Category Archives: paragliding

Miles High in Manilla

Ask most people about Manilla and they’ll mention streets overflowing with sewage, drug-crazed violence and X-rated ping pong shows. But that’s the Filipino version, and when you mention the name to a paragliding pilot, they’re more likely to talk about epic thermals, heart-stopping collapses and vast distances covered while strapped to a glorified Coles shopping bag. I headed out there for the recent State of Origin comp, and it was ace.

Unidentified individual, Aido, Your Drunken Hero, Tommy the Legend, Matty

For a village of 2300 people that’s right out in the middle of fucking nowhere, Manilla is actually a really nice place. There’s a pretty river, good restaurants and an awesome pub run by Uncle Tommy, who’s a deadset legend. The beer’s cold, the schnitzels are fatter than Rebel Wilson’s arse, and there’s usually a sheila around willing to grab your donk for a bourbon and coke. That first night I got hammered there with Aidan and Matty, a couple of pilots from around my way who prove that not all of the younger generation is adsicted to sending dick pics on their phones and drinking paint for YouTube videos. I think I woke up under a bush.

Shitting myself on launch. I pretended it was the roos

I was feeling dustier than a wombat’s wang the next morning, but I shook off the fog and headed up the hill to join the competition. Conditions were spectacular and, after almost hitting the deck three minutes after launching, I hooked a thermal up to 2600m and started heading north. With a strong southerly I was scooting along at more than 60km/h and picking up lift the whole day, meaning I made it 50.34km before landing – a new personal best! What an awesome way to spend my birthday! Alright, let’s not mention that the Bombastic Bednal Brothers both bested me.

And shitting myself at around 1500 metres. Maybe I have IBS?

I hitched a ride back to the Royal, where I smashed beers and met a swagman who told me he’d once eaten the barman’s pet turtle. I don’t know if he lost a bet or was just hungry, but he seemed pretty pleased with himself. Ah, Manilla is full of characters, which is one reason I love the bush. People rarely acknowledge each other in the cities, but in out-of-the-way places it’s possible to meet a truly facinating person every day of the week. As the sun was setting, things took a turn for the truly bizarre when a highly unusual man walked into the pub wearing a dog as a backpack.

I hope he doesn’t start pissing! And I don’t mean the dog…

When the rest of the gang finally made it back from wherever they’d landed, we hit the sauce hard, celebrating a great day of flying above the beautiful countryside. However, the good mood was soon shattered by a commotion in the beer garden. I raced out there to see a familiar figure brawling with a group of tough-looking locals.

Scotty showing the extent of his dramatic range

Scotty kicked one in the balls, tipped another into a garbage bin, and bonked the third over the head with a chair. With the hard work done, he wiped the gore from his swollen fists, slicked back his glorious mullet and greeted us with his award-winning smile. After being implicated in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa (which was made worse by the fact they weren’t his balls), Scotty had been keeping things low-key, but was now ready to show the paragliding world what he was made of.

“The trophy is mine,” he sneered, swaggering over to a young lady and pinching her on the bottom. “You chumps might as well go home, play with your Barbie doll. Tomorrow I fly 1000 kilometre. Maybe I land on the moon. It depend what I feel like.”

I spent most of the flight watching my wing flutter around like an epileptic chicken… but it served me well!

Unfortunately for Scott, the trophy wasn’t to be his. Later that night he was shot whilst attempting to steal tomato sauce sachets from the local takeaway shop and was unable to compete due to massive blood loss. The rest of us had a great day, flying west in bumpy conditions, with Matt and Aiden smashing their personal bests (and well and truly outflying me), whilst some other pilots pushed out towards Narabri. I landed next to some sort of dorky-looking horse thing.

Me and popular television homosexual Josh Thomas

The first two days were good, but it was the third day that separated the priests from the boys (or however that saying goes). The conditions were difficult, with weak thermals and a tough launch, and I again found myself heading for the bombout within minutes. I was only metres from the ground when I finally found some lifty air and climbed up to 2000 metres. That was enough for me to get going, and I spent the next three hours scratching away for any height I could get, and slowly crabbing north. By the time I made it to Barraba some of the boys were already pissed at the local bowlo, so I prepared to land and get on the cans. But a rogue thermal carried me away, and I ended up landing 48km from launch – putting me in the top 10 for the day. Best of all, the rest of the boys did so well that we ended up finishing fifth out of, I dunno, let’s say 1000 teams. And let’s not mention that Aido and Matt’s team beat us.

Eleven of the coolest people you could ever hope to meet at launch, a dog, and a gatecrasher in the middle

I touched down next to a bull who looked like he either wanted to fight me or fuck me, so I bundled up and jumped over a barbed wire fence. Once back at the bowlo, I proceeded to get epically smashed, and we all ended up back at Tom’s that night for bulk drinks. I was stoked with my performance – 120km over three days was more than I could’ve hoped for – and happy to have spent a long weekend with some great people. The next morning I jumped back in my glider and launched from Mount Borah one more time. I went up and up and up, before heading east. Over the mountains, over the beaches, over the oceans, until I landed somewhere very interesting indeed…

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Bright ‘n’ Beautiful!

