the middle of nowhere' and by the time the truck gets to you, you've died of dehydration and/or heat stroke.
Back at the Lovebird transport, they arrive at the manyatta and find that it's a Detour, with a choice of Graze or Raise. In Graze they help a Masai herdsman herd cattle into a pen called a kraal, light a fire using two sticks before joining in a traditional dance of celebration. In Raise, they help the Masai woman build a traditional home constructed of branches woven together with grass and then plastered and sealed with cow dung. They opt to take the home building. Did the image of two hot, nubile young ladies totally into each other and splattered with mud just invade your normally non porno-filled mind? No? Cos that's what is in my mind right now. [*slaps face repeatedly to maintain dignity.*]
The walls of the home are already up, they help the women raise the frame of the roof and secure it with twine. Then the fun begins. There's dried cow dung and mud everywhere, they sling it onto the walls and some of it stick, but the rest either slides to the ground or stays on their hands. They get hugely messy and giggly and if these two ladies ever want to get into professional mud-wrestling, I'll be the first in line at the box office. In fact, I'll buy up ALL the front row seats and the exclusive tv rights, even if I have to mortgage my home. Heck, I'll sell my home, all I need is a tv and tivo. Drool.
Time for a cold shower and deep reflection.
Brrrr, I'm back. The Efficiency / TallShort / Pirates truck arrive at Narok and they fight their way through the mob to the travel agency, where they get the clue and are shown to another battered van with the same spiel about waiting for more people. They don't try to charter the whole van, why? They are 6 people plus the Amazing Crew, how many more will the owner want to cram inside?
"We got off a 3 hour roller-coaster ride and arrived at Narok, then we got into a van with the prospect of another hour's worth of bumpity-bump, I was kinda glad I didn't eat breakfast cos it would definitely ended up on the vehicle floor," Anya groaned. Of all racers, I expect haggling from her, I'll put it down to the side-effects of 3 hours of nausea.
The price for not negotiating is that they are caught up by the R.Randy / Goldies van. Now we have 10 racers in a van and still the agency owner wants to wait. They finally latch onto the idea that 'waiting for more people' is a euphemism for 'waiting for you to bribe me with money'. They pay him 2000 shillings, that's $25 which, shared between 5 teams, is a bargain.
They bump and lurch their way to the manyatta.
Manyatta zanyatta. Lovebirds, with the help of what seems like dozens of Masai villagers, are making short work of the dung-slinging. "I never thought I'd enjoy myself this so much," Willow laughs happily at she slings yet another sludge at the hut. Children join in and soon, it's a mud fight! Oh my god, my mud-wrestling fantasy is making me dizzy. They finish, and the village women show them to what seems to be a special cleaning area -- yep you've guessed it, it's an enclosure equipped with a large drum of water and a couple of buckets. My puddly brain thinks, "Oh Mama, wet T-shirt contest!" But, damn, we don't get to see them getting each other thoroughly wet. Sigh, I know, I know, have to keep to PG-13. I don't like it, and fervently hope there's a downloadable clip somewhere, or at least some of the cleaning scene makes it to the TAR Uncut! DVD.
Two cleaner-looking Racers get the next clue telling them to return to their transport, which will take them 40 miles to the Sarova Mara Camp at the Masai Mara Nature Reserve. They are to sign up at the camp office for a 'Special Activity'. Yeah, for 'Special Activity' read Mega-Bunching Activity, they don't fool me.
The Sardine Tin on Wheels arrives and its contents spill out. A debate ensues about which Detour to take. Efficiency, TallShort and R.Randy take the cow herding, while Goldies and Pirates take home building.
It's like a madhouse. Cows everywhere, going in all directions except the one they're supposed to. Here's Randy trying to pull on a cow, proving to all and asunder that a stubborn cow is stronger than a human. Here's Oz trying to ride on one, what, does he think he's John Wayne or something? And here's Faith & Robin trying to push one, and yes, the theory has been proven: cows are way stronger than humans. The Masai villagers are having a whale (or should I say a cow) of a time watching the free show, I bet they don't get anything this funny, like, ever. I mean, they don't have The Daily Show or Monty Python here do they?
