Category Archives: travel

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.

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I had a WHALE of a time in Hervey Bay!

Our first day in Rainbow Beach provided paragliding perfection, but after that things went downhill fast. With a cyclone swirling off the coast, the winds picked up and the rain came through and our wings remained tucked away in their rucksacks. Instead of flying, our little group of pilots fell into a cesspool of heavy drinking, overeating and debauchery. Before long, cabin fever was setting in and things were looking pretty grim.

Hamster would disappear for hours at a time to drink a supply of paint he’d discovered under the house. Scott seemed to be running an illegal sweatshop out of his bedroom. Some Pommy bloke named Dave, who nobody seemed to know, had started sleeping in our kitchen. Round-Eye Scott, by contrast, spent most of his time locked away in the toilet, practising his lines for his upcoming role as Samuel in a production of The Pirates of Penzance at Laycock Street Theatre. I knew I had to get the gang out of the house before we all lost our minds, so I organised a nice, long walk along the beach.

Unfortunately, there’d been some sort of natural disaster down there and the sand was littered with dead marine animals. As soon as we got back to the house, Hamster headed for his paint supplies to drown his misery, so I bundled him and the rest of the nincompoops into the car and drove them out of there. I was racking my mind to think of somewhere to take them that would cheer them up, and then an idea struck me harder than an enraged stepmother. There was still a few Big Things to check out, so I started rolling out to find them.

Maryborough might be 2000km from the Victorian town of Glenrowan, but that didn’t stop them building an eight-metre-tall tribute to legendary bushranger Ned Kelly. I dunno, maybe he took a holiday up this way or something. Ned’s in good condition, even if he does look a bit gangly and had a bird’s nest between his legs. He’s also one of the most fearsome Big Things around, because he looks like he wants to blow your head off with his shotty and then steal your PlayStation. He kept Hamster amused for a few minutes, but the statue’s right next to a petrol bowser and The Ham was looking thirsty, so I chucked him back in the car and headed off again.

Hervey Bay’s a popular backpacker destination and I was expecting it to be a quaint seaside village, but it’s actually a sprawling city. I knew they’d knocked up a Big Whale in the last few years and figured it wouldn’t be hard to find – apart from the fact there are whale statues all over the place. Honestly, I haven’t seen that much blubber since I porked Rebel Wilson’s sister. We finally found the real deal, and it is fucking massive. The big bastard is definitely one of the most impressive Big Things I’ve seen, but Hamster wasn’t impressed.

“It’s not really a Big Thing, is it,” he said, whilst leaning against a lightpost in an attempt to look cool.
“What do you mean? It’s bloody huge!” I replied.
“Yeah, but Big Things are supposed to be a bit shit, aren’t they? Peeling paint, badly proportioned, and a bit stupid looking. I mean, that pelican looked bloody goofy, and the cow looked like it had been built by a team of one-armed mongs who had only vaguest idea what a cow actually is. But this thing is really well done. It’s artistic and beautiful and not at all cringeworthy. So as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t fit the criteria for being a Big Thing. Get some bloke to concrete over it and paint it pink and then we’ll talk.” I guess he has a point.

There’s plenty to see and do in Hervey Bay, with most of it revolving around water-based activities such as kitesurfing or whale watching. Unfortunately the weather was a bit shithouse and the thought of popping into the ocean for a dip was as inviting as dropping the soap in front of Bob Brown. Instead, we took a long walk on an even longer jetty, which offers pleasant views back on Hervey Bay’s waterfront. It is a very lovely town and it’s easy to see why so many people stop off there (I was hoping to bump into some Norwegian backpackers with their tits out, but the conditions weren’t condusive to that).

Everyone was thirsty and keen to get on the piss again, but as we got ready to leave we realised that Phil was nowhere to be seen. Me and Hamster spent a good hour-and-a-half looking for him in the pub, but to no avail. We finally found Phil, who’s usually a very level-headed and rational bloke, having an animated conversation with a statue.
“You’re the only one who really understands me,” he told the statue, before nodding his head as he listened to the reply. “Yes, I think it is time for us to run away from these people before they start acting even weirder. What’s that? You should kill them? It’d be doing the world a favour but, to be honest, I can’t be bothered.”

