One step off a platform and it’s 200 feet straight down. Strapped into a harness and clinging to a rope, adventurers step, jump, or fall off the platform and let gravity take over, dropping deep into Batoka Gorge — a crevice cut by the Zambezi River in Zambia. They swing out over the African landscape, Tarzan-style, before coming to rest on the riverbed below.
If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s because the leap already made its prime-time debut on the premiere episode of CBS show “The Amazing Race.” Of course, just getting on to the show is probably the most difficult task any team will encounter. But you don’t have to make the ultra-competitive cut to experience the show’s adventures — many of them are activities that any steel-gutted traveler can do.
That’s good news, since “TAR” is a live-action catalogue of some of the world’s best adventures. (The bad news, of course, is that there’s no million-dollar prize on the horizon). Twelve seasons have passed since Phil Keoghan kicked off the first in Central Park; the 13th debuts on September 28.
Except for the notorious misstep of season eight — the universally derided family edition, which played out like a weekly video report on a neighbor’s tedious road trip — the show has enjoyed critical adoration, five Emmy Awards, and a maniacally devoted fan base, many of whom have turned out for the in-person auditions across the country or submitted the requisite three-minute audition tape.
But intrepid travelers who value the show’s experiences over its cash incentive can skip the tape and go straight to the thrills. All that’s required to climb the Pyramid of the Sun at the pre-Columbian site Teotihuacán, outside Mexico City, are sturdy walking shoes for navigating uneven stone steps. (Racing is optional.) And families can enjoy mountain biking around Gemini Bridges, near Moab — one option for the clans competing in the show’s family edition.
In many cases the outfitters featured on the show still work with travelers. King Climbers on Thailand’s Rai Leh beach is still leading visitors up popular routes like Thaiwand Wall, as it did on the first season of the show. On the other side of the world, local guides lead tours across the lunar landscape of northern Chile’s Atacama Desert, where Kevin and Drew, one of the show’s most popular teams, met their end — for the second time, on the all-star edition.
Close inspection will reveal that at least one of the frat brothers shed a tear after being eliminated — no surprise for true fans, or even multiple-time rejects. But let’s face it: While The Amazing Race may be the adventure of a lifetime, who really wants a camera crew filming your every bruise? Tackle the following adventures yourself, and keep watching; after all, as a motion-picture guidebook for the motivated traveler, “The Amazing Race” is tough to beat.
Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation