Interview with RV Rampage Presenters Amanda Byram and Henry Cole

RV Rampage is an exhilarating new 10 part series for the Travel Channel, presented by Amanda Byram and Henry Cole.

With a backdrop of New Zealand’s breath-taking landscapes, stunning scenery and its incredible coastline, five international teams of two battle it out to be crowned the ultimate adventurer. With exciting and heart-stopping challenges to conquer along the way, the teams journey from Auckland on the North Island all the way to Queenstown on the South.

Our teams are tested to their limits and beyond. They undertake Tourist Challenges – designed to immerse them in the culture and lifestyle of New Zealand. Then onto Rampage Challenges – designed to prove them physically, mentally and for them to conquer their fears. Both take them to breaking point as they face activities such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, glacier climbing, and canyoning.

As well as taking part in one of the toughest competitions of their lives, the teams also have to contend with eating, sleeping and living in the pockets of the very people they are competing against as the five pairs share three motorhomes for the duration of the trip.

There are tears and tantrums, fun and frolics, jitters and jeopardy as our ten competitors live, travel and adventure together. There’s no escaping each other.

Jam-packed with daredevil adventures, fascinating insider knowledge and showcasing the very best of New Zealand and its colourful inhabitants, this is definitely a road trip of a lifetime.

Amanda Byram Biography and Q&A

Amanda Byram is one of Ireland’s biggest exports. She started her career as a model at the tender age of 16 and from there went on to take the TV world by storm. In 1999 she began presenting TV3 morning show ‘Ireland A with Mark Cagney’. She then moved to British TV, primarily hosting ‘The Big Breakfast’ on Ch4 in 2001 for 2 years and then appearing as a guest host on ‘Liquid News’ on BBC3 in 2002. Amanda is best known for presenting TV series ‘Total Wipeout’ alongside Richard Hammond and co-presenting other programmes including ‘This Morning’, ‘Entertainment Tonight’, ‘Sunday Brunch’ and appearing as a guest on ‘Celebrity Juice’ and ‘The Xtra Factor’.

Q: What was the appeal of presenting RV Rampage?
A: It was a no brainer. I’d never been to New Zealand before and the concept of the show is it’s an adventure, reality, travel game show, which are all the things I love. Coming off the back of Total Wipeout I really wanted to be able to do something that was fun and adventurous, and also watch people fall flat on their faces again!

Q: Do you think the challenges are harder than the Total Wipeout challenges?
A: They’re so different. Wipeout was difficult as you couldn’t practise for it – the challenges were obstacles people had never done before. Whereas there are elements of things like skydiving, kayaking and zip-lining that people may have done. However overall the fact the RV Rampage contestants have to do challenges day after day for five weeks rather than the two days for Wipeout was mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Q: How does RV Rampage test the contestants?
A: It tests that element of human condition like Big Brother does, as people are stuck in close confines of an RV with three other people. It really puts the different 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.

Q: Which of the challenges did you find the scariest?
A: I’d never done any of them before but I got to do zip lining, skydiving and I climbed a 100ft wall in Fox Glacier, which was amazing. I also did the 134metre Nevis bungee jump, even though I’d never wanted to do one. It was very last minute but I thought I’m never going to forgive myself if I don’t do it! I had all these guys come at me like a Formula 1 car clicking all the shackles on, then I had to get a crane out to the middle of the canyon, and I just remember thinking I don’t know how I’m going to do this. Then one of the guys said ‘It’s better than sex!’ and I said right let’s do it – push me! It was unbelievable.

Q: What’s your biggest fear?
A: Apart from death, I would have said heights at one point but I think I’ve pretty much overcome that now. Also being really alone, like all of my family and friends gone and not being around any more. A physical fear would be being buried alive. I’m pretty macabre aren’t I!

Q: Did you and Henry get on?
A: We’d never met before and we don’t really have very much in common but when we first met we both said you’re a friend for life. Sometimes it’s not the people you assume you’re going to connect with, and we found we’ve got an awful lot of similarities. We had such a laugh together. I’d tell him about my boy troubles or lack of men, and although he’s a guy’s guy, he’s such a girl’s guy as well. He’s going to teach me how to motorbike ride, which will be amazing.

Q: Have you met Henry’s family yet?
A: No, I was supposed to go down around Christmas but then I went home to Ireland early because my sister had a little baby, then our paths kept crossing. He told me his boys are big Wipeout fans so I’m having them made up crew Wipeout t-shirts! I’d like to go to their place in the country and meet Janey his wife as well.