I realised I had to get everyone out of Hervey Bay, out of the path of the cyclone, and back into the air before they went bananas and started eating each other. It was time for a hero to stand up and make the tough decisions. There was only one place we could go to save the holiday, and I decided we’d all head there in the morning – after another epic night on the piss, of course.

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 repribates 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.

73 or 74 reasons to visit Russia

The mission to Moscow is over and I’m back in a country where I can walk down the street without being questioned by the cops or attacked by some vodka-guzzling nutter in an imitation Adidas tracksuit. Here are a whole bunch of reasons why you should visit this most unusual country (or, if you enjoy tropical beaches, blue skies and people who have a full compliment of teeth, reasons why you should stay away from Russia). Spasibo for reading, and if these rather dreary photos are getting you down, don’t worry! The Drunk and Jobless World Tour will continue on Australia’s Sunshine Coast – don’t forget your bikini!

Nightmare at the Mausoleum

Everybody likes looking at dead bodies – it’s one of life’s simple pleasures. Sure, you wouldn’t want to see a rotting corpse climbing out of a grave while you’re walking home late at night, or catch one rooting your missus, but it’s usually a lot of fun to have a squiz at someone who isn’t quite as alive as they used to be. Naturally, when I was in Moscow I took the chance to check out one of the world’s most famous (and best-preserved) dead dudes.

I was swaggering through Red Square, watching the bear fights and swigging from a two-litre bottle of vodka when a little bloke in a funny hat came over and gave me a toothless smile. “привет,” he said in an accent as thick as a bowl of borscht. “Do you know famous man Mr Lenin? His body just over there! You can see him!” I love The Beatles and John was always my favourite member of the so-called Cute Quartet, so I joined the line the like the fella pointed me towards and prepared to meet the remains of my hero.

“I want to hold your hand,” I sang to a chubby bloke wearing a furry cap, and instead of joining in with my impromptu Beatles tribute, he spat on the ground and called me a, “гомосексуальный.” Dunno what that means, but it didn’t sound like he was complimenting me on my outfit. “Let it be,” I whispered, but that didn’t calm him down. Thankfully the line started moving and the angry fella left me alone, and soon I made it to the security gates, which were manned by a group of angry individuals with machine guns.

“I’ll have a ticket to ride,” I crooned to one of the guards, and he responded by pushing me up against a wall and roughly patting me down. Honestly, the Russians just don’t understand that The Beatles are all about love and peace. After I was deemed to be of no risk to the Federation, I was pushed through the gate and started winding my way around the Kremlin, towards a big, square, pyramid-like mausoleum. I don’t remember John Lennon being an Egyptian, but that motherfucker was on so many drugs that he wouldn’t have known if he was an octopus.

The line moved quickly and I soon stepped into the gloomy mausoleum. I expected to find hippies dancing around and flowers everywhere, but instead there was just some grim-faced guards with big, shooty weapons. “Hey Jude,” I warbled, “where’s -” I was cut off by the guard telling me to shut the fuck up (or the Russian equivalent) and pointing me foward. I didn’t want to get shot to death (although that would be somewhat appropriate), and so just gave him a weak smile and walked on towards the cadaver.

Only it wasn’t John Lennon, it was some other dickhead. He was lying in a big perspex box in the middle of the dark room, and I spent about 20 seconds walking around him before I was ushered back into the drizzly afternoon. To be honest, it looked more like a wax figure than an actual preserved body, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they just grabbed a mannequin from one of the local shops and tossed it in there. I mean, it’s not like anyone gets much of a chance to look at it. And that was it – a whole lot of warm up for a few seconds of action (much like my sex life).

