Episode 12 – Our Final Challenge (2015 – Season 1)

Synopsis : 

This is it. After nearly 50 days on the road, YOU have voted for the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture to be the ending point for our journey. No holding back now, Dean runs off on day 1, completing a full marathon, then cycling a further 50km and finally skating to the spectacular Eshima Bridge. It wasn’t about to get easier either! The only way to the Oki Islands was 60km of kayaking through deep open sea, which takes Dean and Duncan over 8 hours and leaves them huddled in a barn waiting for rescue! Their final day is almost peaceful, until a wild house injures Natali leaving only Dean and Duncan from the original 5 members, to watch the final sunset of the series.


Dean Newcombe, Duncan Buckley, Natali Jacobsen and Timothy Buerger


Tottori and Shimane Prefectures

Points of Interest

Eshima Ohashi Bridge, Nakaumi Lake, Tako-Minato, Izumo Shrine, Lake Shinji, The Okinoshima Islands, Chiburi Island, Nishinoshima Island, Matengai Cliffs and the Tsutenkyo Arch

Day 1:

The runAway Triathlon 

It’s 6am in Tottori and Dean is already awake. His plan is to sneak from the hotel and begin without the team, on what he is calling a runAway triathlon. He is very aware now that today will be his only chance for a final run, cycle, or skate. He decides to do all 3! While Natali sleeps peacefully in her bed, Duncan hears a noise and busts Dean sneaking out. He wishes Dean well, and then off goes the man in red, to run a full 42km marathon along the ‘Tottori’ coast line. Half way to his destination, his team catch him up, and Duncan and Natali start running with him. They enjoy running as a team, and stop only to take on water or to speak with locals. Old women are found drying foods in the sun and at a fish shop, fish are hung up and spun to dry out. The final section of hills stops Natali in her tracks, but the boys push through and see Tim and the car waiting on the beach. They run along the sand, play on the beach, and swim in the cold waters of the ‘Japan Sea’, as if to celebrate the success of getting this far. There is even a quick picnic style lunch, but as always, Dean can’t hang around. From here, he would cover another 50km, but with his bike. After the marathon, Dean’s energy levels are falling, and Dean consumes an energy shot given to him by Michael Rice, to stop him from falling asleep on his bike! The car followed Dean as he got ever closer to reaching ‘Shimane Prefecture’. At the ‘Kaike Seaside Coast’, Dean changes to inline-skates for the final section of his journey, a 20km skate to the ‘Eshima Ohashi Bridge’ (Only in Japan up on the bridge!). The skating is painful, with ankles injured from excessive biking, but Dean makes it to the crazy bridge, where he has to remove the skates and run over its arch. The view from the bridge is impressive and the sun is beginning to set. Dean and Duncan decide to run to the edge of the ‘Nakaumi Lake’ to see the sun set, but just miss it. This was ‘Shimane Prefecture’ and their time here had started, with madness!

Day 2:

Looking for Love

The team start back to the defense-wall of the ‘Nakaumi Lake’. Dean will ride first, to the north tip of ‘Shimane Prefecture’, back along the coastline, where they will tomorrow launch their boat for the ‘Oki Islands’. The small port town that Dean cycles to seems to be called ‘Octopus Harbor’ (Tako-Minato), and he rides the 18km quickly along the ‘Nakaumi Lake’ edge, and then over the mountainous coastal headland. Fisherman work in the harbor repairing their nets. Dean and Duncan try to see the ‘Oki Islands’, but they are too far off shore to sight! Tomorrow will be their big adventure meaning today they needed to pray for good luck, at ‘Izumo Shrine’! Before going to one of Japan’s most famous shrines, they meet their kayak advisor and sit down for the local dish, ‘Izumo Soba’. The Soba (Buckwheat Noodles) here is made differently, and is eaten differently. The team all consume a lot, while getting tips for tomorrow. They then head for the Shrine complex which is approached on a long walkway which leads to the main shrine buildings. Visitors walk either side of this path, leaving the central walkway for the Gods! Other Japanese visitors are quick to explain rituals of this shrine and the significance of a few of the statues. Particularly, rabbits are important, due to local folklore. The team wash their hands and head for the main shrine building to pray. Here they must clap their hands four times in prayer, instead of the usual 2 times. 2 claps are performed for yourself, and 2 for your partner or desired partner. As if by magic, a lady named ‘Yasuko’ appears, who then shows Dean around more of the Shrine complex. Dean continues to look for love as he approaches 2 young ladies in Japanese ‘Kimono’, but they seem less impressed with his outfit! Izumo’s main hall building is the tallest of it’s kind in Japan. Around it, statues of small rabbits pray, and fortunes are tied to tree branches. They had prayed for good luck and now headed off again, to Lake Shinji. This lake, one of the biggest in Japan, is a famous point to watch the sunset. Today, as the sun fades behind cloud, the boats return to harbor. It is not the sunset they expected, but the team relax in this peaceful atmosphere, thinking of what might be tomorrow.