Q: What else have you got lined up this year?
A: I did some coverage of the Oscars for Sky and stood in for Simon Rimmer on Sunday Brunch recently. I’m passionate about health and fitness too, so I’m really focused on that and have been writing blogs and tweeting, which is really gaining momentum. I’m often asked for advice and it’s a whole other sense of achievement feeling like you’ve actually helped someone. It’s like my hobby so I’m not doing less TV stuff by any means.

Q: How much exercise do you do a week?
A: I try to do something every day even if it’s just a really relaxing yoga class. I train with weights about two to three times a week and then weekends I do try to take off. At 41 you can do the kind of training I do. I hear 25-year-olds saying I’m too old to lift weights or do whatever, and I’m like no you’re not! I like to be able to get women to bully up and stop moaning about exercise.

Q: Do you have an ideal presenting job you’d like to do?
A: I’ve been so lucky to do such a wide variety. I’ve done big live reality shows in America and Wipeout, which was a format unto itself and a fun off the cuff game show. My forte is live edgy studio stuff so any of the shiny floor Saturday night shows or magazine shows really float my boat.

Q: Where do you find the most beautiful place in New Zealand?
A: That’s such a hard question. I think Walt Disney must have sneezed all over it because it’s so vivid and magical – you expect Peter Pan and Tinkerbell to be flying around! It’s all so completely different but I loved Wanaka in the South Island and Milford Sound further south. Fox Glacier was a highlight for me too as it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It makes you realise how tiny we actually are.

Henry Cole Biography and Q&A

Henry Cole’s career has spanned some twenty five years in the television industry producing and directing an eclectic mix of award winning broadcast programming for all of the UK’s and many international terrestrial and satellite broadcasters.

Henry’s passion for travel and adventure has allowed him to present a range of programmes for the Travel Channel over the last ten years with series including ‘The Cool Caribbean’, ‘Riding Route 66’, ‘First Class Italy’, ‘First Class Cornwall’, ‘Great Drives’ and ‘Riding Eastern Europe’ and his continuing multiple series ‘World’s Greatest Motorcycle Rides’.

Henry also writes, produces and directs movies and TV dramas, which have included the movie Mad Dogs And Englishmen with Elizabeth Hurley and Joss Ackland, Dead Funny with Andrew McCarthy and Elizabeth Penya and the TV movie Princess In Love with Chris Villiers and Julia Cox. Henry has also directed several documentaries on music artists such as, ACDC, Metallica and The Rolling Stones.

Q: What was the appeal of presenting RV Rampage?
A: 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.

Q: What’s the premise of the show?
A: It’s 10 contestants made up of five couples of different nationalities, whether brother and sister, best mates or couples, and they drive three RV’s from Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand all the way down to Queenstown in 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. New Zealand is famed for its extreme sports so obviously there was a lot of those, which some were more terrified of than others.

Q: Were there times you thought the contestants might not complete the task?
A: There were plenty of times. They were really taxed and people face their fears like they’ve never done before. There was one contestant who when it came to the bungee swing in Queenstown, I was actually kneeling down before him pleading for him to do it – whether he does it or not you’ll have to watch the show. There was excitement to be had at every corner.

Q: What were the highlights for you?
A: For me being an old fogy 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 everywhere 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.

Q: What did you learn about her that not a lot of people know?
A: That she is a woman who will face her fears like I’ve never seen someone do. She’s got balls. When she did the bungee jump, she just threw herself off it – it was incredible. Then she said right, I want to do a skydive now! So we jumped out of a perfectly serviceable plane at 15,000ft in Queenstown and she loved it. In five weeks I didn’t hear one squeak of moaning from her either, and you can’t say that about every presenter can you?

Q: Which of the challenges had you done before?
A: I’ve done skydiving, bungee jumps, I went out on the tower in Auckland to say come on out you come! I’ve been down a lot of caves in my time but I’ve not done white water rafting or anything like that.

Q: What are your fears?
A: Mediocrity. It scares me greatly people conforming and going about their business without actually wanting to immerse themselves. I see a lot of people who are just going through the cogs of life and when you get to my age you realise that no one gets out of here alive. You’ve got to enjoy every damned day to the best of your ability. Fear is temporary, regret is permanent – I think you have to sometimes believe that. I also have a slight fear of Black Widow Spiders.