Rupert seems to have gotten the hang of it somewhat, gently prodding his cow along happily with a stick. "Nice Cow," he keeps saying to it, and I can't stop laughing.
Meanwhile at Dung Construction Inc., Xander is giving directions for the putting up of the roof, he's in full foreman mode. "I love organizing Masai labor, they're so cooperative," he grins at himself. I hate to put this to you, Xan-man, these 'labor' know what they're doing a lot more than you, do you think they'll do anything different if you're not there?
Riley and Buffy also with the mud and cow dung. Riley has stripped down to his khaki shorts and yeah, I suppose I have to admit his muscles look great, but he's not in my good books right now. Boy's got too much intensity and borderline nastiness just simmering. It's always the Mommy's Boy isn't it. Anyway, they sling mud.
Randy is trying to keep up with his Pops in the cow herding task. "We're gonna be doing this till the cows come home," he puffs. Rupert gets a few more cows into the pen and gets the nod from the herdsman. They move onto the fire-making and groan in dismay as they see all they have are 2 sticks and some dried grass. Their Masai person shows them how it's done, by rubbing the sticks quickly against each other. They grit their teeth and try.
Faith & Robin get the cows into their pen and get going with the fire task. "What? We only get sticks? At least on Survivor there's a flint," Robin grumbles. Wowza! That's the second Survivor reference this episode, do I get the feeling that the teams are wishing they entered a different show?
Adam & Oz get their cow quota. "That was more difficult that I thought," Adam commented. "You don't say," says Oz.
There's a commotion over at Dung Construction Inc. as Anya slips and falls butt first into a pile of wet, squishy cow dung. She makes a face. "I've had it! I'm never donating money to a poor African nation again," she whines.
Xander immediately goes over to see if her brain functions have been knocked out by the dung. She flings him away as he tries to haul her up. "Don't touch me, you're totally filthy, I don't want any more of this crap on me," she screeches.
"Honey, we're the chief stinkeroo's of the Planet of Stinkeroo right now, you've got as much of this stuff on you as me," he says.
Buffy peeps over to ask if she's okay. Xander nods gratefully and Golden Girl gets called back to her slave-pen by her possessive boyfriend/owner, who I'm picturing wearing a tattered gray wife-beater, cos he has potential to be a total beater of wife. This is probably the Amazing Editors doing their 'now that Snyder's off our screens, who can we make the next villain' thing, but I think FarmBoy has given them enough fodder, afterall, you can't edit what's not available, right?
We switch from Mud Slinging to Stick Rubbing. It's Randy, he's drenched in sweat as he intently tries to get two measly sticks to produce a fire. If he sweats even more I swear it'll drop into whatever fire he manages to make and put it out. Rupert asks if he can have a try but Randy ignores him. Ah! I have the blonde one pegged. He's one of those guys (and it's 99.99% guys) who, when faced with a task that they can't seem to do, will not get help, even though it's the most logical thing to do. How many times have you sat in the car with a guy who's clearly lost but refuses to stop and ask for directions? Or who has spent the last 4 hours trying to connect the DVD player to the TV but the screen still comes up blank and yet he doesn't read the manual? Or who waves an electric drill around like he knows how to use it, but doesn't want to fess up that he thinks he just used the wrong bit on the wall?
He lucks out, there's a spark, then a glimmer of smoke. He blows hard at the kindling and, miracle of miracles! it lights up. He does a little jitty and Rupert slaps him on the back. They move onto the final task, and join the Masai warriors around a fire where much dancing takes place. For dancing, read leaping up 3 feet in the air from a standing position like they have a pogo stick attached to the soles of their feet. It's great when the warriors do it, but our intrepid heroes can manage, oh, may be 9 inches? Hee.