Day 3:

Deep Water

Dean and Duncan wake early and pull out maps. They know what needs to be done and head again for ‘Takominato’. Tim helps them prepare and sees them off, but sadly cannot join them on the islands, and suddenly the team is down to 3 members. They launch in the calm harbor, but the fishing escort boat warns them that the sea is especially choppy today, with high waves. Undiscouraged, they check the directions a few times to get a baring on the islands, then dig-in, and try to keep pushing forward. Natali filmed them from the boat, watching as they were pounded by big waves. Every now and again, they would need to stop to pump out water, which little by little washed into their boat. By halfway, they are feeling the pain. They try to eat snacks to keep their energy up, but when it came to toilet breaks, the only option seemed to be peeing in their pants! After 8 hours of paddling, they reach the land of ‘Chiburi Island’. They land at the nearest port to disembark, but getting out of the boat proves difficult with their semi-paralyzed limbs! Dean is suffering badly because of the cold, and they seek shelter in a barn to wait for support. It is here that Natali finds them, huddled together under a blanket, desperately eating everything they possibly can!

Day 4:

Kuniga Sea Coast

The team can rest well on their new island. Back at the port, Dean looks somehow fresh after his monumental sea crossing. He checks his maps for the day, and recruits Natali to run with him to the other side of ‘Chiburi Island’. She once again curses the hills, but on the opposite side of the island is another harbor where they can set off for a much more gentle kayak, to reach ‘Nishinoshima Island’. Duncan is injured from the previous day, and Natali is worried to be in such deep water, but it is her who is chosen this time to join Dean. They prepare for the worst, but today get great conditions. As Duncan makes his long way around by van and ferry, Dean and Natali glide over to ‘Nishinoshima’, and disembark just 8km further north. While they are still on their own, they visit a tiny shrine, make a prayer and then hurl themselves off the pier. Nothing could stop them now! Duncan soon arrived and Natali and Dean swim back to shore. They quickly head to a local fish restaurant to catch lunch. Fish was the obvious choice, and an eyeball in Dean’s soup made it quite the entertaining meal! From the restaurant they headed to the ‘Matengai Cliffs’, a famous area of the islands, for it’s natural rock formations. The most famous formation is the ‘Tsutenkyo Arch’ and the ‘Candle Rock’, which appears to light up when the sun sets over the rock stack each evening. Dean and Natali enjoy the walk, discovering an abandoned building filled with marine debris, arranged as artwork. There are also free-range half wild cows and horses that roam on the lands here. As they make their way to top of the cliffs, they find a wild horse and approach it. Not in the mood for company, the horse spins around, shows it’s back, and kicks. Duncan and Dean are quick to move but Natali gets caught by a glancing blow. In an effort to help her get to safety, Dean decides to sing to the horses, while Natali returns to the van to rest. After 50 days of adventure, somehow it had come down to just two standing. They chat about the ‘Soul of Japan’, watching the sun go down on their final day. In the evening they grab a local bottle of sake and head to the beach. A fire is lit, and as they cook marshmallows and knock back the sake, they realize this journey has now, finally, come to an end.