I was confused about what I’d seen inside the mausoleum, and started ranting and raving about the switch-a-roo. A skinny dude wearing a Garfield jumper came over and explained that the crypt contained the body of communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, not pop singer John Lennon. Vlad was a bit of a knob and led Russia towards decades of communism, which left the people wallowing in poverty and misery. He was obviously pretty bloody up himself, too, because he wanted his body preserved for people to weep over after he carked it.

All in all, Lenin’s Mausoleum is worth checking out if you’re in town. It doesn’t cost anything, won’t take up much time, and the body is probably made out of plastic, so there’s little chance of it coming alive and chomping your brains out. And I’m not too upset about not seeing the preserved corpse of John Lennon, because tomorrow I’ll be checking out the remains of Ringo Starr-lin!

The Fortress in the Sky

Europe is know for a lot of things; beautiful scenery, wonderful beer,deliciously unhealthy food and gorgeous women who don’t need a lot of convincing to take off their clothes in public. One thing Europe’s not known for is massive fuck-off buildings, with cities around here prefering to have lovely little opera houses and thousand-year-old huts rather than towers that stretch to the heavens. I can let that slide – after all, I’ve been to world-renowned towers such as Burj Khalifa, the Oriental Pearl Tower and (ahem) the Riga TV Tower. But it turns out Europe does have one abnormally huge structure – Moscow’s Ostankino Tower.

At 540.1 metres from roof to arsehole, it dominates the relatively diminutive Moscovan skyline, and has been the tallest structure in Europe for half a century. Alright, that’s like saying you’ve got the prettiest smile in Mt Druitt, but it’s worth noting. It’s also the 11th-tallest building in the world, and was the biggest in the world for eight years. Ostankino really is an impressive structure, with all the charm of a Soviet prison guard, and can be seen from right across the city. If you want to visit it, just line the big bastard up and follow the nearest street – it’s hard to miss.

Actually getting into the tower requires a bit of effort, because security is tighter than that chick I banged in Cape Town a goldfish’s arsehole. Getting through the gates is like entering an airport – two sets of metal detectors, guards with guns, and a trip through a full-body scanner. I half expected to have another stamp in my passport by the end of it. Fortunately, I was deemed to be no threat to the Motherland, and was allowed up into the gleaming tower.

It takes just 58 seconds to ascend 337 metres to the top viewing platform, and once I made it up there I was treated to an incredible view over the capital. Moscow is a weird city – it’s incredibly compact, with a density 18 times greater than Sydney, but it’s also home to sprawling parks that make it look like an overgrown country town. Ostankino’s viewing platform looks out at dreary unit blocks, ultra-modern skyscrapers, putrid factories and gridlocked streets, which all look a bit grim from such a height.

I looked out over the Kremlim, where I may or may not have had a chat with Vladimir Putin. I peered across Sokolniki Park, where I was brutalised by Russian police. In the distance was the cemetery where I was almost imprisoned. Far beneath me was the iconic shape of the Cosmonaut Museum, where I discovered a UFO and had a chat with everyone’s favourite alien life form, ALF (and I still maintain that actually happened – if you feel the need to question it, maybe you should ask yourself why your life isn’t as interesting as mine).

Unfortunately, the peaceful mood was destroyed when a pervert turned up and started asking women if they ‘wanted to see his tower’. A few naive tourists said yes, and were treated to a flash of the sicko’s shrivelled penis, before he giggled like a child and ran away to tell his sordid tales elsewhere. I believe that viewing platforms should be a place of wonder and safety, so I walked over to the depraved lunatic and asked him if he wanted to see the tower from a different perspective. When he smiled and said yes, I knocked him on his arse and left him looking at the ceiling, then went back to admiring the view. Dozens of stunning Russian women called me a hero, but I don’t like that term. I’m just a simple dude who enjoys climbing towers.

Despite saving the day, I was chased out of the tower by a number of heavily-armed security guards, and barely made it back onto the frigid streets without having my head caved in by a billy club. But if that’s the price I have to pay for being a good bloke (the Russians’ words, not mine), then it’s one I’m willing to play. Visit the Ostankino Tower, enjoy the view, and be glad it’s now almost completely sicko-free. You’re welcome.