With a sunny name like Bright, it’s obvious that this tiny Victorian village is a pretty happy place. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a Mecca for cyclists, hikers, skiiers and paragliders from around the world. I can barely keep a bike upright, walking uphill makes my legs hurt, and snow makes my pee-pee shrink, so I went there to get some epic flying in – and it was mission complete as far as I’m concerned.

Most paragliding hotspots are in the middle of nowhere and infested with buck-toothed inbreds, so I was shocked to discover that Bright is a lovely cluster of houses in the mountains. Honestly, the place looks like it was built with postcards in mind. With so many adventure sports calling it home, there are no shortage of pubs, restaurants and awesome little shops to explore. It’s a picturesque spot that’s worth a visit even if you don’t like jumping or sliding or riding off high things.

There are a thousand incredible hikes through the Alps that surround the town, but if you’re not that adventurous (or have to be ready to fly at midday, like me) the Canyon Walk is a pretty special way to spend an hour or so. It starts near themain street and follows the bubbling Ovens River for a few kilometres, passing old gold mines and crossing dodgy suspension bridges. The best thing is that no point of it is far from one of Bright’s great pubs, so if the stroll gets boring, you can go and sink piss till you pass out.

The number of cashed-up tourists who pass through Bright means that there are bucketloads of attractions to check out, with local wine tours and the epic Wandiligong Maze being highlights. Seriously, that thing is massive, so take a packed lunch or stop off at the well-stocked cafe outside before you enter. There also seems to be a bit of action in the public toilets after dark, according to this hastily-scribbled sign. I slipped my pecker under the wall, but the fella in the next stall just threatened to step on it.

The exquisitely-landscaped water park and picnic area that straddles the river is very close to town and popular with people of all ages. It’s the perfect place to cool down on a hot day, with diving boards and splishy-splashy water jets, and the massive slippery dip that descends into the cooling water is plenty of fun. Just watch out, because I saw a sicko weeing (or should that be Wheen-ing?) onto it, so don’t be surprised if it’s a bit sticky.

I was there to do a fly, and it really is a fucking great place to go paragliding (and you don’t need to have experience – there are plenty of companies that would love to take you for a tandem). Mystic Mountain looms large over the town, and has a brilliant launch out over the valley. It’s a world-class place to get high, and with clear blue skies and plenty of thermals popping everywhere, I couldn’t wait to chuck myself off the hill and see what would happen.

Bright looks great from the ground, but the best view of this quaint mountain hamlet is from 2000m up in the air, while strapped to a lawn chair and a glorified plastic bag. There were a few bumps here and there, and I was so scared I almost cried at one point, but I’ve gotta say the flying in Bright is sensational. People come from around the world to explore the skies above Bright, and I met people with all sorts of funny accents up on launch. If you’re the sort of nutter who enjoys paragliding, you need to check it out.

I had four unreal days sailing through the sky, and really improved my skills and blasted through my expectations. The gang I of scoundrels I was with all managed impressive flights, too. I even made it over to the nearby township of Harritville a few times. There’s a really nice pub there, so I wasn’t going to land short, was I? Bright surprised me with its stunning good looks and wide range of things to see and do (and drink). I’m proud of my achievements in the air, and I’m already counting down the days until I return to this unreal patch of Australia. Although I might have one or two places to visit before then…

WHERE: Bright, Victoria. 321km north of Melbourne, in the heart of the majestic Ovens Valley

WHAT’S THERE? A huge mountain to hike up, cycle down, or paraglide off. A delightful river. A picture-perfect town full of restaurants, pubs and kooky little shops

IF YOU’RE THIRSTY: Even a blind bloke could find a pub there, but I recommend the Alpine – the food’s grouse

AND IF YOU’RE STILL HUNGRY: There’s a top pie shop near the Alpine. I think they even provide free sauce

WHAT ARE THE WOMENFOLK LIKE? During ski season the joint is crawling with good sorts, but it can be slim pickings outside of that time. In Autumn, when people descend on the town to see the leaves change, you could probably pick up a granny pretty easily

FUN FACT: The town was originally known as Schittsville, but the name was changed to Bright to appeal to tourists. It was probably a good decision

Byron Bay Blues

Byron Bay was once the land of hippies and burnouts, but these days it’s better known for multi-million-dollar properties and overpriced drinks. Despite this drastic change it remains a beautiful place, and the gang and I thought it would be the perfect place to party after a week spent in sleepy ol’ Rainbow, where everything closes before 8pm. Little did I know that our detour into the popular beachside village would lead to rivers of blood and unspeakable violence. And some people reckon that flying is the most dangerous part of a paragliding trip!

Dunno who the prick in the middle is

It was getting late by the time we rocked up, so Hamster, Phil, Asian Scotty, Round-Eye Scotty and I raced up to the Beach Hotel to glug back some uber-expensive beers while checking out the totty on offer. If you’re not wearing a three-piece suit there you’re underdressed, so we wobbled up to the nearby Rails Hotel, which was overflowing with backpackers, tradies, surfers and other troublemakers. My memory gets a bit fuzzy at this point, because we were throwing down Coopers Red as if our guts were on fire, but I think we went to the Great Northern Hotel, and ended up at Woodies Surf Shack, which is located in the Woolies carpark. Top place, Byron – where else could you get a good deal on Tim Tams and a lapdance off a 21-year-old Canadian in the same place?

