Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

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Out of this World: The Moscow Cosmonaut Museum and how I chose love over the opportunity to be crowned King of the Universe

The 1960s were known for two things; spunky hippies who did heaps of drugs and fucked everyone in sight, and the epic space race between the USA and the USSR. The spunky hippies are now saggy grandmothers, but at least the history of Societ space travel has been well preserved, thanks to Moscow’s Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics. It’s a fascinating throwback to a time when anything seemed possible and everyone was staring towards the heavens.

The museum is housed within the base of the Monument to the Conquerers of Space, which is an incredibly impressive structure that rises 107 metres into the bleak Moscovan sky. It was built in 1964, back when the Soviets actually were leading the world in extraterrestrial exploration – y’know, before the Yanks landed on the moon and won the battle once and for all (well, until the people of Nieue claim their rightful place as Kings of Space by landing on Mars).

It’s cheap as chips to enter the museum – about $4 Australian – but for some reason they charge double if you want to take photos. I didn’t pay it and took my camera in anyway – Drunken Aussies 1, Russian government 0. The first thing I saw when I waltzed through the front door was a couple of stuffed dogs, who turned out to be the first canines to survive a trip into space. Where I come from, stuffing a dog means something quite different, but it was nice to meet a couple of dudes who could not only lick their own arseholes, but have achieved more in life than I ever will.

The museum isn’t massive, but there are some cool things to check out, such as the space suit worn by Michael Collins during the Apollo 11 mission, and an intricately-recreated model of the International Space Station. There are also scale models of a whole bunch of rockets, satellites and moon rovers, which are all awesome to check out. All up there are more than 85,000 items to look at, which makes the museum sound huge, but it wasn’t as big as I thought it would be (a sentiment many girls have after a night with me).

Unfortunately, most of the information boards are in Russian only, so unless you can decipher that it’s difficult to know what you’re looking at most of the time. It’s possible to explore the museum with a guide, and they also have headphones available at the front desk, neither of which I took advantage of, so I can’t really complain about being confused about what was going on.

It was this confusion that led me down a dark corridor on a quest for the toilet, then down a set of decrepid steps the plunged deep into the Earth. With my bladder full of cheap Russian booze, I kept moving further into the belly of the museum, ignoring signs that probably told me not to go any further. After walking for what seemed like hours, I came to a door that was slightly ajar, with brilliant blue light spilling out into the rotting hallway. It looked like a dunny to me, so I poked my head through and was amazed by what was inside. A gigantic, disk-shaped craft was parked in the middle of an immense warehouse, and standing underneath it was a groupf of small green men wearing shiny silver suits. Don’t believe me? Just check out this totally legit photo I snapped.

As I stared in slack-jawed wonder, a hatch on the craft opened and three beings climbed out. I squinted against the bright light, and was amazed to realise that I recognised the figures. The first was overweight and wearing a sequined jumpsuit with a cape. Mystery solved, Elvis never did die. The second was even shorter than the little green men, and blacker than an ex-wife’s heart. When he wobbled his head and said, “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, aliens”, I realised who he was; Gary Coleman. The third had three legs, a funny little beard and a bit of cardboard in his hands. He strutted over to me, held his hand out, and said, “I’m Jake the Peg, and this is my extra leg”. He then invited one of the younger aliens to sit on one of his three knees and then sang a song whilst thrusting his cardboard around. It was all very strange. I know there have been rumours about Elvis being abducted by aliens for years, and Gary Coleman disappeared under mysterious circumstances, but it made little sense that Rolph Harris would be there. He’s a sex pest, not an alien.

I was getting ready to leave when one more being climbed out of the spaceship. He was about four foot tall and covered in fur, and I immediately knew who he was. ALF! No, not Alf Stewart, but the lovable Alien Life Form himself! I ran over and cuddled the little fella, and we kissed a bit, and his mouth tasted like he’d been eating pussy. He gave me a smile and made me an offer. “You look like a nice guy. Join us on a voyage to the stars. You will live forever as king, and learn the secrets and mysteries of the universe.”

“I’d love to,” I said, reluctantly, “but I’ve got a Russian girlfriend at home who will break my arms if I’m late for dinner. But next time I bump into you, I promise I’ll go off and become a space king or whatever it is you want me to do. Add me on Facebook.” And then I swaggered off into the Moscovan night.