Skeletons of the Soviet Air Force

The Soviet Air Force earned a fearsome reputation during the 20th Century, with a combination of technical ingenuity, fearless pilots, and shear numbers leading the USSR to brutal airborne victories in a number of theatres of war. Aircraft such as the MiG-15 and Su-27 have achieved near-mythical status due to their dominance over the opposition, and many wartime pilots remain heroes in their homeland. The Soviet Union might be a thing of the past, but the ghosts of the past live on at the Central Air Force Museum.

The museum boasts one of the largest collections of aircraft in the world, and by far the biggest number of Soviet-era machines. There are nearly 200 fighter jets, bombers, choppers, cargo carriers and spaceships, including some incredibly rare prototypes, one-offs and curious contraptions. Despite boasting such an outrageous collection, the museum is very much off the beaten track, being located in a grim field in the depressing outer suburbs of Moscow, but I wasn’t going to let that put me off. I jumped on the train to make the 80-minute trip out to Monino, with visions of dog fights spinning through my mind.

The city of Monino itself looks like a place that time forgot, with decaying residential blocks, burnt-out cars, and all sorts of weirdos shambling around like zombies. Perhaps there was a nuclear meltdown there that I never read about, but I can’t understand why anyone would live in such a dreary place. I mean, there are only so many times you can go to the bloody air museum. It’s a confusing walk through town to find the planes, but follow the awesome directions found here and you should make it without falling into a sinkhole or being attacked by junkies.

If you’ve got even the vaguest interest in things with wings, then the scramble through Shitsville is well worth it. The museum’s first hangar holds lovingly-restored original models of Soviet classics such as the Lavochkin La-7, the Yakoklev Yak-9 and the ancient Polikarpov R-5. Apparently thousands of enemy pilots died just trying to pronounce the names. They look like they could still roll out onto the runway and light up the sky, and it’s truly thrilling to be able to get so close to such legendary planes. Surprisingly, the signs that accompany each aircraft have plenty of information in English, so it’s easy to find out how much carnage each machine created.

The hangar is fascinating, but it’s the open field down the road that will leave any aviation or history buff needing to change their trousers. In a windswept corner of Monina lie more than 170 of the greatest planes to ever take to the skies, with everything from a 114 tonne Antonov An-22 to a tiny MiG-105 Spiral EPOS Spaceplane just sitting there waiting to be gawped at. Some are in fantastic condition, some are falling apart after years of exposure to the harsh Russian climate, but every single aircraft there has a story to tell. The effect of seeing so many legendary planes together is quite overwhelming.

Highlights for me included the massive Mil Mi-12 helicopter, which looms large over the entrance to the field; the Concorde-like Tupolev Tu-144 supersonic airliner, which looks like a prop from a 1980s sci-fi movie; and the Sukhoi T-4 high-speed bomber prototype, which is the only of its type (for good reason – it was rubbish and could barely stay in the sky). It would be possible to spend a whole day exploring the airfield, marvelling at retired legends and discovering lost curiosities, but it was about one degree and I was losing feeling in my photo-taking finger, so I headed into the colossal blue hangar at the back of the site, where more wonders were waiting for me.

One of the most incredible contraptions I saw there wasn’t a plane at all, but an astonishing space balloon. Back in 1962 two Russian fellas, E. Andreev and P. Dolgov, climbed into the ricketty old thing and floated to a height of 25,600m above the Earth. That sounds terrifying enough, but when they reached that height they opened the door and jumped out. E broke the world record for the heighest free fall, and I guess P did too – but there was a problem with the pressurisation of his suit and HIS HEAD EXPLODED.

The Central Air Force Museum is utterly fascinating and fun for the whole family. It feels like climbing into a time machine and journeying back to the days when tensions were high between the USA and the USSR, and the end of the world was only one rash decision away. I’m just glad that we’re good mates with the Russians these days, because that field alone held enough warbirds to blow the piss out of a medium-sized city.

Show me the monastery!

