Behind the scenes with ‘Amazing Race Canada’ in Chile
An act of God nearly threw up a major roadblock this season on “The Amazing Race Canada.”
The eruption of Chile’s Calbuco volcano in late April sent dark bursts of ash and rock four kilometres into the air, causing evacuations and flight cancellations.
As viewers saw last week on “The Amazing Race Canada” (Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on CTV), the teams did make it to Santiago.
This week, they move on to neighbouring Argentina, where they race around Buenos Aires.
It almost didn’t happen, according to Insight Productions boss and executive producer John Brunton.
After months of planning, location scouting and on-site race rehearsals — as well as processing visas and arranging flights and hotel accommodations for cast and crew — Chile and Argentina were almost scuttled from the show by Calbuco’s eruption.
But with days to go, the skies cleared over Chile and the decision was made to stick with the original plans - with fingers crossed that there wouldn’t be another eruption.
Fortunately, nature followed the script.
Just outside Santiago, Brunton stood at the bottom of an Andes peak where individual members of each team had to paraglide down towards their next set of instructions. It was a clear, cloudless day in what, for Chile, was early fall.
The veteran producer was thrilled to not lose out on “this beautiful backdrop.”
“It was incredible to come down and see parts of Chile,” added contestant Michaelia Drever, who is paired with Hamilton Elliott.
“I’ve never seen mountains so beautiful.”
Elliott, 20, is the first transgender participant on “The Amazing Race.” Elliott said he got used to ducking into male change rooms with other race runners but drew the line when it came to stripping down for a tribal Easter Island fertility dance in Santiago’s historic town square.
Fortunately for the engaged couple, they had already won an Express Pass and used it to detour around the situation. The pass helped them win the second leg of the race, netting them trips to India as well as six months’ worth of gasoline.
Viewers might wonder how scripted or faked things are on reality shows such as “The Amazing Race Canada.”
As an embedded observer, it was remarkable to learn how real it all was and how little each of the teams know about the progress of their rivals throughout the race. All are carefully sequestered each night and most have no idea who wins from leg to leg. And the race is really tough. All the teams said competing in the race is much more difficult than expected, both mentally and physically.
“It was a 24-hour day for us yesterday,” said Drever during an interview.
The duo woke up at 2:30 a.m. and did not get back into their hotel room until 3 a.m. the next morning.
“We were so crazy tired by the end of it.”
The oldest competitor, 62year-old Neil Lumsden, who is racing with his daughter Kristin, confessed he raided the ice machines at the hotel, filled his bathtub and sat in it.
As vital as action and adventure is to the “Amazing Race” mix, Brunton values casting even more.
“You want people who are narrators, storytellers,” he says.
“You also want people who are root-able.”
Behind the scenes with ‘Amazing Race Canada’ in Chile.
A thick plume pours from the Calbuco volcano, near Puerto Varas, Chile, in this Thursday, April 30, 2015, photo. An act of God nearly threw up a major roadblock this season on “The Amazing Race Canada” as the eruption of Chile’s Calbuco volcano in late April sent dark bursts of ash and rock four kilometres into the air, causing evacuations and flight cancellations.