Category Archives: travel

Santiago’s City of the Dead

As a child I was obsessed with horror movies and would watch anything filled with wall-to-wall guts and gore. Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Ash Williams were like mates to me, but the movie that stands out as a massive part of my pre-teenhood is The Return of the Living Dead. I spent hundreds of mornings, afternoons and evenings watching dead people come out of the ground (yes, out of the ground!) and chase after punks to munch on their spicy brains. It probably has something to do with why I now seek out weird cemeteries wherever I travel to, and why I marked the enormous Cementerio General de Santiago as a priority during my time in Chile.

This necropolis is one of the strangest places I’ve been too and one of the biggest boneyards in the world, with more than two million people laid to rest within its walls. It’s unlike any cemetery I’ve ever been to, and really feels like just another part of the city. There are giant buildings populated by the rotting remains of the dead, and the streets between the tombs are full of shops catering to the throngs of mourners who visit every day. In Chile, the living and the deceased exist side-by-side. Once inside it’s easy to become disorientated, with graves and crypts spreading for kilometres in every direction.

In most sections the tombs are piled on top of each other, with the majority of the headstones decorated with photos, toys, flowers and flags, with a huge amount of paraphernalia for local soccer team Club Universidad de Chile. Some of the graves are decorated more extravagantly, with massive banners printed with photos of the (often tragically young) corpse ensconced within. I’ve never seen anything like it, or been anywhere death is treated in such a way. The graves are truly a celebration of the person’s life, and from walking around I was able to gain some understanding of the people locked away behind the concrete.

Parts of the cemetery reminded me of a morbid high school, with drab multi-story concrete constructions creating a labyrinth of tunnels and rubble. Instead of students and bells, it’s full of ghosts and the eerie sound of the wind in the trees. As I walked through the narrow hallways, pigeons burst from empty crypts, and at every corner I found mourners.

The cemetery is so gigantic that I saw four funerals in the time I was there, and I’m sure more were going on in other quiet corners. Not surprisingly, these processions were also odd, with the caskets opened so that grieving family members could spend one more afternoon with the corpse before their loved one was locked away in a hole in the wall forever. Just walking through the grounds means seeing dead people, so visiting the dead centre of Santiago really is a ghoulish experience.

During the brutal Pinochet military dictatorship of the 70s and 80s, the cemetery was home to a mass grave for political dissidents, with 129 people being anonymously buried in the so-called Patio 29. The corpses have since been dug up, with most identified and laid to rest in simple graves, although it’s believed that untold numbers of innocent victims remain buried around the grounds, never to be identified. It’s a sad reminder of a dark time in South America’s history.

Cementerio General de Santiago might not be one of the major tourist spots in Chile, but it’s absolutely fascinating and definitely worth checking out. It gave me a great insight into the way the locals think about life and death, and reinforced how important family and loyalty are in this part of the world. It’s certainly a creepy place, and I’d hate to be locked in there at night, but it’s also an incredible tribute to dead that provides insight into the Chilean way of life.

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Santiago Shenanigans

The winds carried me and my bright orange paraglider across the oceans. Over Samoa, where the volcanoes are angry and the people are wonderful. Past Fiji, with its golden beaches and endless reefs. I even swung past Easter Island, which is full of heads bigger and uglier than your ex-girlfriend’s. When the breeze finally dropped me from its loving arms, I found myself in a strange city surrounded by imposing mountains and populated by the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. I asked a little bloke who was digging through a bin where I was, and he told me, “Senor, you is in San Diego!”

“No I’m fucking not,” I told him, looking around at the throngs of people who swept around us. “I’ve been to San Diego and the women have arse cracks you could park a Sid Fogg’s in. And I haven’t had a wannabe tough guy try to stab me with a rusty kitchen knife yet. Where am I really?”

“Not San Diego, fuckwit,” he spat, whilst juggling a soccer ball. “You is in chilly!”

“It’s not chilly, you goose, it’s about 24 degrees and sunny,” I chuckled, then swaggered off to check out my surroundings.

Turns out I was in a place called Santiago, Chile, which I would’v learnt earlier if the locals didn’t run me around in circles. I traded my paraglider in for a six-pack of Austral and started exploring, and ended up discovering one of the most unusual cities I’ve been to It can be beautifu one minute, with elegant European buildings, exotic parks and brightly-coloured houses, and hideous the next, with poverty and dirt smeared everywhere. In many ways it reminds me of South African cities, with two disparate worlds somehow existing together.

Santiago is known for its food, and I was bombarded with options as I walked around. The mouth-watering scent of sizzling beef and chicken wafts through the streets, and it seems like the locals are constantly shoving something in their gobs. The main options are empanadas, which are a relation of the glorious meat pie, and completos, which are fully-loaded hotdogs. My dad has often regaled me with stories of all the foot-longs he gobbled in South America, so I was relieved to discover he was actually talking about hotdogs, and not man-dogs. There are also plenty of pizza places and hamburger shops, so if you’re looking to chuck on some weight this is where you should be.

I saw a big hill with some sort of statue at the top, so I downed an icy cold can in one gulp and sauntered that way to see what was up. The path up to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal is poorly signposted and difficult to find (and possibly closed, since there was a big barrier in the way), but that didn’t stop meclimbing up there. The path is poorly maintained and eroded in many places, but the sweeping views back over Santiago make it more than worthwhile. Once I made it to the top, I realised there’s a cable carand some sort of train that canbe usedto scale it easily, but unless you’re a fat cunt or you once stepped on a landmine, I suggest making the 45 minute trek.