The Russians are a religious bunch. Well, you’d be pretty open-minded to stories about mystical beings and reincarnated zombies if you spent 25 hours a day pissed off your head. For this reason, the Federation is home to some of the most exquisite churches this side of Samoa, and none of them are prettier than the Troitse-Sergiev Monastery, which is apparently the spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church.

This collection of ornately-decorated, onion-shaped temples is situated in Sergiev Posad, a city of around 100,000 people just 75km north of Moscow. There are regular trains up there, but like everything else in Russia, buying a ticket and getting on the right rattler is far harder than it should be. After an hour spent wanderin around Yaroslavsky Station with a confused look on my face, I was lucky I didn’t end up on the fucking Trans-Siberian Express, sleeping on a pile of potatoes.

Once I actually made it onto the train, it was a pleasant ride through the countryside, and the experience was highly reminiscent of rolling through Sri Lanka. Sure, the scenery was different, and it was a little bit colder, but the third world is the third world. From the ancient carriage, to the disabled beggars, to the idiots singing crap songs in the hope of making some money, to the hawkers selling fruit and packets of chips and purses and romance novels, jumping on an inter-city train in Russia is definitely a step back in time.

But enough about trains – I know you’re eagerly awaiting my views on that sexy monastery! Well, it’s really nice. It’s very easy to reach from the station, being a leisirely 10 minute walk, and the buildings are incredibly impressive and in superb condition. The huge fortified walls and iron gates are a throwback to a more violent time when orcs and goblins roamed the frozen tundra of Russia, eating any Catholics they could find. I’m not making that up, I read it on Wikipedia.

The jewel of Russia’s so-called Golden Ring of ancient towns, Sergiev Posad and the temple it’s built around were founded in the 1340s. Over the next few hundred years, the site was extended and snazzed up, with much of the expansion commissioned by Ivan the Terrible. He can’t be too bad a bloke if he built something like this. If you’re interested in the fascinating history of this incredible place, I’m sure you can find it elsewhere. Now, back to the dick jokes.

Russians of the religious persuasion travel thousands of kilometres to visit this holy place, and I saw plenty of them praying and crossing themselves and carrying on. They take the place seriously, and not even the hundreds of Chinese tourists could break the enchanting mood. There were also heaps of funny little dudes with odd beards, odder hats, and flowing black dresses. They swanned around like they owned the place, chanting and waving their hands around.

I was thirsty and in need of a beer, so I walked down some stairs towards what I assumed was a bar, but when I got down there I heard some very unusual praying coming from a dark corner. I crept in closer, hoping to see a religious miracle in progress, but was instead treated to what can only be described as the immaculate erection. One of the monks was wanking his dick off in the corner, and even when he saw me he just gave me a wave and kept going. I guess that’s why they call it a seminary!

Cemetery Man – Exploring Moscow’s Incredible Graveyards

There are more than 13 million people in Moscow, and sooner or later every single one of them is going to cark it. Of course, with the amount of vodka the Russians guzzle, they’ll leave a bunch of well-preserved corpses, but all those bodies have to go somewhere. Not surprisingly, you can’t swing a lynx (they’re native to Russia – I’m an expert on this place now) without hitting a cemetary around here, and they’re absolutely fascinating.

I don’t even know the name of the necropolis I visited, but it was as strange as it was large. Thousands of intricately-carved tombs stretched out for kilometres in every direction, while the forest dumped neon-yellow leaves all over the tombstones. I’ve been to a lot of graveyards over the years (I guess you could say I’m dead keen on them), but this was by far the creepiest I’ve ever seen. The contrast between the well-maintained and highly decorated graves and the ghoulish plantlife was unsettling, as was the near-perfect silence even in the middle of the city, and things only got worse when I realised I was lost amongst the maze-like architecture. It truly was a nightmare come true.

After 15 minutes of trudging in circles, I was in tears and contemplating a night spent curled up in a tomb in order to survive the harsh Moscovan conditions, but then I just sort of found the exit and went home to smash a few beers and watch professional wrestling. It ended up being a pretty good night!