Can you spot Hamster chundering in the corner?

I was waiting for a big-titted French maiden to return from the bar with my pina colada when I heard a commotion outside and, fearing the worst, raced out to the carpark.
“What’s going on?” I asked Phil.

“It’s Scotty,” he gasped. “He’s punching on with the bouncers.”

“Big deal. He’s a career criminal and one of the most violent people I know. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t having a fight.”

“No, not the Asian Scotty – I mean Round-Eye Scotty. Y’know, the bloke who’s spent the whole trip reading books on Spanish history and learning the moves to the Macarena. Apparently they caught him pissing in the corner of the club and he flipped out when the bouncers told him to stop. He started slapping their faces, so now they’re kicking the crap out of him. I think I just saw one of his eyeballs pop out of kiss skull.”

“They might I have to call him One-Eye Scotty from now on,” I smirked, and someone slapped me a high five.

Round-Eye Scotty (left) gets knocked the fuck out by an enraged bouncer (right) as Hamster (centre) looks on in horror

The bouncers eventually scraped what was left of Round-Eye Scotty off the concrete and handed him over to the police, who didn’t know whether to arrest him or bury him. As the broken shell of a man was taken away in the cop car, we all joined together for a hearty rendition of, ‘You’re going home in the back of a divvy van’ and then returned to the bar for more beers.

I swear I took this photo, and didn’t just download it off the internets

I woke up behind an Otto bin a few hours later, and when I finally made it back to the hostel the others were ready to leave. Hamster sheepishly told me that he’d pissed his last pair of clean shorts and would have to go home, so he gave me a soppy hug and started walking back to Perth. That just left me, Phil and Asian Scotty to continue on to Laurieton, with dreams of epic paragliding spinning around in our minds. But on the way, there was something big that we just couldn’t miss…

Look at all that potassium!

That’s right, the most a-PEEL-ing roadside attraction in the world, and one that promises a whole BUNCH of fun, the Big Fuckin’ Banana! Built in 1964 and longer than Mandingo’s meat rocket, the Banana is undoubtedly the most famous Big Thing around. More than one million fascinated tourists gape in awe at it every year, and I’m happy to say that the freakish fruit is looking better than ever (unlike the poor bloody Big Cow). There are new attractions there, such as a water park and a giant slippery dip, making it the perfect place for a fun day out.

He was asking for it

Our afternoon was set to become decidedly un-PG, however. Phil, Scotty and I were enjoying banana smoothies and banana jam sandwiches when a group of attractive blonde backpackers walked over to stare in wonder at the banana. In turn, I stared in wonder at the blonde backpackers. Scotty, however, took things a step too far.
“Hey lady, if you want big banana, I have one in my pant,” he crooned, whilst thrusting his groin at them. “OK, it no so big, but it yellow and taste funny, so why you no give it a try?” We left before there were any further arrests.

Being able to see where you’re flying is for pooftahs

We finally made it to Laurieton at dusk, and raced off to Southeast Bonnie Hills to see if we could get a fly in. The sun was down and it was getting dark quick, but the wind was good, so we set off. After a week of frustration, it was incredible to get back up in the air. In fact, it was so good that, after landing in the pitch dark and drinking ourselves stupid, we got back into it the next day. Beautly, it was even better when I could see where I was going! SE Bonnies was the first site I ever flew back when I was on my course, and it was ace to get another crack at it now that I’m (slightly) more experienced.

Mr Handsome 😍

That night, we were enjoying some well-earned beers while watching the sunset, when we received the news that Round-Eye Scotty had been brutally raped in prison and had died of extensive rectal haemorhaging. Asian Scotty started pissing himself; “He no even the one who was pissing in nightclub!” he guffawed. “It was me, but I blame him so that bouncer bash him. My plan work so well, I so smart. Please hand me party pie.” But in more important news, I beat Phil in a game of Jenga! All in all, it was a fantastic week, and my condolences go out to Round-Eye Scotty’s family.

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

After being amazed by the Sunshine Coast’s plethora of giant roadside attractions, it was always going to be a big ask for Rainbow Beach to wow me. Really, what’s the point of looking for wonderment when you’ve already been spoiled by a pelican the size of a VW Beetle? Rainbow Beach was more than up to the task, however, by providing an astonishing paragliding experience that ranks right up there with the very best I’ve ever had.

I really like corn chips

Hamster was almost sober by the time I rolled him out of the car near launch, and before long we were standing atop the formidable sand dunes that rise high above the sparkling beach. A few locals were dancing through the skies and enjoying the five kilometres of flyable coastline, so Hamster and I slapped each other a high-five and started unpacking our gliders. That’s when I heard a familiar, if not entirely welcome, voice coming through the sand.

Here’s a potential Tinder profile pic

“Hello you guy, it me, Scott!” I looked back to see a heavily-tattooed Asian with a flowing black mullet stumbling down the sand dunes. I was shocked to see Scott because the last I’d heard, he was embroiled in the Hollywood sexual misconduct scandal and had gone underground. Hamster pulled out a knife but I told him to relax – Scott has killed men for looking at him the wrong the way, and if Hamster wound up dead I’d probably have to pay his share of the rental car.

