As the first golden sunbeams of 2017 hit me, I knew something was wrong. My pillow was the unforgiving concrete of the gutter outside the pub, and my pants were awash with a mixture of urine and vomit of unknown origin. I clutched my throbbing head and felt no hair there, and had painful flashbacks to a New Years Eve spent partying with a gang of violent skinheads who had initiated me into their deranged cult.
My mate Scotty pulled his car into the street just as I was stumbling to my feet and asked me if I wanted to go paragliding. I realised I had to get my shit together, and the only way to do that was by heading to the tiny Victorian village of Corryong and throwing myself off a giant hill with nothing but a glorified plastic bag to save me. Five minutes later we were heading for the border, leaving the skinheads far behind us.
A few hours later we were about nine miles from Gundagai, and I was reminded of the shithouse Aussie poem of the same name. It’s about a dog who takes a crap on some bloke’s lunch and then he eats it (the lunch, that is, not the dog), and surely only attained popularity due to a severe lack of entertainment options during the 1800s. The statue of the infamous dog on the tucker box is absolutely rubbish. In a country full of giant roadside bananas and gargantuan pineapples, a lifesize dog statue fails to impress. I’ve seen actual dogs, and they move around and lick their balls and everything, so a crappy statue was never going to get my blood pumping.
To make things worse for the dopey dog, it’s completely overshadowed by a massive koala that’s only 100 metres down the road. This big fella – who is apparently known as Kip – took my broken heart and rebuilt it with love, welcoming me into his colossal arms. I truly felt at peace whilst being cradled by that mammoth marsupial. Of course, Scott became jealous of my blossoming relationship with Kip and stormed off to sit in the car until I was ready to leave several hours later.
After a teary farewell, I reluctantly climbed back into the car and we continued on our way. I thought Kip would text me, but he didn’t, and it was with tears in my eyes that we stopped at the site of the Southern Cloud air crash. Eight people died in 1931 when an Avro 618 Ten was blown wildly off-course and smashed into the Snowy Mountains, disappearing without a trace. The wreckage wasn’t discovered until 1958, when some bloke accidentally stepped on what was left of the plane’s wing.
As a darkly humorous aside, a fella named Stan Baker was booked on the fateful flight, but cancelled at the last minute, and consequently developed a lifelong fear of flying. Twenty years later, he finally plucked up the courage to step aboard a plane – which crashed shortly after take-off, killing him and everyone else onboard. I hoped that all this airborne tragedy wasn’t an omen for my own flying.
An hour later we were cruising into the buzzing metropolis of Khancoban, just outside of Corryong, population 281. Nestled by the shore of a glistening lake in the Snowy Mountains, Khanco is a delightful village from a simpler time. It’s quiet and rustic, and perfectly located for hiking, skiing and other fun activities. Sure, there’s probably a slight history of incest in the region, and some of the local sheep were walking funny, but it really is a very nice place.
We stayed at Khanco Lakeside Caravan Park, which is by the side of the lake. What a coincidence! With almost a dozen pilots and family-of-pilots there, we had the run of the place. Dinner was at the Khancoban Hotel, which is a true step back in time and where a schnitzel is considered exotic effnic food. There were a few good sorts behind the bar and I was raring up for an all-night bender when the place shut down around nine, and I was forced into an early night back at the cabin. But that’s alright, because the next day promised some epic paragliding – and it delivered.