Q: How does driving an RV compare to a motorbike?
A: Although it was quite fun being in an RV, driving them was a nightmare. They’re so slow and handle like a wheelbarrow. New Zealand is the best country in the world to ride a motorcycle in my view and there am I clogging up the roads with an RV. People would recognise me at petrol stations and ask, “Henry what are you doing?” I was like don’t look ok, you haven’t seen me!

Q: How often do you travel?
A: In total I’m away for about four months of the year. It is crazy and it’s going to get worse – we’re just about to film a show in the Balkans, and then we’re going to Malaysia, then Bonneville Salt Flats, then Poland and then quite a bit of time in Los Angeles on another project. So I’m all over the place. I work eight days a week.

Q: How does you your family handle you being away so much?
A: My wife Jane is hugely long suffering. I was a news cameraman when I first met her in 1994 so consequently she’s used to it and says I was like that when I first met her. My boys Charlie and Tom are nine and seven, and they accept that Daddy goes away. I always get a bit unhappy leaving and when I went away recently, I was at the door and said, “See ya Tommy, take care mate”. And he goes, “Yeah ok Daddy, see ya. Mummy can I have a sweetie now?” He doesn’t give a monkeys. While I’m away I speak to them every night if I can.

Q: Are you reluctant to go abroad when you go on holiday?
A: Yes but at the same time we go to a little villa in Italy that we rent every year and it’s great seeing the kids having a good time. I only take a week’s holiday a year apart from Christmas. Although I’ll do a deal on Christmas Day if someone’s on email.

Q: What do you take with you when you travel?
A: My passport, a crash helmet, cigarettes, my ipad and headphones as I’d never subject anyone else to ‘80s punk, a satellite phone so I can make a call anywhere in the world, and six credit cards so one of them works. The key to travelling well is not plan anything meticulously – to leave plenty of opportunity as you never know where you might love and want to hang out for a couple of days.

Q: Where do you find the most beautiful place in New Zealand?
A: The whole of it. I think the South Island is one of the most breathtaking places on earth. It’s like Scotland on acid! The North Island has the most incredible places as well and when I first went, I kept thinking how does this get any better like people kept on telling me that it would. I’m very lucky.

Episodic Information

Episode 1 – Auckland Monday 26th May 21:00
In the first show the five teams arrive in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. After introductions it’s straight into their first challenge. A Segway tour of the city’s marina to locate, identify and photograph a list of city landmarks. They have one hour to achieve their goal and at stake is a crucial prize – the right to their very own RV, and the choice of which of the other teams they will put with whom in the remaining two shared RVs.

After their first night in their new homes parked up by one of Auckland’s finest beaches, the five teams are bracing themselves for their first Rampage challenge; a white knuckle adrenaline challenge where the teams compete for points. Today’s competition is a ledge walk, 54 stories up at the top of the city’s world famous Sky Tower. Hard enough but additionally they’ll be giving a guided tour of the city from their lofty vantage point. One team battles with intense vertigo. But will they have the courage to complete the challenge?

Episode 2 – Rotorua Tuesday 27th May 21:00
Rotorua is home to the fascinating Maori Cultural Heritage Centre and a warm welcome from the resident Maori experts, in the form of a traditional Haka, turns into today’s Tourist Challenge. The five teams have just half an hour to learn the moves and the words before performing their Haka back to the Maori judges. The winners receive a slap up dinner with another team of their
choosing whilst the others fend for themselves. Biscuits, bread and beans are on the menu back in their RVs.

Day Two in Rotorua sees our contestants take on their second Rampage Challenge. Whoever succeeds and finds the most elusive RV rampage flags wins the 5 points at stake. After today’s results are revealed back at camp tempers fray and tears are shed but with home being a shared RV for the next 4 weeks there is no escaping each other.

Episode 3 – Taupo Wednesday 28th May 21:00
The five teams take to the waters at the height of the trout fishing season to catch fish for part of their Tourist Challenge. Every fish caught nets a point for the teams but opinions are soon divided as to whether they should keep their landed fish. Early fishing success lifts the spirits of the arguing Green Team, but soon vegetarian Ruby and Russian vegans Dasha and Ivan are upset by Thai restaurateurs Wan and Mark’s appetite to kill the fish and cook it up for supper.

Clay pigeons and shotguns next and a shoot-out determines the winners of today’s Tourist Challenge. The winners receiving a night away from their RV and the comforts of a luxury cabin.

The next morning the teams learn of their next Rampage Challenge. The adrenaline challenge will see the teams undertake a 15,000 foot skydive followed by a race across the lake on paddle boards – a popular and exhausting water sport in New Zealand. But the hard work and the cold lake water is too much for one competitor who drops out leaving their team with zero points and their team mate furious at their failure. Another night of ill tempers follows.

