It may come as a surprise to viewers and fans of The Amazing Race, but the most rewarding part of making the show, and traveling the world producing it, is the positive feedback we get -- from people around the globe and here in the U.S. -- about the different countries and locales we feature on the show.
I receive emails all the time from teachers who tell me they use episodes of The Amazing Race in class to help educate their students about geography and culture. Since we visit so many different cities and countries with rich and varied cultures, we love that the show can serve as a sort of "entertainment classroom." It's extremely gratifying to hear this response, because although the show is primarily entertainment, we take great care to showcase the unique customs, food, and different traditions of each place we visit during all stages of the Race. As they say, it's the journey, not just the destination, and we strive to make sure that episode to episode, viewers really feel like they were along for the ride.
Often, the exposure we give to certain countries one season opens up new dialogues with other nations we haven't yet visited. We're in constant contact with tourism boards around the world, and when they ask us to come back again, we know we've done something right.
New Zealand, where the contestants make their way in this week's episode, is a top tourism and travel destination -- I like to think of it as the adventure capital of the world. New Zealand is absolutely gorgeous. We hadn't been to the south island in a very long time, so I was excited to return. We flew in to Christchurch -- where our host, Phil Keoghan, is from -- and spent much of our time on the Canterbury Plains.
Immediately after stepping off the plane, we headed straight for the Rakaia River. The rivers are known as braided rivers because the flowing water creates incredibly shallow tributaries. The river bed is covered with smooth flat rocks, so you have to travel by flat-bottom, high-speed jet boats. Imagine shooting down a river at 80mph skimming the surface of the water; it's an adrenaline rush like no other. You don't really want to get distracted when traveling like that, but it's almost impossible not to. Visually, New Zealand is just stunning from its majestic Southern alps to its lush, green landscape. It's an absolutely gorgeous place... and there are sheep everywhere, I'm pretty sure they outnumber the people!
It was especially meaningful to us to be in Christchurch so soon after the Central Business District was ravaged by a devastating earthquake, but we were happy to see that Canterbury is very much "Open for Business." Though much of the city was destroyed, I was heartened by the strength and resiliency of New Zealanders. The community in Christchurch is thriving; they've built makeshift pubs and restaurants while their city is being rebuilt around them. We wanted to do our part to show that you can still travel to Christchurch and have a fantastic time!