Meanwhile Adam & Oz get their fire started. "Don't I wish I were a Drew Barrymore movie," Adam says.
"Dude, did you see Never Been Kissed?" Oz deadpans. Oh, man, these two can totally be my imaginary boyfriends. They're a veritable encyclopedia of pop culture references, without the crudeness. And I bet they take personal hygiene seriously. [*Pssst, watson, you have a girlfriend, what should I tell her about this sudden change in, um, orientation?*]
They join the R.Randy 9 inch dance, to much applause from the villagers. They get their clue and make their way to their transport.
They tell the driver they're ready to leave. He opens his eyes from his reclining position and says they need to wait for the other teams.
No amount of persuasion, cajoling, or offers of money can change his mind. Randy storms off, stopping to give the wheels a kick for good measure. Wow, this driver must be a dedicated follower of the god of bunching.
Oblivious to their good luck, Riley pushes Buffy and the women to quickly finish the mud hut. He asks for the clue and is told to clean up first. I can see it at the tip of his tongue, "Fuck the cleaning, I want my clue. Now." Eventually he is forced to obey, splashes water on himself, gets the clue and they run to the carpark to find the other two teams waiting there.
Randy is none too pleased to see this team. "It's so unfair, to work your ass off on a task, and then for the other teams to catch up," he complains. Is he allowed to say 'ass' on tv?
Meanwhile Faith & Robin get their fire and join in the dancing.
Xander & Anya also finish with their home building.
Okay, all aboard! Choo-choo! The van takes off in a screech of tires on dust.
Somewhere an hour and many lunar craters behind, Andrew & April leave Narok in a rickety Sunshine van. They have it all to themselves, the owner finally figuring there are no teams left to 'wait' for.
Andrew asks him about the other teams and is told they came through 'hours and hours' earlier. "We're so dead," he laments.
They ask their driver to drive as quickly as possible, cos they're in a hurry. Er, well, drive as quickly as possible without falling into the innumerable potholes and thereby risking a puncture that will bleed even more of your time, rrrright.
Somewhere between Narok and the manyatta, they come across a colony of monkeys on palm trees. "Oooh, they're so cute," exclaims April.
"Watch out!" shouts Andrew as a few of them jump onto the van and try to rip off the windscreen wipers. They start to climb further up, and the driver tells them to close the windows.
"You mean they can climb inside?" April shrieks. Apparently so, but didn't you say a minute ago that these monkeys are cute? Guess they're cute if they stay at a distance, right? Now, try telling that to the monkeys. Snerk.
The driver does some swervy maneuver that seems to shake the attackers off and they breathe a sigh of relief.
At the Masai village they decide to do the cow herding. It's noticeably darker as they arrive, a good guess is they arrive late afternoon. The villagers crowd around to help them, probably eager to get home after a tough day at the office. Come on, you thought this is a real Masai village? Sucker! From what I read, they are a nomadic tribe and walk great distances herding their cows, but their way of life has been eroded by the slow onslaught of tourism. I hardly think they will live in a settlement-looking village, let alone one that has a car park.
When they have their cows in the pen, the herdsman literally makes their fire for them, yep, definitely a clock-watcher, that one. Even the dance seems perfunctory. They're off to Savora Camp in record time, and I don't think it's all editing.
"Wow," say Willow and Tara as they enter the gates of the Masai Mara Nature Reserve. Immediately they see animals -- elephants, wildebeests, zebras and all sorts of antelopes.
"The drive from the village to the reserve was the roughest yet, the last 10 miles or so the road simply disappeared. But it was worth it, all thoughts of discomfort went away as soon as we saw our first elephant," Willow interviews.
"It was a group of mother elephants and their young. I didn't think I've been as touched since the baby leopard feeding, but I was," Tara adds.
