It’s 1pm on a bright spring afternoon and I’m awkwardly milling around with a motley crew of backpackers, World Nomads employees, and fellow travel bloggers. From a distance we doubtless paint an interesting picture. While the World Nomads wear yellow, the rest of us are painted with grey, black, or purple.
We were there, of course, for the Great Nomads Chase.
Before too long a former Neighbours cast member clambers up onto one of the benches in Belmore Park and begins to explain the rules to we nervous participants. It all sounds a bit convoluted at first as he talks about ‘paparazzi bombs’, ‘bus challenges’, and ‘Sydney Chance Cards’ – but before we’ve had time to digest it all we’re having a green folder thrust into our hands and we’re being issued our first challenge.
We’ve barely had time to make introductions but we spring into action. We’ve been tasked with creating a paper plane and throwing it. The distance it travels will decide how many world flags we’d need to name.
One of the two leggy American beauties in my team is some kind of paper plane building savant, and my FIFA inspired encyclopedic knowledge of world flags sees us as the first horse out of the gate.
The 2011 Great Nomads Chase was underway.
Sydney’s turned out a 28 degree day and I can feel the sweat trickling down my back already as we make our way towards China Town. There we’re charged with snapping photos of three animals of the Chinese zodiac as well as purchasing a chicken foot. You know, the usual.
Soon we’re piling onto a crowded bus to complete our three bus challenges. They’re not compulsory, but the team agrees that getting the extra time taken off of our total will be worth it in the end.
The benefits of being in a team with four pretty girls pays immediate dividends. We manage to convince a friendly Dutch backpacker to hold the BBQed chicken foot in his mouth for challenge #1 and then get a confused Chinese-Australian to go down on bended knee in a fake proposal for challenge #2.
Oh yeah, and we got yelled at by the bus driver for holding up a busy bus making its way through Sydney’s CBD.
We’d taken longer than we’d planned to finish our bus challenges and had managed to overshoot our mark. This necessitated a hard slog up the steep Sydney streets towards Hyde Park where we would begin…
There was just a little panic among our team as we passed several other teams on our way to the second checkpoint. Were we that far behind?
The second checkpoint began with a death-defying food relay consisting of:
- Wolfing down a Tim Tam coated in Vegemite
- Devouring a dry Wheat Bix
- Blowing up a balloon until it popped in your face
Lana then stepped up to make short work of the dry Wheat Bix. She managed to do it all with a level of calm dignity I didn’t think possible in a competition, but still managed to best her rival by a good few seconds. Then one of our American girls (whose name escapes me) put the ‘biggest lungs in the third grade’ (her words) to work on blowing up a balloon.
She certainly got into the task. By her own admission, her head movements were more in line with the ‘other kind of blowing’ than the considerably more innocent task at hand.
Before the rubber has had time to settle on the ground we were off and racing again. Our tasks this time around included getting drenched in a fountain and making passionate love to a bronze pig.
The first port of call saw both of our American team-mates eagerly leaping into a fountain at the heart of Hyde Park. There were plenty of amused onlookers and even a few wolf-whistles.
The third leg of the race got underway with a mixture of trivia and endurance. Team members would sprint down to the questions, hurriedly snap photos of them on their iPhones, and then bring them back to their team-mates to solve.
My nerdy upbringing proved beneficial when it came to answering a pair of riddles and then we were off and running again. Our next destination? Circular Quay.
It was there, on the lookout by the Cahill Expressway, that I committed accidental career suicide by tackling the man I later found out was the founder of World Nomads. In my defense, he was blocking my entry to the elevator…
With the race winding down the challenges were getting easier. We hurriedly posed as Taronga Zoo and then used a Magic Eye puzzle to learn the combination to a lock box. Easy stuff.
Sydney’s iconic Rocks district was our next port of call. But first we had to pose with William Bligh by Cadman’s Cottage. This lead to another confrontation with our rival team. While Jake frantically tried to paparazzi bomb our opposition, I again tangled with a CEO intent on stealing away my camera and preventing us from completing the challenge.
I’ll clearly need to start my own travel insurance empire to get my revenge.
We settled on an uneasy truce for the purposes of taking the required photo and then it was on for young and old. The aforementioned CEO again used underhanded tactics as he tried to drag his office manager back using her scarf. Dirty pool!
Undeterred we raced through the cobbled streets of Sydney’s historic district on our way to Foundation Park. I’ve done a Ghost Tour and a Photography Tour of this particular part of Sydney, so the riddle of take a step back in time pointed to only one location – the model clock among the other over-sized furnishings in the popular park.
The final leg of the competition was completed at an exhausted run. We brave adventurers had eaten, posed, embarrassed, sprinted, and photographed our way through some of Sydney’s most iconic locales on our way to what we hoped would be victory.
Our team, ominously named ‘Something Intimidating’, were the third through the doors of the Harbour View Hotel – but we were quietly confident our decision to complete every single bonus challenge would reap rewards.
My calves had been chafed bloody and I think every single one of us had smelled better in our lives, but that first ice cold beer was worth the temporary pain. We settled around a table and awaited the arrival of the other teams. It was a relief to see everybody looked as exhausted and generally downtrodden as us. Poor Brooke was the last through the doors after her team had somehow managed to get lost along the way.
Then it was time to tally up bonus points and complete the dreaded Sydney Chance round of the competition. The times were up on the board but no team names were assigned. Still, I had a good feeling that the top time of 28 minutes (our total time minus our bonus deductions) would be ours.
I was right. Team Something Intimidating were announced as winners of the Great Nomads Chase. Glory to us! Glory!
I was already preparing a magnanimous speech to accept our awards when the dreaded Sydney Chance card came into play and we were most unjustly robbed of our righteous victory. The third placed team leap-frogged us into third and robbed us of victory. The fix was in!
Hmm… just in case you’re not aware. I’m not serious. The winners stepped up to accept their prizes (new iPods!) and there were no hard feelings as we all made our way to the Australian Heritage Hotel for free beer and free pizza.
For those playing at home – those are the best kinds of beer and pizza!
War stories were exchanged, blogs were plugged, beers were chugged, and laksas were worshipped. Nicole from Hola Chica Travels experienced her first ever meat pie, Lauren from The Life That Broke and I shared our love of Butters from South Park, and bar staff were hailed as heroes when they brought us more beer.
The night wound on and the participants gradually filtered away. Eventually it was down to Jessalyn of Diary of a Wandering Student and I. We grabbed a quiet beer at the very good Red Oak on Clarence Street to finish up the night and then it was time to call it a day.
I have to give a big shout out to everybody involved in making it such a wonderful day. I can’t recall the last time I had so much fun. To Alicia from World Nomads – the woman behind the whole event – a huge thanks. I didn’t speak to a single person who didn’t enjoy the day immensely. The Great Nomads Chase was a rousing success.
And a final thanks to my awesome team-mates for making it a fun experience and to the cool Travel Massive peeps who made the aftermath of the affair as hilarious and fun as possible.
It’s days like this that make me so, so glad to be a part of Sydney’s travel community.