Mid Canterbury is set to feature on television screens around the world after award winning television series The Amazing Race stopped off in the district yesterday.
Details of what exactly the race contestants did while in Mid Canterbury were being kept firmly under wraps by those in the know yesterday, but the Guardian understands teams were seen camping in the Rakaia Gorge area on Sunday night.
They were then seen jet boating in the Rakaia River yesterday morning, before heading to Mount Hutt Station where they appeared to take part in a challenge before making their way to Terrace Downs.
From there, the convoy of teams headed through Windwhistle towards Christchurch.
Nigel Birt, general manager of Experience Mid Canterbury yesterday confirmed that they were working with a high-profile television programme to film in the district during spring, but like everyone else involved in the project is restricted in his comments by the tight confidentiality clause.
“Experience Mid Canterbury can confirm that we have been working with a very famous, global television show for the last couple of months.
“The show has a global audience of 10 million viewers and we are excited to be able to expose our district to that many viewers. It’s marketing at a level we could never afford, and a massive opportunity for Mid Canterbury and New Zealand”.
Confirmation that big-time show was The Amazing Race though, was all around.
The fleet of modern Ford cars the teams were driving had the distinctive red and yellow marker in the windscreen, and back at Mount Hutt Station the parking signs and red and yellow flags leading the teams out to the paddock were clearly visible.
It’s believed the New Zealand leg of the latest series may still be in its early stages, with nine teams still in the game.
The concept of the show is 11 teams of two traveling the world, following clues, competing in challenges – known as road blocks (which only one team member can perform) and detours (which teams get to choose from one of two options) – and racing to several pit stops where they’re met by New Zealand born host Phil Keoghan.
The first team to arrive at each pit stop receives a prize, but the ultimate goal is to be the first at the finish line at the end where $1 million awaits the winner.
The last team to arrive at each pit stop is generally eliminated, although there’s usually a couple of pre-determined non-elimination legs. The show has won 13 primetime Emmy Awards in the US, including every Outstanding Reality Competition Programme Emmy between 2003 and this year.
The Guardian understands only a select few local people knew the race was coming and it’s understood they had to sign confidentiality agreements, leaving others who saw the race in progress wondering what was going on.
A man the Guardian spoke to at the Rakaia Gorge camping ground said he knew something was up, but he’d had no idea it was The Amazing Race.
He said the group were on the opposite side of the river on Sunday night. He saw people running up and down the Rakaia Gorge bridge and big, bright spotlights and wondered what was going on.
Yesterday morning there were people in jet boats with cameramen on board, heading up the river.
“They hit the water at about 6am or 5.30am ad I’m not sure but they had nine or 10 jet boats take them up the river, then suddenly it was all packed up and gone,” the man, who didn’t want to be named, said.
He went closer to investigate and saw nine brand new, matching Ford cars lined up, and nine jet boats. News of the Kiwi stopover travelled fast, with the Guardian’s website quickly receiving hits from all around the world.
A reality television fan website picked the story up and put it on their website, with fans speculating on what teams might have been doing while here.
By Erin Tasker
Pictured: (top) An Amzing Race competitor is on teh run with a clue and (bottom) the Amazing race convoy heading through teh district.
Photos: Tetsuro Mitomo