They arrive at the extremely luxurious-looking camp, which is located within electrical fences and they have to enter via a large iron gate. A red-clothed Masai warrior greets them and gives them some tea to drink. "Mmm, sweet, it's the best thing I've tasted all day," Tara says. Willow is about to say something but she checks herself and blushes. Oh, do I think she almost uttered a naughty remark! They crack me up, these two.
They find out the 'Special Activity' is an early morning hot-air balloon safari, which they have to sign up for. Needless to say they make the first flight at 5am next morning, and you have to see how floored they are. If I don't know better, I can swear they are acting like they've won the Race.
The Van of Supreme Bunching passes through the gates of the nature reserve. The 5 teams inside see a zebra for the first time and are like a group of excited toddlers seeing ice cream.
"Oh my god," Buffy keeps saying.
They arrive at Camp and it's dark already. They rush inside but have to stop at the Masai Warrior's Tea Stand. Rupert & Randy get the remaining slot on the first balloon flight, Go Rupert & Randy, you're beginning to step up! Adam & Oz and Faith & Robin get the second balloon, leaving at 5.45am. Xander & Anya and Buffy & Riley get the third flight at 6.30am, looks like it's the last flight, so April & Andrew will catch up again. See? Mega-Bunching.
When AAbot finally arrive, the other teams are sitting around a roaring fire in the garden, chatting and relaxing. Xander and Robin greet Andrew and Tara gives April a little hug. There's a little camaraderie going on. Guess the competition hasn't got to the cut-throat phase yet.
"Have you eaten?" Rupert asks the pair. Talk about perfect timing, the hotel staff arrive with a tray of food and two large glasses of milk.
"I hope this isn't from the cows at the village," Andrew laughs.
"Did you get the feeling the village is a tourist attraction?" Anya asks. "It smells of cash cow to me."
There is comfortable silence as they sit and enjoy the fresh air, the clear skies and the distant sounds of wilderness.
The first team to make a move are the Lovebirds. "We're off, good-night everyone," says Willow.
"Turning in early?" Buffy asks.
"We're going star-gazing," says Tara.
We see the beginnings of a smirk on some of the guys' faces, clearly their imagination is as active as mine. These two aren't just going to look at stars, are they, but I'll afford them their privacy cos it's deserved.
Oh, and I realize that in the middle of one of the most amazing safari locations in the world and under more stars than we can see, we're still running the race, this is not a Pitstop.
Early morning African safari skyline porn. It's beautiful, with a lone acacia tree silhouetted against the emerging sun. Animals rising and beginning their day. It's just another day on the plains of the Masai Mara.
Lovebirds and R.Randy, wrapped up warm, climb into their balloon. They have this constant wide-eye amazement that they're actually doing this.
"Looks like you didn't get much sleep, did the insects keep you up too?" Rupert makes conversation.
"Um, well, we didn't manage to fall asleep till quite late," Willow stutters.
"Yes, with new surroundings insomnia can easily hit," an oblivious Rupert continues. Oh, Professor, I may be wrong, but I don't think insomnia is the culprit, Lovebirds are far too clingy this morning, they're also sporting dark panda eyes. I'll refrain from making any more remarks.
Meanwhile the balloon master has inflated the huge hot-air balloon and they're ready.
"This has got to be the second most wonderful experience of my life," Willow says, with real wonder.
"Only second?" asks Randy.
"What's the first?"
"Um, well, it's kinda private. Between Tara and me," Willow blushes a shade as red as her hair. Tara blushes even more, if that's even possible.
Randy quirks an eyebrow, but has the decency to not pursue.
Willow smiles, "Tara gave me something last night, a wonderful gift," she beams.
Oh kill me now, I can't stand the sugariness. Oh wait, I can, and I love it. Tara too, she has this totally dreamy smile on her face. Like if the rarest and most beautiful animal on earth comes into sight, she isn't going to notice, her eyes are on Willow only.