Scott strikes his iconic pose

“This my friend, he also name Scott,” Scott said, gesturing towards a handsome, charismatic gentleman standing next to him. “But he no Asian, so we call he Round-Eye Scott. We meet in prison – he there to teach us about God, me there for attempted genocide. Now we best friend, whether he like it or not. I will kill Round-Eye Scott if he ever leave me.” Scott, Round-Eye Scott, Hamster, Mel and Phil ‘Don’t Call Me Dean’ Wheen and I unpacked our gliders, strapped them on, and headed out for a life-affirming airborne adventure.

Bye bye, sun

Rainbow Beach has a glowing reputation within the paragliding community, and there’s a reason that it’s a place of pilgrimage for many pilots. The tropical scenery is stunning, and the gently curving dunes allow for plenty of height and kilometres to explore. We launched late, as the sun was already sinking towards the horizon, but we made sure to get the most out of the unreal conditions. We flew until we couldn’t see anymore, before landing out the front of the surf club and ducking in for a few well-earned beers.

Our home away from home

And then we had some well-earned beers back at our beach bungalow we were staying at, and a few more at the local pub, before ending up in a backpackers’ hostel watching sunburnt Poms squabble about their rapidly diminishing supplies of goon. They’d purchased 13 five-litre casks for their impending three-day trip to Fraser Island and were getting stuck into their supplies early, which was causing all sorts of trouble. When a deadbeat northern lass with a face tattoo accidentally knocked over half a plastic cup of Berri’s finest, I thought World War III was about to start.

The Hamster in his natural environment: a state of drunkwn stupor

“Fuckin’ hell, if I wanted to listen to this shit I would’ve stayed at home in ‘uddersfield,” lamented Hamster, before skolling another beer and pissing himself. Scott let me know that he’d had enough by kicking a hole in the hostel’s wall and threatening to murder everybody, so I bundled the reprobates I call my mates out into the night and called the only person I could think of to pick us up – Round-Eye Scott, who doesn’t drink, smoke, take drugs or even listen to music with swear words in it. As I dragged a drunken Hamster and a psychotic Scott into the car and looked back at the hostel, which was being torn apart by the penny-pinching Poms, I couldn’t help but think how nice Round-Eye was by comparison. Unfortunately, I was about to find out that every rose has a thorn, and that Round-Eye Scott has a very dark secret.

Round-Eye Scott is sweeter than the ripest pineapple

Big in Queensland

After a month spent fending off sleet and snow in the depths of Siberia, I was paler than Beetlejuice’s arsehole and in desperate need of some Vitamin D, so I headed to the Sunshine Coast for a paragliding trip with my mates. As soon as I stepped off the plane at Maroochydore, I was met by glorious rays of sunshine that felt like a drug to me. I was also greeted to a scene that will remain with me until my final days; my mate Hamster was being pushed through the terminal in a wheelchair, with a can of beer in his hand and chunky vomit on his shirt. His pants were around his ankles and he had obviously soiled himself on the long flight from Perth to Queensland.

The airport staffer dumped him outside the front doors, and I somehow managed to drag Hamster to his feet. “Hey brother, how the fuck did I get here?” he asked in his distinctive northern English accent, before taking another slurp of his beer. “The last thing I remember, I was enjoying a few quiet drinkies while waiting for my flight. Mind you, I did get to the airport 15 hours early, so maybe it was more than a few. Come on, gimme a kiss and let’s go flying.”

Hamster was in no state to walk down the street, let alone pilot an aircraft (a point he emphasised by attempting to urinate on a street sign, only to collapse into his own bubbling pool of piss), so I loaded him into the hire car and tried to think of something to keep him occupied until he sobered up. Southeast Queensland is home to more Big Things (giant roadside attractions, like The Big Golden GuitarThe Big Axe and The Big Koala) than any other region on the planet, and I figured they’d amuse a simple mind like his for a few hours. “Hey Hamster,” I said, “how would you like to see the biggest pineapple around?” “How big is it?” “Big enough to live in!” “Sure matey, as long as I can get a beer, I couldn’t care if we went to Julia Gillard’s undie drawer. Lead the way!”

With Hamster singing 5,6,7,8 by Steps the whole way, we somehow survived the 20 minute drive out to The Big Pineapple at Nambour. Its 16 metres tall, so it’s a fair bit larger than any pineapples you’d find at Coles, and I was mightily impressed as we pulled into the carpark. As Hamster poured himself out of the car and crawled towards the fiberglass fruit, I had flashbacks to my visit to South Africa’s own Big Pineapple just a few months earlier.

I’m a proud Aussie and reckon we have the beautest roadside attractions on the planet, but I’ve gotta say that the Saffas have trumped us on this one. The Queensland version is a lot smaller than the one I visited in Bathurst, Eastern Cape – it’s shorter and thinner than the competition, like Kevin Rudd’s penis. The South African version has also never been used as a toilet by Hamster, so it’s got that going for it.