Episode 4 – Tiahape Thursday 29th May 21:00
The Tourist Challenge is to get to grips with New Zealand most famously farmed animal; the sheep. The five couples are down on the farm assisting the locals round up the sheep. Easy with dogs and a lot of know how. Difficult without! Once the couples have run themselves ragged chasing their sheep around a field, it’s down to the dirty work of “Dagging” – or sheering the poop off a sheep’s bottom. But this dirty work pays well as at stake in this Tourist Challenge are 3 bonus Rampage points.

Day two in rural Tiahape and things are about to get tough as close by is some of the world’s best white water rafting with some serious stretches of rapids along the Rangitkei river. For today’s Rampage Challenge the intrepid five teams will take on these rapids not on rafts but mere two man inflatable kayaks, fondly referred to as ‘divorce kayaks’. Not only must they navigate the river but also collect as many rampage flags en route. This Challenge proves too much for two contestants who bail out after fear takes over on the freezing water.

Episode 5 – Wellington Friday 30th May 2014 21:00
To mark their arrival this culinary hotspot the five couples meet a celebrity chef Rex Morgan for a Kiwi cook off. Supplied with the finest local ingredients the teams must prepare one of Rex’s signature dishes and then surprise him with a second dish of their own design. The prize for the best chefs will be to win the private RV to themselves and reallocate the other couples.
Thai Restaurateurs Mark and Wan taste victory in this Tourist Challenge – but will they pull it off?

The teams second day in Wellington and for their fifth Rampage Challenge, Henry and Amanda decide to ramp up the Rampage Challenge by introducing a double points card for all competitors to use in the next four Rampage Challenges. No longer just five points for a win but a team could walk off with 10 points for a win.

Today’s Rampage Challenge is a quad bike orienteering course around a 50,000 hectare rural estate at the very southern tip of the North Island. Somewhere hiding on this land are 5 little rampage flags. The teams’ task is to find them in the shortest time. But for some, simply mastering the mini 4×4 bikes proves tough enough.
But with only eight points separating all the five couples the competition is still anyone’s.

Episode 6 – Marlborough and Abel Tasman Monday 2nd June 21:00
Arriving in Marlborough, the biggest and most famous area of wine production in New Zealand the teams suspect their day may involve grapes. A pleasant morning awaits the teams as today’s Tourist Challenge is competitive wine tasting and identifying grape varieties at the Yealand Vineyard. But it’s not all quaffing fine wines; Henry and Amanda are putting the teams to work on the vines with the backbreaking task of “bud rubbing”, an annual horticultural task of stripping new plant growth off the vines to maximise the fruit yield. A surprise winning team enjoys a much yearned for night away from the RVs at a top local hotel and a slap up dinner.

Day Two in the South Island and the teams make the long drive to the Abel Tasman National Park, known for its idyllic golden sandy beaches and unspoilt coastline. They are heading here for their Rampage Challenge, a gruelling sea kayaking course crossing the ocean to an island were they must locate RV rampage flags. Some are easy whilst some are submerged and only retrievable by diving overboard.

It’s a race against each other and tensions running high with Orange and Pink Teams playing their double points card. It’s not long until exhaustion and stress takes one team beyond breaking point.

Episode 7 – Greymouth Tuesday 3rd June 21:00
After a long but stunning drive down the West Coast the Teams reach the location of their Tourist Challenge. In this double header, they will pan for gold in a remote mountain river. But to get to this river they must learn to drive 4×4 vehicles through some perilous terrain. They are judged on both their driving skills and who’ll be first to find gold in them there hills. At stake is a hefty 3 points to the best drivers and 3 point for the fastest gold prospectors. But who’ll lay claim to a leader board changing haul of points?

Day 2 in Greymouth and the Rampage Challenge. The competition goes underground deep into the claustrophobic confines of a natural cave system. Their task is to successfully navigate the disorienting cave system to find and photograph rock formations identified by their guides. With no light the teams take hours to complete the challenge and emerge from the caves system to find night has fallen… So they have to wait until morning to find out who has won.

Tourist Challenge: Orange team win 4×4, Blue team win the gold panning
Rampage Challenge: Orange team; South Africans Deanna and Byron win
No One plays their doubler card

Episode 8 – Franz Josef Wednesday 4th June 21:00
The RVs park up as they reach the foothills of the Southern Alps close to Franz Josef. In this beautiful wilderness the teams are greeted by a Survival Expert. This wilderness may be remote but there’s a bountiful supply of food if you

know what to look for. The teams are shown how to build shelters against the freezing Alpine nights; they learn to light fires with flints and find food from the land and the lake. After a day surviving on ferns and river mussels the winner’s prize is to gorge themselves at the Franz Josef restaurant.