Rupert looks on like a proud uncle. Randy, who I expect to be leering, surprises me by smiling sincerely at the Lovebirds, even as their smiles start turning into that endearingly embarrassed look they've perfected so well.
The flight itself is short, but they spot a pride of lions on the hunt, thousands of wildebeests, giraffes, elephants and more gazelles than they can count. It's quiet up there in the balloon, the only sound is the blast of the furnace as the pilot occasionally funnels hot air up the giant balloon.
When they get back to the ground they are treated to a small picnic basket of breakfast and the next clue, which tells them to board pre-arranged buses that will take them 200 miles to Baboon Cliff at the Lake Nakuru National Park.
Sooo, the balloon flight doesn't involve a task, it's a bonus side trip. It's nice and all, but I keep thinking this is a race, not a sightseeing trip, and that flight has nothing to do with the Race but everything to do with promoting Kenya's safari trade.
The second group to be treated to the non-Race hot-air balloon flight consists of Adam & Oz and Faith & Robin. They get up to 1000 feet and even the normally stoic TallShort pair are excited as they pick out the wild animals on the ground. "It feels like flying," says Oz.
They get their picnic, clue and transport. Faith & Robin, in particular, are well impressed with the picnic breakfast. "We were rushed getting up this morning, only managed a cup of coffee before leaving the camp. Look at this, hard-boiled eggs, ham and cheese sandwich, apples, juice and a thermos of coffee, I can't believe it, I feel like the African Queen," says Faith.
The last group of Buffy & Riley, Xander & Anya and April & Andrew get going at 6.30am. "They tell us it's a little later that usual for the balloon flight, but we should still see a lot of animals," Andrew reports. And they do, the remains of the earlier lion hunt that the first group saw, more elephants and zebras and antelopes.
"It's a humbling experience," Xander says. "The Masa Mara reserve is 700 square miles, I mean, that's 2.5 times the size of the Grand Canyon. And millions of wild animals live there, it makes us feel insignificant and small."
They touch down, get their goodies basket and alight their bus. By the way, these buses, compared with the matatus and Sunshine transport from yesterday, are the picture of luxury. Not a spot of rust in sight. I have to concede to the necessity of spoon-fed transport, there are no airports nearby, no public transport, and the roads are too treacherous to have the racers drive themselves. At least they're not all bunched on the same bus.
The Amazing Yellow Line shows us the progress from the Masai Mara to the Lake Nakuru National Park. After going past the Great Rift Valley and Anya's camel herd from yesterday, the landscape changes. It's less dry, there are more plants, and in general feels less like the end of the world.
Phil tells us that Lake Nakuru is a soda lake covering over 24 square miles, and formed 12 million years ago. It's also home to thousands, sometimes millions of flamingoes and pelicans. The surface of the shallow lake is often hardly recognizable due to the continually shifting mass of pink.
The National Park itself is also home to both white and black rhinos and the endangered Rotschild's giraffe. Teams are heading towards Baboon Cliff, which offers spectacular views of the lake and its pink borders.
Group 1 arrive mid-morning and find it's a Roadblock. "Who has eyes as sharp as a hawk?"
Phil again. He explains that in this Roadblock, one team member goes to the lookout point and, using a pair of binoculars, search for a red-and-yellow flag somewhere in the vicinity of the lake. Next to the flag is a chest with a sequence of numbers painted on. The Roadblocker has to memorize the sequence of numbers and proceed to the Lion Hill Lodge in the grounds of the National Park for their next clue. They are not allowed to write the numbers down on anything or put it down in any form, they must commit them to memory, however they are allowed to share with their team member.
Randy and Tara take the Roadblock for their teams. I have to add that the lookout point is a fair distance and height away from the lake and the constantly in motion flamingoes are probably a big hindrance in spotting the flag. Normally, spotting red and yellow amongst the greenery of a national park shouldn't be a problem, but with the pink background it's not as easy.