Hamster wasn’t close to sober yet, so I drove him up the road to The Big Cow. A major tourist attraction for decades, the behemoth bovine has been left abandoned for years, and these days is looking a bit sad. I guess you could say the rest of the world has moo-ved on, but you’d be milking it. The site the cow sits on has been converted into some sort of halfway house for druggos and drunks, who were loitering around, arguing with each other and exposing their privates. Hamster thought it looked like a great time, so I had to chuck him back in the car and get him out of there. Unfortunately, he managed to slam his penis in the car door, and rushed off to a bush to make sure it was alright.

I thought that would sober him up, but it didn’t, so I climbed behind the wheel again and drove us up to the quaint seaside village of Noosa. The town is renowned for its lovely restaurants and laid-back vibe, but I had my sites on something a bit grander – The Big Pelican! Known to locals as Percy, he was originally built as a parade float back in the 70s, and has lived a colourful life ever since. He’s lived in various locations, and even spent a spell at the bottom of the sea after falling off a pontoon. The locals still trot him out during street parades, and his wings and beak are able to flap – he’s quite a suave chap!

“I was hopin’ there’d be some good-lookin’ birds up here,” Hamster slurred, before sneaking up behind poor old Percy and trying to hump him from behind. I dragged him away before a group of angry fishermen could bash his brains in for molesting the treasured symbol of their district. I was running out of options to keep Hamster entertained, but there was still one very large, very famous attraction that we could visit.

Matilda the Kangaroo melted our hearts at the opening ceremony of the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, when she was wheeled out in front of a capacity crowd and circled the stadium winking at awe-struck sports fans. But that was just the start of her love affair with the people of Queensland, because after the Games she found a permanent home at the Wet ‘n’ Wild water park, where she remained until behind pulled down in the early 2000s. The big, beautiful woman was forgotten about until 2009, when she was relocated to the Matilda service station at Kybong in 2009.

Standing 13-metres tall, Matilda is still an impressive sight, and is in remarkably good shape for such an old lass. Hamster, however, was not impressed. “That fuckin’ kangaroo’s lookin’ at me,” he bellowed, before walking up to Matilda’s mammoth left foot. “You want some, cunt? I’ll fuckin’ smash ya!” With that, Hamster started punching and kicking Tilly, who didn’t bat an eyelid (possibly because the mechanism in her head that causes her to wink has long since worn out). After 30 seconds, Hamster collapsed to the ground, his knuckles torn to the bone. He sobbed for a minute or two, obviously wondering where it all went wrong, then something came over him and he looked at me with remarkably clear eyes.

“Right, I think I’ve bled out all the alcohol,” he chirped, climbing to his feet. “Let’s go for a fly, or do you want to stand here all day, staring at this big idiot?” And that, my friends, is how Hamster and I made our way to the remote paragliding site of Rainbow Beach – and one of the best days of flying anybody could ever ask for.

An Intimate Close Up of a Street Punk in Candidasa

The three weeks I’ve spent in Candidasa have been more fun that a barrel full of greased-up monkeys. Apart from the 25 hours spent cruising the clear, blue skies of Bali, my days and nights have been filled with heavy drinking, good eating, frantic dancing, mesmerising snorkelling, brutal violence and even a touch of romance (and I’m not just talking about the blossoming man-love between Hamster and Alan).

Candiasa is a truly incredible corner of the world, and it’s a place where I’ve experienced a lot of growth and change over the past year. High above the temples, jungles, beaches and monkeys, I finally felt that I was getting somewhere with my flying. Closer to the ground, I built friendships with people from around the world and from all sorts of backgrounds. From mad doctors to sex-obsessed musicians, and lesbian pilots to conspiracy theorists, Candi is a meeting place for all sorts of wonderful weirdos.

If you’re a fan of paragliding or diving, Candi is your idea of paradise, but it’s a wonderful destination for anyone who just wants to hang out and watch life go sliding on by. Just grab an icy cold Bintang, sit under a tree, and chill out. Have a wank if you want to, nobody will care. Buy a pair of sunglasses from street hawker Eric when he comes round, too – he’s trying to send three kids to private school, you know.

If you’ve been following my adventures over the past three years, you’ll know I have a tendency to fall for attractive European ladies and subsequently change my life plans in order to follow them to the ends of the Earth. I’m happy to say that it’s happened again, and I will be joining the lovely Lena in Moscow in a few weeks time. I’m a handsome bloke, but I’m definitely the ugmo in this relationship; I guess she’s just happy to meet someone who doesn’t wear imitation Adidas tracksuits and smash cinder blocks with his bare hands.

As for Alan and Hamster, they’ve finally succumbed to their burning lust for each other, and have become lovers. I wish they’d waited until I was out of the room to consumate their relationship, but I guess a few years of therapy and binge drinking will help me forget the sight of their aggressive romping. Honestly, it looked like two wombats fighting over a tennis ball. Last I heard, they’re moving to Newtown together to open yogurt shop. I wish them all the best, even if their brand of love is a violent one.

