Tuesday night’s episode of The Amazing Race Canada brought its contestants to the Nanaimo area for the first time, where a team with a local connection leaped from fourth place to take the lead.
Sarah Wells and Sam Effah, a pair of Team Canada track athletes from Toronto, were last on the Island to compete at an international track event in Victoria. This was their first time in Nanaimo, where Wells has family.
“My cousin actually lives in Nanaimo and I have never gone there to visit her,” she said. “So it was fun once [last week’s] episode got aired she was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re coming to my city.’”
On the Nanaimo leg of the race, the teams of two completed a number of challenges that showed off the area’s parks, wildlife and natural beauty.
Amazing Race host Jon Montgomery said the Nanaimo area has a “treasure trove of flora, fauna and outdoor activities to keep people like the Amazing Race producers just noodling on endless possibilities to torture racers with.”
“It’s next level what we can achieve with what Nanaimo has to offer,” he said. “It’s pretty thrilling from both a visual perspective – what you can achieve from the shots and what it looks like – to great gameplay and being able to challenge these racers with lots of cerebral tasks, not just physical ones.”
Wells said she and Effah had a motivational word of the day they would “lean into” to help them through the competition and in Nanaimo it was “persistence.”
“We just kind of had this word in our head of ‘persistence’ that we were going to relentlessly pursue and push past every obstacle we faced, no matter what the challenge,” she said.
The first team to arrive in the Nanaimo Harbour via sea planes from Vancouver were Vancouver couple Aarthy Ketheeswaran and Thinesh Kumarakulasingam, winners of the previous two legs of the race. They said they’ve visited Victoria in the past but this was their first time in Nanaimo.
“It’s been on my list for a while now so it was really cool to get that opportunity on the race,” Ketheeswaran said.
Despite seeing sea planes all the time living in Vancouver, Kumarakulasingam said this was his first flight aboard one.
“It’s one of those funny things. When it’s in your backyard, you kind of just put it off and you never actually take the opportunity to do it,” he said. “So it’s something that I really wanted to do and to have the opportunity to do that was awesome.”
First the teams headed to Petroglyph Provincial Park, where they found the supplies they would need for the rest of the Nanaimo leg of the race. Next they were off to WildPlay Element Parks where the pairs split up with one doing a bungee jump and the other riding a giant “primal” swing. Once on solid ground they then had to correctly recite the recipe of a Nanaimo bar in order to get their next clue.
Amazing Race executive producer Mark Lysakowski said they’ve had bungee jumping on the show before, but this is the first time they’ve added a challenge to it.
“We’re like, ‘This is a great location, but how do you make it other than just a bungee? Because everyone can try this,’” he said. “So we added the classic Nanaimo bar. What are the ingredients in a classic Nanaimo bar, which is taking a bit of a renaissance lately. The New York Times calling it one of these great things, it’s got a stamp, Nanaimo bar is like a rock star.”
As someone terrified of heights, Effah said the WildPlay challenge was a jump out of his comfort zone.
“Coming from Yellowknife where Sarah had to face her fear of jumping into the water, this was now me facing my fear jumping off a bridge,” he said.
“I was sad I couldn’t be there directly for him,” Wells said. “We couldn’t really do it together because we’re on opposite sides of the bridge.”
It took them two tries to get the recipe right and Effah said “Nanaimo bars will never be the same.”
Teams then journeyed to the Deep Bay Marine Field Station where they donned rubber boots and waders and were tasked with digging and correctly identify four different species of shellfish. Wells said it was their first time digging for clams and “we just so happened to be pretty good at it, apparently.”
“We knew leaving that challenge we were in first place and that was exciting,” she said.
Once the teams collected the right shellfish they were off to Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park, where they searched for hidden letters that spelled out the location of their pit stop: the Goats on the Roof Old Country Market in Coombs.
Lysakowski said the locations were chosen based on research and conversations with tourism agencies.
“I think it shows a great representation of the mid-east side of the Island in a nice cross-section. A little bit of everything,” he said. “There’s ocean, there are caves … and then of course there’s jumping off a bridge and the very popular goats on the roof.”
Effah said winning the Nanaimo leg was “definitely a strong point for us.”
“As athletes we’re disciplined, we work hard and even if we’re not maybe the best at any challenge or anything that comes our way, the thing that we can always count on is just working hard and being persistent…” he said. “There’s nothing that’s going to stop us. We get down, we get back up.”