A Stockport specialist physiotherapist and her son decided to take up a new challenge; and found themselves on television, trekking from the top to the bottom of Latin America on a shoestring budget for the BBC’s Race Across the World.
Jo Gardiner and her son Sam were taking part in the new series of BBC TV’s ‘Race Across the World’ which sees pairs of contestants travel great distances across land with no smartphone, internet access or credit cards, and with only the equivalent price of a one way air fare to survive. The new series, which has now begun, sees the contestants travel from Mexico City, down to the city which is farthest south in the world; Ushuaia in Argentina.
Jo, 55, is a physiotherapist who has been caring for patients in both Stepping Hill Hospital and the Stockport community for over 26 years. As an MSK (musculoskeletal) specialist, she sees orthopaedic patients, including those who have had hip and knee replacements, and those who require steroid injections. Stockport NHS Foundation Trust’s hip and knee replacement care was recently rated amongst the best in the country. Jo’s son Sam is 19, and they live together in the district of Gatley in Stockport.
Jo is a much valued carer and colleague who has had to face many personal challenges in her life, including diabetes and other health problems. Sam has his own challenges with ADHD.
After enjoying last year’s series of Race Across the World, Jo and Sam decided to take on a new challenge and apply for this year’s series, succeeding against thousands of other applicants in making the final list. Jo first went backpacking 30 years ago, but this would be by far the biggest journey she had ever undertaken.
Other contestants include a brother and sister, an uncle and nephew, and two couples, all competing for the £20,000 prize for arriving at Ushuaia first. The journey tests their skill, ingenuity and determination as they race through some of the world’s most beautiful scenery, form bonds and friendships across cultural divides and rely on the kindness of strangers in order to stand the best chance of winning.
The first episode saw the contestants rush to leave Mexico City. As Sam struggled with the language barrier, Jo took the lead, until an encounter with locals caused them to rethink their route. This route saw them spending some time working on an organic farm; contestants need to spend some time working to make up their financial shortfalls. They went on to come first out of all contestants in the first leg of the journey; arriving first at Copan Ruinas in Honduras.
Jo is sworn to secrecy and cannot reveal whether or not Sam and herself emerged as the winners, or indeed any other events from the journey, but she has said it was an incredible experience. “I loved the first series so I thought why not give it a go, and I’m so glad that I did. Sam and I have a very close relationship and I think that saw us through the harder times. The whole experience was amazing, exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, but in the end rewarding!”
Jo’s colleagues are now eagerly keeping up with her and Sam’s progress as the programme continues. Race Across the World appears on BBC Two 8pm on Sundays.
Image: BBC/Studio Lambert