Feb 3/12


Mantracker is both a show and the star of the show: the man pictured here. I've stumbled onto lots of episodes; I've seen about two from start to finish. I'd watch it more, if I had the time.

The basic premise of the show is a challenge: two guests try to evade Mantracker and reach the finish, which is around 20 to 30 km away through wild country. Mantracker doesn't know the course or where the finish is, but the challengers do. Adding to the challengers' advantage, they get a 2 km head start.

Not knowing where the finish is, Mantracker only has a rough idea of where the challengers are going. To win, he has to find them - and catch them - before they reach the finish.

Mantracker's advantages are that he has a horse and also a guide. The guide knows the country, but not where the finish is.

Having a horse is both an advantage and a disadvantage, from my point of view. I've ridden horses in wild country - not a great deal, but for a few days. Horses can't go some places that a person can, and they really aren't any faster than a person, either. For short distances, they can be, but not over the course of a day. However, watching Mantracker, one advantage of being mounted becomes obvious: his view is always superior because he's so much higher off the ground. Of course, he's more visible for that same reason. Interestingly, he doesn't downplay that, either. He could wear drab or camouflage clothes to be less easily seen, but he wears distinct clothes - such as a deep blue shirt - that make him easy for the quarry to spot and therefore avoid.

The hike to the finish is so long, the challengers can't finish it in one day. The first day usually belongs to them: they start out ahead and quickly increase their lead. However, by the end of that first day, they're tired and they have to camp outside. So does Mantracker.

The overexertion of the previous day - and the discomfort of the setting - starts taking a toll on the challengers the following morning. Mantracker, following his instincts, has picked up their trail by finding their footprints and disturbances they've made. He's behind, but steadily closes in. His instincts about where someone will go when they have to walk through wild country enable him to predict where they must be heading. Knowing where the quarry are heading, Mantracker can stick to open trails while the quarry tries to stay safe by navigating the tough bush. Mantracker's easier, more direct route enables him to eventually cut off the challengers. I've never seen him lose.

The allure of the show is the wilderness setting, which changes with every episode: it can be boreal forest, Southwest desert, BC interior mountains...you name it.

By the way: Mantracker is Canadian.


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