The Hamster Rides Again

After a few weeks spent tearing up the skies above Nusa Dua and keeping the fine folks who brew Bintang in business, Alan and I packed up our gliders and headed to the gorgeous Balinese village of Candidasa to continue our adventure. Within minutes of hitting town we were up on the hill, launching out over the sparkling ocean. Alright, I went into a tree first, but after a while I managed a half-decent launch and climbed into the sky. As a flying site, Candi is one of the best of the planet. With a 400m cliff jutting out of the water, it’s easy to rise to 700 or 800 metres, which offers not only a top view but the option to practice all sorts of fun stuff like wingovers and spirals without worrying about splatting into the ground. It’s an awesome spot, and I was stoked to be able to test my new-found skills and experience at a place where, just one year ago, I was terrified to fly. Al and I landed after a few hours and raced back to our luxurious hotel, the Puri Oka, to have sex with each other meet up with the notorious Richard ‘The Hamster’ Ham, who blazed a path of destruction through Candidasa last year. A big fan of a good knee-up and known to get legless at any opportunity, I couldn’t wait to smash a bucket bucketload of Bintangs with him. Hamster’s the sort of bloke you’d expect to find swigging metho-and-Fanta cocktails and shitting in his neighbour’s letterbox, so I was surprised when he sashayed into the Puri Oka wearing clown pants and carrying a yoga mat under one heavily-tattooed arm. “Point me towards the nearest gluten-free lentil burger, and then I’m going to re-align my chakra in the spirt dojo upstairs,” he lisped, while Al and I exchanged astonished glances. “Oh, and from now on you can call me Ocean. The power of my positivity ebbs and flows across the planet.” I thought he was taking the piss, but Hamster did indeed order a bland, salad-stuffed meal, while lambasting Al and I for tucking into chips and schnitzels. As he continued to dribble on about healthy diets and the power of positivity, I couldn’t help feeling like I’d lost a mate and gained a hippy imbecile. When he started praising the Black Lives Matter movement and passionately talking about the importance of gay marriage, I realised I had to put my foot down. I ordered three large Bintangs, hoping Hamster would have one and return to form, but I was left heartbroken.

“I’ll have a glass of tap water, served at room temperture, but only if it’s been sourced ecologically,” he minced, before looking up an astology app on his phone. Al and I decided we’d seen enough, and took matters into our own hands. Al, a former professional wrestler (under the name Balls Sackington), took Hamster down and prised his mouth open. “I abhor violence!” Hamster tried to splutter, but I stepped over him and poured a full bottle of Bintang into his mouth. From the way he shook and struggled, you’d think I’d poured acid down his throat. The effect, however, was just what I’d hoped for. As soon as he calmed down, Hamster reached into his pants, scratched his balls, perved at a hot chick walking by in a bikini, and told me to get him another fuckin’ beer or he’d smash me. He had a couple of icy cold Bintangs in his hands within seconds, and was soon on his way to oblivion. The Hamster was back and better than ever! He started cracking jokes and snapping the bras on any girl who made the mistake of walking past him. We ended up in town at a disco, with Hamster gyrating in an incredibly sensual manner, and he soon worked up such a sweat that he needed to remove his clothes or risk a nasty case of spontaneous human combustion. His disrobing caused girls to rush the dancefloor, and in their lustful rage they managed to tear all of my clothes off, too. They left my undies on for reasons I can’t quite explain, so try to overlook that obvious loophole in my story. I swear this is true, though. Anyway, long story short, after I boned half a dozen babes and Hamster resisted because he’s gay a happily married man, we needed to rehydrate, so we swaggered over to the nearest Alfamart for a drink. “Oh no, not you fuckwits again,” said the little bloke behind the counter, recalling a similar incident 12 months earlier that almost got us kicked out of Indonesia. “But what happen to the one of you? Weren’t you a fat cunt last time? But this other man with the tattoo, he is still sexy. I dream of him every night.” We managed to get the shop assistant to stop wanking for long enough to take our photo, then raced out of there before we could be arrested. As we hurtled down the street, we saw Al arm-wrestling a lesbian and dragged him home with us, leaving the locals of Candidasa wondering which Hindu god they’d pissed off enough to deserve another visit from the Flying Hamster.

Thelma and Louise Go Flying

If there’s a more inspirational film than the 1991 classic Thelma & Louise, I’m yet to see it. The tale of two lesbians who smoke some poor bloke and then travel all over the place in a fancy car before driving it off a cliff provides lessons that we should all live by. Also, Geena Davis was pretty hot back then. So when Al, who looks a little like Geena in the right light, asked me to fly into uncharted territory with him, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

We were cruising around above Pandawa Beach, when the wind shifted south and we realised we could start edging further and further around the bottom of the Balinese coast. Kilometres of rugged and remote beaches lay begging to be explored, and before long we found ourselves cruising through uncharted territory. The height we found was extraordinary, and it was exciting to escape from the restraints of the popular flying sites.

It’s a beautiful part of the world, with shear cliffs topped by million-dollar houses and exclusive resorts. Bikini-clad babes looked up from their expensive cocktails to watch us float by, most likely hoping that we would land nearby and pop in for a shag. But Al and I had eyes only for each other the end of the island, so we kept pushing forward. There were a few dodgy moments, but we stuck together and made it work.

“How far are we going to go?” I asked, my voice trembling.