Randy finds the target first and mumbles the sequence to himself. It's a long sequence, 4-7-8-3-5-5-7-0-2-4-6-1. Of course the natural tendency is to shout it to your partner, but that alerts the other team. So Randy is busy reciting the numbers quietly to himself as he returns to Rupert.
In the stupidest bunching sequence, like, ever, R.Randy have to wait for Tara to finish before they can be off. Now I've seen all sorts of bunching and all sorts of stupid Amazing Producers planning, not to mention stupid and random TAR rules, but this one tops it all, it makes the kind of sense that doesn't.
Luckily Tara has the sequence shortly afterwards and she, too, struggles to remember it as she returns to Willow. "Willow should have done this, I can't remember so many numbers," she says worriedly.
Now both teams huddle in their corner of their bus to try to remember the sequence. Rupert & Randy are literally reciting the entire sequence all the way through. Willow, as ever, has figured out a way. "Okay, can you remember 47, 83 and 55? A 47 year old man and his 83 year old mother drive along the I-55 from Chicago to St Louis, can you remember this, honey? I'll remember the 70, 24 and 61, okay?"
Tara nods. Oh boy, this is genius! How much simpler is it to remember three 2-digit numbers than a 12-digit one?
Rupert & Randy continue their recital all the way down to the Lion Hill Lodge. It's hilarious to watch two grown men with silently moving lips, and a picture of concentration. Lovebirds look terribly relaxed, in fact, they seem to have melted into each other and are on the verge of crawling into each other's laps.
They make it to the Lion Hill Lodge and have to write the numbers on a slate and pass to a greeter. Rupert & Randy have a little difficulty. "We were repeating these numbers over and over on the way to the Lodge, then we realized we have different sequences. It took us a few minutes to sort it out," says Randy.
Willow & Tara have no such problems. They get the okay and are told to take one of the four wheel drive vehicles in the carpark and drive 40 miles to Thomson's Falls, the Pitstop for this leg of the Race.
R.Randy finally get the sequence correct and are off.
Group 2 arrive at Baboon Cliff. Robin and Oz take the Roadblock. They move around the lookout point, first this way, then that way. "God, it's like a needle in the haystack," says Robin.
Oz gets the numbers first. Robin notices that Oz has spotted the chest and points his binoculars in the same direction.
TallShort, too, discover the stupidity of the enforced bunching. "I'd hate to be in the final group," Adam comments. They split the number sequence into three blocks of 4-digit numbers, that's a good way. In fact, I asked my girlfriend how she would do it, and she immediately said, split into 4-digit numbers, like this: 4783-5570-2461. Not as good as Willow's way, but darn straight-forward.
Speaking of Group 3, they are playing some sort of road trip game. "Types of cheeses," says Andrew. Brie, cheddar, feta, Swiss.
"Swiss cheese isn't a type," Anya exclaims.
"This from the woman who eats these skeezy cheeses that I can't describe," Xander says, amused.
The only person who doesn't join in is Riley, who sits there with a scowl on his mug. "Everyone's all yay roadtrip! Let's play a game! But we were in the last group. One of those three teams was in danger of being eliminated and I was going to make sure it wasn't us." Oh boo-hoo Riley. Like I care.
They reach Baboon Cliff and find the Roadblock. The task is taken by Andrew, Anya and Riley.
"Lost a lot of my depth perception when I lost one eye, but otherwise I've been doing okay. Best not to leave it to chance though," Xander explains. Despite their bickering, I realize that Xander's disadvantage has in no way hinder this team who has been consistently finishing highly, until last leg. Have to admire the Pirate for that.
TallShort and Efficiency arrive at the Lion Hill Lodge (where there are no lions or large hills), get their next clue, and drive off.
Back at the lookout point, Andrew actually finds the numbers first, he clambers back to the bus to be told to wait. He's pissed. "For the first time in this leg we weren't in last place, this stinks," he interviews.
