The 16 winners were given the right to participate in G4, a month-long, all-expense-paid event that pitted them against each other and the elements of three continents during a four-week adventure, which also threw in cliff diving, bungee jumping, rock climbing, and other assorted tasks in urban and rural locations. The goal? To achieve the greatest number of points by the end of the event in Moab, Utah, and drive off in a new Range Rover.
However, the challenge to become the top finisher involved far more than achieving one's personal best. The contestants were put in bi-national teams that changed each week and had to decide at each day's "Strategy Pit" (an intense decision-making session with one's partner-of-the-week) which "Hunters" (activities that combined different athletics and driving tasks, with different point scores and at different distances from a different campsite each evening) they would attempt to complete. Other factors included the order in which to "visit" the Hunters and the decision of how much energy to save for the grueling Maximizer, a nonstop event that included back-to-back athletics during each stage. The Maximizer also involved a wide variety of tasks, and took us to the unforgiving Australian outback, a region that had no shortage of snakes and insects. In Australia, competitors also battled on the world's only 4WD course on a floating barge, during an event in the Sydney harbor.
Sound a bit like "Survivor?" "Eco Challenge?" "Mission: Impossible?" In fact, it had elements of all three--but with wheels as a primary ingredient of this all-new, vehicle-based reality show, of sorts. It might be a case of what goes around, comes around, because there are those who contend that Land Rover's legendary 4x4 Camel Trophy (which spanned the early 1980s to the late 1990s and was held in remote jungle locations, like Borneo and the Amazon Basin) actually spawned the whole reality-show craze.
But for Nancy, Paul, and me, in the outback, there's another reality beyond decisions at the Strategy Pit and which Hunters to try for. Among the offerings for our day are six possible locations between Marble Bar and the edge of the Great Sandy desert to the east (from here, the nearest town to the east is Alice Springs, some 2000 miles away) and the white-sand beaches of the Indian Ocean to the west. A variety of tasks will have to be performed at each location before we call it a day and set up our tents in the darkness, on Eighty Mile Beach.
This other reality is simply taking in the beauty of the ancient mountains, breathtaking gorges, vast plains, and tranquil oases of the Pilbara region of western Australia. During our time here we'll be engulfed by a 2.5-billion-year-old landscape with three world-class national parks, where we'll see spectacular waterfalls, sheer cliffs, and pristine beaches. We'll travel where others go and where few have been. There'll be many moments when we will forget the flies, forget the heat, forget the competition, and remember only our good fortune to be here.