“To the end of the world, baby,” came the unwavering reply. “To the end of the world… together.” The landscape became even wilder and more amazing as we swept past stunning beaches and misty mountains. Finally, we reached the headland that marked the start of Uluwatu, on the western coast of the island. We’d made it as far as two brave pilots could ever hope, and swung around to start the long, slow slog back to launch. The sun was fading and the headwind was powerful, but we knew we could make it.

Unfortunately, just like in Thelma & Louise, this story was not to have a happy ending. Coming back around a monstrous headland, we ran into wild rotor that threw us around and sent us scuttling towards the beach hundreds of metres below.

“Looks like we’re going down on each other,” Al called over the radion.

“Don’t you mean we’re going down together?” I asked, sure that he’d simply made a linguistic fuck up.

“Erm, yes, I guess that’s it,” he replied slimily.

I fluttered to the ground next to an ancient shipwreck, and looked around at a beach seemingly untouched by the hand of man.

I was packing up my gear and wondering how the hell I’d get out of there, when a funny little man wearing oven mitts climbed out of a nearby bush and started talking to me in broken Engrish. I thought he was a local hobo and was about to brush him, when I noticed he was plucking his wing out of a nearby bush. He introduced himself as Lee, from Japan, and an instant bond was formed between us. I saw him as a mentor; he saw me as the son he’d never had.

Even though our landing spot was as remote as the chances of Penny Wong taking out the next Miss Universe competition, it’s never hard to get a beer in Bali, so Al and I relaxed with a few Bintangs while Lee kicked back with a cocktail served in a coconut, complete with tiny umbrella and extravagant crazy straw to suck it through. It was a surreal vision in such an out-of-the-way spot.

It was fortunate that we rehydrated, because the climb back up the cliff was steep enough to have a Nepalese sherpa calling it quits. When we finally made it to the top we were treated to a (well-deserved) hero’s welcome by the local villagers, who showered us with love and affection and free nasi goreng. It was the best day of my life… until I caught Al and Lee walking out from behind a tree with guilty looks on their faces. I was crushed.

What a fuckin’ day! It was an epic journey and one of the most memorable flights I’ve had. Al and I pushed our limits and tested our skills, and we were rewarded with stunning views and an effort that we can be truly proud of. Every day of flying in Bali is brilliant, but that afternoon spent high above the beaches of southern Bali has to top it all. And after having some time to reflect on what happened, I wish Al and Lee all the best in the future. Keep flying high, you crazy kids.

Chicks dig dudes with exotic tropical diseases, right?

Lake Malawi looks glorious, but shortly after arriving I decided not to swim in it because it’s full of flesh-eating bilharzia parasites. My mind was quickly changed when a decorative 24-year-old Austrian sheila begged me to share a kayak with her for a trip around Thumbi Island. Shit, there’s not much I wouldn’t do for a European stunna in a bikini, so a shortened life expectancy and the likelihood of my intestines squirting out my arsehole in the near future was a small price to pay.

Also along for the ride were Amilcar, a crazy 53-year-old Brazilian and Lucas and Celine, a couple of Germans working at a charity in the wilds of Malawi. All we needed was a Jew and an Irishman and we would’ve had the perfect setup for a joke.

The view from the back of the kayak was fuckin’ excellent (and the scenery wasn’t bad, either), with the wide, open lake giving way to immaculate mountains on every side. The water is crystal clear and as blue as an Aryan child’s eyes, making for a grouse place to splash around and have fun. After strapping my snorkel on and plunging into the sparkling water, I was welcomed into a world of astonishingly colourful cyclid fish, who swam and danced before my eyes.

After that we jumped off some rocks like people on a Coca Cola commercial and lost most of the flippers and snorkels (thus depriving some innocent Malawian dude of his livelihood), before heading back to the beach for about a thousand cheap cocktails. I figure the alcohol in them will kill most of the parasites. I even had a crack at my Austrian friend’s paraglider, and amazed the locals with my groundhandling skills (alright, more like gave them a laugh with my ability to put a wing in a tree).

That night we all headed along to a concert by some local Malawian reggae band called the Black Misionaries at a dive bar in Cape Maclear’s rundown fishing village. The place was absolutely packed when we got there, with rastafarians bouncing around in the sand and pissheads punching on in the dark. The wacky ‘baccy was being passed freely around and most people were holding hands or cuddling. It was a good vibe, even though the band kept ignoring my calls to play some bloody Chisel.

Being a handsome chap with a bit of a bad boy attitude (with a heart of gold that means your parents will love me), it wasn’t long before I drew the attention of the local lovelies. Alright, ‘lovelies’ might be stretching it – I was swarmed by a bunch of humans of indeterminate gender and unfathomable weight, who kept pinching me on the arse and trying to grab my dick. I scurried off into the crowd to escape their clutches, before seeking refuge in the toilet block. That was even worse, because what passes as a toilet in Malawi is a filthy, shit-filled hole in the ground. I decided to spruce the place up by pissing in the corner and snuck out of there, back into the maddening crowd.