Day Two in The Southern Alps and the teams are up early heading to the local heliport. They discover they are flying onto the Fox Glacier where their Rampage Challenge awaits. The scenery is stunning but has claimed many lives in the past. The teams need to work with their guides to cross a dangerous ice field that has been mapped out with a 2km course. They’ll need to climb through ice caves, jump crevasses and climb a sheer 100 foot ice wall before they can reach the helicopter pick up point. Today’s winners will be the team that best demonstrates their skills on the ice to their guides. By playing their doubler card today are the Blue team and the girls of team Green. With Blue winning and the Greens coming second, the leader board is looking tighter at the top. Unfortunately the boys in the Black team also played their double points card. Last place on the glacier sees them sink to an all time low.

Episode 9 – Wanaka Thursday 5th June 21:00
The convoy of RVs heads deeper into the mountains of the Southern Alps before crossing at the Haast Pass and dipping into the Central Otago region of New Zealand. Their destination is the affluent and beautiful lakeside town of Wanaka. Tourist flocks here for the breath-taking scenery and incredible light. Much of Lord of the Rings was filmed here and artists also love the region for painting landscapes.

The teams Tourist Challenge is to capture the stunning lakeside views on canvas under the guidance of a local artist. They have one hour to paint, using oils and a palette knife. An artistic challenge wrong foots some of the teams who have been excelling at the physical challenges throughout the adventure. The prize – a real tonic from the wilds of the Western region. A stay in a five star lakeside lodge hotel.

Day 2 and the Rampage Challenge sees the teams head back into the hills, don wetsuits and helmets as they heading out with a Bear Grylls-style climbing advisor for a day’s Canyoning. The teams must navigate a steep gorge using the river as their route. They abseil, slide and jump down waterfalls all the time judged as to their confidence and accuracy over the course. A shared wine by the Pink team and the Greens sees the one time despairing losers in green finish joint second place. Their confidence is now sky high as they head for Queenstown and the Ultimate Challenge.

Episode 10 – Queenstown Friday 6th June 21:00
The RV Rampage convoy has reached its final destination. Hosts Henry Cole and Amanda Byram have led their charges to the adrenaline sports capital of Queenstown in the South Island. People flock here from around the world, lured by the vast range of sports and white knuckle experiences on offer.

The final stage of the competition will see the five couples race through a series of clues and challenges. They will compete with each other by racing against the clock. Every point they have earned in the competition so far will be converted to 30 seconds of their total time taken in the Ultimate Challenge.
If they have been paying attention to their hosts and experts throughout this competition then solving the clues they are given will be a doddle – if not they’ll waste time asking the public to help them. Each clue leads them to a challenge. Their first challenge is a race on summer toboggans down a track. Known as the lugge, the teams race each other and the clock.

Heading into Day Two and a further riddle sees the teams heading to the world famous AJ Hackett Bungee site for a tandem bungee swing which just happens to be the biggest bungee swing in the world. Failure to complete this terrifying white-knuckle ride incurs a massive time penalty – effectively ruling out the team from the competition. But will Byron of team Orange overcome his fear of heights or will the golden team of the competition come to a crashing defeat when victory is so close?

With the Bungee Swing challenge completed, the teams have a final clue to solve and a dash for the finish line. But the competition’s not over for the first and second teams over the line. It’s a nail biting wait for the first two teams as the other three teams vote to decide who they’ll crown the real winners of RV Rampage.

Update: Just a quick note to let you know that Deanna Grace and Byron Branfield, the Orange Team representing South Africa in the RV Rampage challenge on Travel Channel (DStv Channel 179) are now sharing the lead with the Blue Team, representing Thailand, each with 12 points after episode 3. For ease of reference I have attached the Press Pack delivered to you on disc last week together with a small gift. A nice pic of Deanna and Byron is also attached.

Interesting facts about the show
During the selection process to find 5 couples, around 400 email enquiries were received. 200 completed applications and then around 30 couples invited in to be screen tested. A short list of around 10 couples were presented to the channel for final selection. The couples were cast to represent different territories, a certain level of fitness and driving ability with casting was targeted accordingly. Deanna Grace is originally from Benoni and Byron from Toti in KZN.

Editor's choice