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Travel Channel

HITTING THE ROAD: An unlike pairing of Amanda Byram and Henry Cole turns up some interesting situations in Travel Channels RV Rampage, where South Africa is represented by Byron Branfield and Deena Grace.

Biking legend Henry Role is partnered with presenter Amanda Byram in Travel Channel’s exciting 10-part series, RV Rampage, which is something along the lines of The Amazing Race-meets-Survivor. With viewers exposed to some of New Zealand’s most-hauntingly beautiful land-scapes, Debashine Thangevelo caught up with the presenters as well as the participating South African team as viewers are to find out more about the gruelling, adventure-filled journey…

THE OPEN road has always been Henry Cole’s playground – on a motorcycle. Now, he switches his mode of transport, so to speak, with RV Rampage, and shares the ride with the stunning Amanda Byram.

On giving the nod to presenting this series for the Travel Channel, he says: “I’ve spent most of my career presenting motorcycle shows on my own, so to co-host a reality show is like, why would I do that? But then I was told the other presenter would be Amanda Byram and my kids and I absolutely love her from Total Wipeout. So I thought, ‘Bollocks, I’ll do it! But do I have to drive one of these RV’s?’

“As a motorcyclist I despise, fear and scorn anyone who drives one. I thought, ‘I might as well give it a go’. And I can’t tell you driving one was an experience I enjoyed – apart from the company, who was Amanda. We didn’t sleep in the same RV, just to clear that up, we just drove one together.”

She chips in: “I had never been to New Zealand before and the concept of the show includes adventure, reality, travel game show – all the things I love.”

Expanding on the show’s premise, Cole explains: “It’s 10 contestants of five couples of different nationalities, whether brother and sister, best mates or couples, and they drive three RVs from Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand to Queenstown on the South Island. Everywhere they stop they do a Rampage challenge and a Tourist challenge to sort the sheep from the goats. The most successful wins a cash prize of £5 000.

TO rv rampage SA contestants

South Africa's Byron Branfield and Deena Grace.

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“New Zealand is famed for its extreme sports so obviously there were a lot of those, which some were more terrified of than others.”

Commenting on the challenges, Byram notes: “It tests that element of the human condition like Big Brother does, as people are stuck in the close confines of an RV with three other people. It really puts the couples’ relationships to the test because I don’t think they have ever spent that much time together. They really had to face their fears, too.”

Being the adrenalin junkie he is, Cole was asked if he had done any of the challenges in the show before.

“I have done skydiving, bungee jumps… I have been down a lot of caves in my time, but I’ve not done white water rafting.”

Although there are touch-and-go-times aplenty with the contestants really pushed to their limits, the fact that they soldier on is most inspiring.

Of his highlights on this series, he offers: “For me being an old fogey travelling all my life for work, to see these people immerse themselves in New Zealand and love it as much as I’ve done was amazing. Amanda had never been there either so every-where we went she was saying: ‘Check that out!’ Amanda was another highlight as she’s a top chick. We had a complete laugh together and I’ve made a real friend there, even though she and I are chalk and cheese. I’ll roll in to town and go and have a burger and she’ll go and juice her vegetables.”

THE SOUTH AFRICAN COUPLE

Deena Grace and Byron Branfield live and work in the UK. She is a fitness instructor who is in the process of setting up a weight management consulting business and he is a software developer/CRM specialist or, as he puts it, “a functional IT geek!”

Both lead very healthy and active lives with exercise being a huge part of their daily routines.

Interestingly, it was Grace who spotted the advertisement for the show.

She explains: “I saw an advert about the auditions on Facebook, just by chance. I have always wanted to go to New Zealand so I thought I might as well give it a try. I applied, not expecting to hear back at all, until I got an e-mail back and the casting agency said I needed a partner, but they were very interested in me. I thought about it for a few days and then decided to ask Byron if he would be keen. He was, of course.”

While they kind of breezed through auditions, their greatest challenge was still to come.

Grace says: “Byron was definitely the stronger one physically, although I am very fit. I was better at keeping calm and focused when the challenges were really scary”.

He says: “We are both very driven and competitive so our only goal was the competition. Deanna is very motivated and wanted to prove something to herself which is very strong factor in any competition. We work extremely well as a team, both contributing where the other couldn’t. I am more suited to the physical aspect of the competition; any race I fancied my chances.”

And the two were pushed to the brink with the kayaking challenge and didn’t speak for days afterwards.

Branfield says: “The sea kayaking challenge was by far the hardest and most gruelling. Deanna and myself had a fallout of nuclear proportions, mid challenge. But we stuck it out and are closer than ever because of it, we worked extremely well together before that event and even better after it.”

As for their best and worst challenges, she reveals: “The worst has to be white water rafting. Best? That’s difficult, there were so many thrilling challenges. But I loved jumping off Auckland Tower and skydiving… and canopying.”

Having already pointed out how much he hated the kayaking, Branfield shares: “The white river rafting was amazing and learning the Haka on sacred ground.”

Aside from the truly life-changing experience, amid much sweat, tears, joy and laughter, for the couple, Grace will forever remember the Fox Glacier and the breathtaking view from it, while Branfield says, “Queenstown stood a cut above the rest for me. The place is dynamic, exciting and beautiful to visit and live. The Fox Glacier was really cool.”

• RV Rampage, Travel Channel (DStv channel 179), tonight, 9pm.


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