(Sun City, Arizona, USA; September 26, 2019) Sun City resident and adventurer Art “Karts” Huseonica recently completed a three-week project as part of the crew producing the 2019 Eco-Challenge expedition race in Fiji.
Created by British reality show producer Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice) and hosted by international survival expert Bear Grylls, Eco-Challenge Fiji 2019 is being produced by MGM Television and will debut on Amazon Prime Video in 2020. The delivery format enables a worldwide audience. Due to stringent confidentiality agreements, Mr. Huseonica is prohibited from sharing race details or race photos.
Mr. Burnett produced the original Eco-Challenge race that put him on the reality TV map and was a precursor to his CBS hit Survivor. Mr. Grylls is just coming off of a popular run of his new interactive show Man vs Wild. “Eco-Challenge is the ultimate survival adventure race, against the elements, against the clock, and against some of the greatest extreme athletes the world has ever seen,” said Mr. Grylls.“I was very happy to be part of an incredible event in an exotic location,” said Mr. Huseonica. “I got to work closely with some of the world’s best producers such as Mark Burnett and Lisa Hennessy.” He added, “It was great seeing Bear Grylls again and catching up on our lives, including my grandson Carson’s recent injury.”
Mr. Huseonica’s responsibilities as part of the race’s staff of adventurers and subject area experts included meeting race teams at the airport, race bike inspections, checkpoint manager, and staffing two of the rest and medical camps along the arduous 400-mile race route. In addition, he helped to maintain a good working relationship with the village leadership and the residents.
Fiji is a rugged volcanic land with dense jungles. Mostly uninhabited and remote, the island villages maintain an ancient South Pacific tribal value system governed by local chiefs. Mr. Huseonica traveled to numerous locations on the island and three remote smaller islands as part of his work. This required daily interactions of village chiefs and their number two man referred to as the village headman.
Staying in his tent or village bures (thatched-roof homes), he was always warmly welcomed into villages for stays that lasted from one to three days. Children were especially excited to have Mr. Huseonica in their village, albeit mostly a curiosity factor of having a bald-headed white man in their village. The excitement level dramatically increased when the race teams came through the villages, followed closely by numerous camera crews and assist producers. Most Fijians speak at least a little English, so the normal language barriers were not present.
For this challenging race there are 66 four-person teams from around the world who competed non-stop mountain biking remote trails, paddling down white-water rivers, rappelling down cliff sides, climbing, sailing across open ocean, and pack rafting. Navigation is done with map and compass only. If one member of the team drops out for any reason during the eleven-day race, the team was disqualified.
Mr. Huseonica’s transportation between locations included wading across rivers, trekking, four-wheel drive vehicles, boats, and helicopters. Many villagers witnessed a helicopter landing for the first time in their lives. One village’s residents and all the school children came running down to the playground to see Mr. Huseonica land and disembark with his five gear bags. He had lots of help moving his gear to where the race course came through the village.
The “eco” in Eco-Challenge means that there will be a strong focus on leaving the race course pristine. Camps and checkpoints will also be set up and maintained with the idea of keeping the area clean at all times and properly disposing of waste. Mr. Huseonica helped local Fijian volunteers to ensure that remained true in his assigned areas during the race and afterwards.
Upon arriving in one village, he learned that their gas-powered generator had malfunctioned. Although it usually ran only a few hours each day, it was critical to recharge their lights and flashlights. Mr. Huseonica quickly permitted villagers to use his large capacity solar panel and charging battery. Later that day the village’s water stopped flowing. He gladly assisted the village headman in getting the gravity-fed system flowing again by unclogging the spring and stream-fed source pipes high up a mountain side.