Upon returning to the group, I was greeted by the highly unusual sight of Amilcar holding hands with a very tall, very thin black man, and busting out some crazed Ricky Martin-inspired moves. He was obviously enjoying himself, but I was shocked when he left to visit the toilet with the black man, returning several minutes later to dance some more. I was also devastated that no black men wanted to hold hands with me.

I was feeling rubbish the next morning when I rocked up to breakfast, but things were about to get stranger. Abud, a socially-awkward creep we’d met at the concert waddled into the restaurant shortly afterwards, hand-in-hand with a statuesque African woman who looked like she’d had all will to live fucked out of her by an obese Syrian the night before. The big fella gave me a high-five and then settled down to scoff a mountain of food. Amilcar staggered in a few minutes later, wearing only one shoe, no shirt, and looking confused.
“I do not know what happen,” he said to a pot plant. “One minute I have fun dance, drink beer, and the next I wake up in bed with two black people. One man, one woman. I am so ashamed.”

And what happened between your drunen hero and the Austrian? A gentleman never tells, but it did lead me on a strange and unexpected journey… but more about that next time.

Manilla Mayhem Part II: The Mayheming

With paragliding’s State of Origin Championship heating up, I knew I had to make the second day of competition a big one. After bombing out into a field of evil thistles on the first day, I needed a big flight if I was going to win the thing. But the conditions were rubbish in the morning, so I headed out into beautiful downtown Manilla to see what was doing.

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Manilla’s bustling main street

Manilla’s remote location makes it a prime candidate for rampant inbreeding, and I was expecting a horrible, rundown cesspit full of three-legged mutants who think ancestry.com is a dating site. Instead, I was treated to a delightfully prosperous little town complete with heaps of well-preserved buildings, a Chinese graveyard, and even a giant fish.

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Why would a fish need a walking stick?

The centrepiece of the village is the Royal Hotel, which has cold beer and and hot Indian cuisine (thanks to the lovable Sanjay, aka the Hyderabad Heartbreaker). The pub loses a couple of points for being covered in Parra Eeels memorabilia, but gains a thousand for having been owned by rugby league legend Dally Messenger. The Master was in charge of the place back in the early 1900s, and also introduced the great game to the region. I had a few beers in his memory over the weekend.

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Giz a beer, bro!

With the tour out of the way, it was time to head up the hill and write my name in the paragliding history books. The conditions were perfect and I launched into the bright blue sky with the rest of the Central Coast Guy Surfers Minsinks crew. This time, instead of sinking out into the valley, we all soared into the sky. We really did do it as a team, and I boomed into a massive thermal with Scotty and the Wheen Machine. We were 10 metres from each other as we spiralled in our column of hot air (that sounds like a regular club meeting) and gradually lifted up into the sky.

Ready to enter the record books

From 800 metres, to 900 metres, to one kilometre above the earth, we fought our nerves and defied gravity. I’ve spent a huge amount of my flying time within close proximity to Scotty, and it just felt right that the two of us climbed up to cloudbase together, peaking out at around 2100 metres. How high is that? Right, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is a frighteningly-high 850 metres tall. This is how high I was in comparison to that.

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I should be a graphic designer

The immense height we reached allowed us to push out into the valley and truly go cross country. With Geoff finding the thermals and leading us on, Philby, Wheen, Scotty and I broke boundaries and traversed mid-western New South Wales. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, covering the world from an immense height in a tiny seat attached to a glorified plastic bag. I made it so high that the temperature was close to zero and the world below me looked tiny, and I was amazed that I was able to take it all in and not be terrified. I’ve come so far as a pilot in the past year, and I didn’t wee or poo myself once.

My legs look great at 2100m

I was thrown around like a hated stepchild (how could I possibly know about that?) in some rugged thermals and landed 18.71km from launch. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but flying that distance trumps everything. I never would have thought I could achieve that, and I sat in that field for a good half an hour, simply reflecting on what I had done.

I dunno who this bloke is

The rest of my team made it further than I did, and everyone busted their personal bests. I don’t like competitions and couldn’t care less about who I beat or by how much, but seeing everyone improve as pilots and push past their limits was awesome. It was brilliant to spend the weekend with such great pilots, and we’ll continue smashing the guts out of our personal bests in the future.

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Don’t land on a cow, don’t land on a cow…

Of course, Scott’s performance was aided by the fact a bunch of cops were waiting for him when he landed, so he did his best to fly back to his hometown of Bangkok. Sadly, he didn’t make it, but after landing he was chaired into a police car by a group of very impressed policemen. They slapped him high fives whilst returning him to a life surrounded by concrete. Well done, Scott! You might be able to do even better in fifteen-to-twenty years!

An unidentified individual reacts positively to his flight

The results of the comp came out that evening, but my team didn’t find out if we’d won because we had to perform at the Tamworth Entertainment Centre due to Slim Dusty cancelling a concert that night. I assume we won the State of Origin, but the true winners were the middle-aged sheilas when Geoff broke into a spine-tingling rendition of Gwen Stefani’s 2004 classic Hollaback Girl that had everyone in raptures. I can’t remember much about the rest of the night, but apparently I spewed in Lee Kernaghan’s hat, because the prick invoiced me for the cleaning bill the next day.

 

Thanks again to Tina Bednal for some of the photos. Yay!