From the very beginning it seemed like the Hunters underestimated Sonja and Elerrina, who managed to stay one step ahead of them for quite some time. While other teams were roughing it, fighting off paranoia and living it tough, these fugitives made time for cocktails, spa baths and some much needed down time.
But the pair — who met at a watermelon eating contest — weren’t just kicking back for the whole experience, and had put in plenty of planning to ensure that, while they were on the run, they were having the best time.
“To get those periods where we were able to chill with a cocktail we had to be really nimble and fast on our feet, chop and change who we were using and where we were going,” Sonja told 10 play.
“What you don’t see throughout all of it are our strategies, being quick on our feet, being able to call on our resources so, when we got to those places, we were able to take a breath and have a little fun,” she continued. “That was really important to us, to be able to have a little fun and make it a good experience.”
While Elerrina had a wide network of connections from her time working in regional radio in Victoria, the pair also had sprawling map of people they could contact throughout their time on the run.
“We had way too many people to even be able to use every one,” Elerrina told 10 Play, “We thought for a real, hard, long time about who the best people were to be able to utilise in that time, and we changed them out so many times.”
Aware that the Hunters would be onto her network in the Gippsland area, they rarely called on those people. “We knew if we were going to use any of them, we had to use them at the beginning before [the Hunters] had time to get onto them,” Sonja added.
“Because we had such a vast network between us, one of our strategies was to really bounce around between them so that we were never going from the same network to the same network,” Sonja said. “It made it that much harder to track us.”
Once the Hunters did narrow in on Elerrina’s network, they thought they had a lead — but the pair had already planned for that well in advance.
“Jess from the Makeup Hub was actually one of our decoys,” Elerrina admitted, “it was amazing to see that they did end up going to her because she was major in the way of going around as a decoy and setting things off for us.
“She took our EFTPOS cards to go get money out and planted some stuff in other areas, she was a major part of our game,” she continued.
In a ruthless attempt to flush the pair out of hiding, the Hunters even posed as Sonja’s dogsitter, sending a known connection — Leroy — a concerned message about her dog.
“He didn’t even know Sonja,” Elerrina laughed.
“That was a mess-up on the Hunters’ part and, honestly, had they contacted somebody else that was closer to me it would have been a lot more devastating,” Sonja said, “it was just really fortunate that the Hunters messed up and contacted Leroy.
Having specifically never connected with Leroy, Sonja quickly figured that the message was indeed a ploy by the Hunters.
“I remember saying if they had said it was my dog that would have made more sense because Leory was my contact,” Elerrina said, adding, “we may have fallen for it then, who knows?!”
While the pair seemed to have everything planned out, they both admitted that from the moment they got off the boat the paranoia of being chased set in immediately.
“We also had a situation where El felt like she pulled her butt muscle and we had to slow it down,” Sonja said as the pair laughed. “Luckily we had also planned, when we got off the boat, to try and blend in and not look like two people off the boat running.
“But we were so scared the whole time, we thought at any moment Hunters could have jumped on the tram with us, been right behind us,” Sonja continued.
“As you get further into it, I know there were times I forgot what we were actually doing,” Elerrina said. “We were so relaxed, I was forgetting we were actually on the run, and then we’d go back to paranoia, it was a weird feeling!”
“We had the most wonderful people helping us and I think we got a sense of community, a sense of love and a sense of people wanting to take care of us and making sure we were okay,” Sonja added, “so many people were beautiful and we really felt the love.”
Despite losing the Hunters in their vast network of connections, one slip up may have cost them everything, as Elerrina explained they never planned to stay anywhere longer than 24 hours.
“We changed that plan and stayed with Benny an extra night,” she said. “We knew we may be stuffing up but I think we just got comfortable and went off our strategy and what we had been doing the entire time.”
“It’s almost like we let ourselves down more than the Hunters caught us,” Sonja agreed. “I feel like they got lucky. We were worn out and we deviated from our plan that had been working, keeping us one step ahead of them and they got a lucky break.”
In one of the most tense captures of the season so far, the pair were completely unaware of the trap that had been set for them as Benny drove them back to his house one night. With one ground hunter literally laying in a ditch waiting for Benny to pull into his driveway, he began to sprint towards the car before they had time to realsie what was going on.
“We could hear him going, ‘Elerrina, Elerrina!’ But we had no idea who it was and I don’t think for a split second we thought, ‘Oh yeah that could be a Hunter!’” Elerrina said.
“And it was at night, we couldn’t see anything and we just heard somebody,” Sonja continued. “When somebody’s yelling your name your first instinct usually is like, oh it’s somebody that we know! And… It kind of was?”
With their time on the run coming to a crashing, sudden halt, the pair said it was a lot to process and they went through an absolute roller coaster of emotions.
“It was a really weird, heavy moment of processing,” Sonja said. “As soon as you have the opportunity to escape and run off that boat [your adrenaline] is just going.
“Even in times of cheersing by the pool your mind is still racing. You’re still thinking, what have we done? What have we done to cover that? What are we going to do next, was that the right move? Is this the right move?
“It was the first time, all of a sudden, we didn’t have any of those thoughts running around in our brain because we didn’t have to plan,” Sonja continued. “Everything was very, very still for a little while and we were conflicted. We were grateful for the experience but also so upset that we were hunted down and didn’t get to be winners at the end, because that’s what we went into this to do.”
Elerrina agreed, adding that the emotions all came rushing back as the pair watched the season go to air. “Episode six brought back all the feelings and memories that we had when we filmed it,” she explained. “For a couple of days after that I was still crying every now and then thinking about it. It’s weird that it brings back all those feelings.”
The pair’s meticulous planning even covered off what would happen in those rare stressful times when they may butt heads or become stressed out with each other.
“We had spoken about that at length before we went on the show to be like, what do we do if this happens?” Elerrina said. “We went through what we would do, and I’m so glad we did because we were able to come out of this a lot stronger, I feel.”
“I agree,” Sonja jumped in, “we didn’t want highly stressful moments and situations to get in the way of our friendship or our time on the run… I knew we were going to come out closer, but I don’t think I realised how close.
“I’ll never have that experience with anybody else, and I’m so happy El was by my side through this.”
“Now I’m going to cry again,” Elerrina added as the pair laughed.
Though their time on the run was all about covering their tracks and staying as far off the Hunters’ radars as possible, Sonja and Elerrina did leave behind what El described as their “calling card”.
“We had pictures of us eating watermelons,” Sonja explained, “we left them as thanks to everybody that we could that helped us.
“We knew that the Hunters could potentially be onto that but it was really important to us to leave those thanks. There are pictures of us eating watermelon spread out all around Victoria now!”
Hunted continues Sunday - Tuesday at 7.30 on 10 and 10 Play