The main reason for scaling San Cristóbal is to check out the view, but that’s not all that’s up there. The statue, as it turns out, is of the Virgin Mary and stands 14 metres tall. Alright, she’s not as big as certain other hilltop religious statues I’ve encountered, but she’s still pretty impressive. There are also cafes (that don’t serve beer – trust me, I asked) and some little museums that I didn’t bother with. If you ever visit Santiago, you’ll end up at San Cristóbal at some point it would be like going to New York and not visiting the Statue of Liberty, or going to Wyong and not shitting on the floor of the public toilets.

I was pulling down my shorts so that I could takeone of my popular Drunk and Jobless World Tour Nude Selfies™ when a couple of horse police (police on horses, I mean. Not horses who have found emplyment in the police force) rocked up and politely suggested I fuckoff. I’m grabbed a cheap room in a hipster-filled part of the city known as Bellavista, which if full of bars and live music joints. Energetic Chilean rock bounces between the intricately-painted buildings and smoking hotsenoritas walk around in next to nothing, so it’s the place to be. The bars are great, with plenty of al fresco seating options, but the beers are a bit pricey – around six Aussie dollaridgeridoos each. The quality is top notch though, with Kross Golden proving a standout.

Needless to say, I got smashed on cheap supermarket beer in a nearby park and passed out halfway through eating a chicken and olive stuffed empenada. I’m stoked to be exploring my sixth continent (which means I’ve hit them all, except for the one that’s run by penguins) and have decided to hang around for the next nine or so weeks, so stick around for more mesmerising entries. Chile is already surprising and delighting me, and I can’t wait to see what else this bonkers country has to offer.

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…

Drunk and Jobless: The Comic

A few years ago I went on an epic journey through China, Malaysia and Brunei. I almost fell off the Great Wall, got into a fight with violent Hong Kong kung-fuists and passed out under more palm trees than you’ve had hot dinners. When the proud people of these wonderful Oriental nations finally decided they’d had enough of me and sent me back to Australia, I got some bloke with a pencil to draw up a few comic strips about my wacky adventures. They appeared in wank rag The Picture and really captured what the Drunk and Jobless World Tour is all about. Enjoy my rice wine-soaked awesomeness in animated form. I’m like a fucking Marvel superhero, so go fuck yourself Chris Hemsworth!

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

The Dog on the Tucker Box

The Drunk and Jobless World Tour™ has readers from across the planet, and one thing my fans are always asking me is whether it’s worth flying to Australia just to see the famous Dog on the Tucker Box at Gundagai. I wrote about this legendary roadside attraction a year ago but, in the interest of providing the most in-depth travel blog around, I decided to head back to that spot nine miles from Gundagai… or five miles, as it turns out.
After visiting the Big Banana, the Big Whale and two Big Pineapples across two continents, the Dog on the Tucker Box didn’t impress me with its size. It is, after all, the size of a regular dog, and I see them all over the place. The Dog gets a pass, however, because he was knocked together back in 1932, around three decades before some bright sparks started building gigantic roadside attractions up and down Australia.

You know a Gundagai’s full of life when a dog sitting on a lunchbox is most interesting thing to happen in the last century

The Dog was erected (oi, stop sniggering!) as a tribute to drovers across New South Wales, and inspired by a 19th century poem called Bullocky Bill, which featured the memorably odd lines, ‘And the dog sat on the tucker-box/Five miles from Gundagai’. For my foreign readers, a tucker-box is something you’d keep your lunch in, so it would be understandably upsetting if some rabies-addled canine sat (and supposedly shat) on your sandwiches.

Without television, video games or internet porn, a statue of a dog was pretty much the most interesting thing around back then, and drew admirers from Albury to Armidale. It was so popular that it inspired a further poem called Nine Miles From Gundagai, which ripped off Bullocky Bill in a way that would make any rap singer proud. In this version, however, the dog carked it: ‘The dog ah well he took a bait and reckoned he would die/I buried him in that tucker-box nine miles from Gundagai’. I feel sorry for the bloke who reached into the tucker-box expecting a Vegemite sambo and ended up with a fistful of rotting cattledog.

Big koala, bigger love!

The statue is just off the Hume Highway these days, and is a decent place to stop between Sydney and Melbourne. There’s a pie shop (the owners looked like they’d been slapped when I got out of my car and they discovered I’m not a fatso anymore and so don’t live on pastries), a KFC, and some sort of health food shop where they sell really expensive food that you could just as easily pick from a tree. The truly monumental Kip the Koala looms large about 500 metres down the road, and should satiate anyone’s need for something big (and if not, give me a call, ladies!).
So, should you travel to Australia just to see the Dog on the Tucker Box? No fucking way, but if you’re out here for the beaches, the bizarre animals, the lovely people and the lack of infectious diseases, you might as well stop by as you’re driving around. But if you see a tucker-box lying around, don’t reach into it. They do weird things with them in Gundagai.

My parents were delighted to visit the Dog on the Tucker Box back in 1973. My dad still wears those trousers!

WHERE: Gundagai, around four hours south-west of Sydney

WHAT’S THERE? A statue of a dog. A big statue of a koala. Some wagon wheels. Fat people eating KFC.

IF YOU’RE THIRSTY: There’s nowhere to grab booze at the Dog-stop (boooooh!) but there are a couple of good, traditional pubs in Gundagai (yay!)

AND IF YOU’RE HUNGRY: The shop behind the Dog has awesome pies and sausage rolls

WHAT ARE THE WOMENFOLK LIKE? The ladies in the pie shop are lovely. Give ’em a wink and they might chuck in a sachet of tommo sauce for free

FUN FACT: Gundagai is the only town in the world that rhymes with ‘thunder thighs’

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.

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 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.