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We’re back with our weekly blog chronicling The Amazing Race and the places the race visits, as well as some background information on travel tidbits shown in the race. 

Tonight, eleven new teams started a new season of the Amazing Race. This marks the 22nd season of this highly popular game show that pits eleven teams of two in a race around the globe–the first team to the final pit stop wins. 

Last season, we learned a few things about what to pack for such an endeavor.  The main thing is to pack light and be portable. If you have ever watched the show, then you know that 98% of the racers pack in a travel pack. You want to avoid wheels and be able to throw things on your back. With a travel pack you can easily store your bag–it’s pliable so you can stuff it into any small compartment, like a trunk, an overhead bin or even on the back of a yak. With wheels you are limited because of the rigidity of handles and wheels. Axles do not bend and when they do, they break. And last season, racers kept losing things like money and passports. If they were only wearing a money belt, much heartbreak and anxiety could have been avoided. 

Tonight, the first things to pack that would have helped teams a great deal? Sunscreen and/or a lightweight sun hat. In every season, there are some places the race visits that are just extravagantly hot, which takes a big physical (and mental) toll on the teams. Tonight’s race leg took teams from L.A.’s Griffith Observatory to the tropical paradise of Bora Bora. The first task – helicopter skydiving – was a breeze. The Achilles heel for many teams was literally child’s play–find one of 11 clues hidden under 400 sand castles on idyllic Eden Beach. The catch was that if the player knocked over a castle without a clue, the castle had to be rebuilt before moving on. It seems like a task where skill and preparation wouldn’t come into play. Endurance, yes. Speed and focus, yes. But perhaps a sun hat would have made a difference for some teams who were really beaten by the heat and relentless sun.

While the unhappy sand castle builders cursed the beach, in reality Eden Beach is home to a small bungalow resort hotel–and with one of their signature cocktails in hand, the beach is sure to be a lovely place to relax. 

(A bonus tip/observation: If you want to be on the Amazing Race, make sure you know how to swim! It’s made the difference between joy and grief for more than one team. Tonight was no different, with the precarious va'a canoes tipping more than one team into the lagoon.) 

Every season introduces at least one new wrinkle in the race. This time, it was an Express Pass for the first-place team…plus an extra to bestow on another team of their choice. Will this change the game for two teams, or will it fizzle like last season’s double-the-prize-money hook? Time will tell….