Anya, then Riley are done. They make their way to the Lodge. No major incidents as they get their next clue.
Thomson's Falls, known locally as Nyahururu, is a popular tourist stopover point. Though not (by a long way) the most spectacular falls on the African continent, it still boasts a drop of 273 feet. It's also our 7th Pitstop.
Phil's in an olive safari shirt that he pinched from one of Hemingway's novels. He stands there by the Amazing Bathmat with our greeter, a chieftain from one of the Kenyan tribes.
It's Rupert & Randy. They're team number one. Boo! "We overtook the girls' 4x4, I mean, it's a Race and we want to come first," says Randy. Fine, it's a RAAACE. I sulk.
Not for long. Willow & Tara arrive, to much cheering in the watson household. They're team number two. "Africa has been very special to us, we'll never forget the memories we made here," Tara says.
Efficiency SUV vs TallShort SUV on the roads of Kenya. It's a brand new episode of Rally Car Racing. Adam, with the longer legs, prevails and TallShort car leaves the Efficientmobile behind. [*Are you suffering from high fever? What does length of leg have to do with how fast you drive?*]
Adam & Oz park their SUV at the Falls carpark and run up to Phil. Welcome, team number three.
Faith & Robin are not far behind, they check in as team number four. "What's been the most memorably moment?" Phil asks. "The balloon, no question, the balloon," Robin answers.
Riley driving at breakneck speed, he narrowly misses a boy and his goat. Look, GoldenBoy, it's a RAAACE, but killing the locals will ensure a sojourn at a local jail, that will prevent you from going further, and who knows what the local judicial system is like?
They arrive without further complications and are team number five.
Anya drives more carefully, but still with determination. She passes Andrew. Andrew puts on resolve face and passes her. This is going to be tight.
"Get ready to jump out of the car as soon as I stop," Andrew says.
"Is your door unlocked? Seatbelt off?" Xander helps Anya with her seatbelt. She gets it off and rolls down her windows.
There's an air of unmistakable tension as both cars turn off the main road towards the falls. Andrew parks first and he and April jump out of their SUV quickly.
They almost land into the path of Anya's SUV, she screeches to a halt about 10 yards further up, her front bumper right against the gate. It gives her team a slight advantage. Good driving there, Anya.
Ooooh, it's going to be a footrace to the Bathmat. Xander and Andrew are pretty well matched but it's Anya who surprises, she beats April in the sprint.
So it's Xander & Anya who skid to a halt on the Bathmat by the skin of their teeth. They're team number six.
And so for April & Andrew, they never manage to climb to a position higher than seven. They're the last team to arrive and are Philminated.
"We've been struggling all through the race, but when we finally got a small break, we were let down by bunching. That's life though," Andrew interviews.
"The Race has brought us closer together, we had a lot of fun. I think we can go home and try to live a better life. I'm going to definitely carry on with my studies to become a kindergarten teacher," says April.
"And I'll have plenty of experience for my next film project," says Andrew.
Uh-oh. Kids and cinema-goers of Ohio beware, here comes the April & Andrew menace.
My goodness, we're at the halfway point. Six teams left.
Teaser for Episode 8
Teams watch as water swirl clockwise, then counter clockwise.
Stuck in traffic, Randy loses his cool.
Anya with a copper bowl full of coins. "I have a natural affinity to money," she says.
Trouble with the Golden Couple. "I just think you shouldn't be shouting," says Buffy. "It's part of their culture, they expect it," Riley rebukes. "It's not a part of any culture to be rude," Buffy argues back.
Useful links & information
Usually I put in external links to tourist attractions, organizations, important places or activities I mention in the episodes. For this leg of the race, I am only including one link, as the entire leg is based on that time when my girl and I visited Kenya:
Of course I did additional research, but if you want more information on the national parks and the Masaai and of course the animals, you'll just have to google it .