A Kiss on the Lipetsk

After a week spent hanging out with my beautiful Russian girlfriend Lena in Moscow, she decided to not send me to the gulag and instead introduce me to her family. It’s a good sign for the relationship, seeing as my last girlfriend forced me to pretend I was her gay cousin when we bumped into a uni friend of hers at the shops. I was deeply offended, of course, but ultimately pulled it off so well that I scored the cute check-out guy’s phone number (and, just quietly, that wasn’t the only thing that got pulled off that day).

Her family live in the city of Lipetsk (or Липецк to the locals), which is around 450km from the capital – a short stroll by Russian standards. The major industries, according to Wikipedia, are something called ferrous metallurgy, selling Russian brides to fat Poms, and producing imitation Bon Jovi t-shirts.

Like most other places in Russia, the ghosts of the USSR are everywhere, with drab housing estates and war memorials scattered around. But this is obviously a prosperous city, with masses of new development that looks really nice. Match that with the swathes of dense forest that wind in and around Lipetsk, and it’s not a bad place. The sun even peeked out for a minute or two, which was cause for celebration!

Nobody wants to look at photos of me awquardly trying to make a good impression with Lena’s family despite not speaking a word of Russian (actually, a lot of people would find that funny as fuck, because they’re cruel), so here are some photos taken in and around the lovely city of Lipetsk. Whilst it’s not one of the world’s top tourist destinations (I’d describe it as Russia’s version of Newcastle) there’s plenty to see, and the public transport makes it easy to get around.

MARVEL at the healthy pre-breakfast Russian servo-dog I smashed into my gob at 5:30am. GASP as Lena syphons water from an ancient well (but enough about our sex life). OOH AND AHH at the pretty colours of the autumn leaves. GAPE at Lipetsk’s world-famous statue of Dolph Lundgren. SHUDDER at photos of the Russian wilderness, where I did my best to keep Lena between me and any predators. As the Russkis say, bon appetit!

It’s Hip to be Red Square

I might spend my days sleeping until 3pm and watching old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons in my undies, but my girlfriend is a valuable member of society and has a big-person job to go to, so today I was left to explore Moscow on my own. Not wanting to be a typical tourist, I headed for the one place that certainly wouldn’t be crawling with Chinese dudes clutching selfie sticks; the Kremlin.

See what I did there? I made a joke, so at least give me a pitty laugh. The Kremlin is packed with more Chinamen than a small penis competition Jackie Chan book signing, but despite that it’s still an incredible site to behold. Red Square is massive, and the cathedral thingy at the end (I don’t know what it’s called, look up a proper travel blog if you’re interested) is absolutely beautiful. The majority of Moscow might consist of Soviet-era apartment blocks, but the historic centre is glorious.

Hey, and unlike the Chinese, I didn’t stand around taking a billion selfies.

Before coming to Moscow, I definitely thought it would be a drab and dishevelled place to visit, with a homeless person in every gutter and the threat of a head-kicking around every corner, but it’s far nicer than that. It’s similar to places like Riga and Warsaw, of course (it’s basically within walking distance) and is a modern city that’s safe and easy to navigate. It’s also now almost completely free of the bubonic plague.

After sauntering away from the Red Square and into the nearby neighbourhood of Balchug, I found an incredibly strange park full of the wackiest statues this side of a malaria-fuelled fever dream. The most interesting statue in Bolotnaya Square Park is titled Children – Victims of Adult Voices and features an evil robot, a frogman, a big fat dude on a barrel, a drug-dispensing doctor, a dancing pig, a sexed-up granny, and several other intensely strange creatures. I think most artworks are as worthwhile as the sticky stuff in a teenager’s sock, but this one really spoke to me and was totally awesome. Three thumbs up.

By that point I was feeling tired and in desperate need of a drink, so I was stoked to see a train not far away, and gleefully climbed aboard. Alright, it seemed a bit old-fashioned, and the fact it had a slippery dip jutting out the front raised alarm bells, but I assumed the communists do things a bit differently and settled in for the ride back to the suburbs. Sadly, it turned out to be a kiddie ride, and I was soon chased out of the park by a group of angry locals who must’ve assumed I was a sex pest or something.

I was swaggering back past the kremlin on my way to the real train station when a long, shiny limousine pulled up next to me and bunch of burly blokes in black suits climbed out. I thought they might be the Men in Black and had a look around for that Willie Smith fella, and while I was doing that a wiry bloke with piercing blue eyes got out, looking me up and down. The dudes in the black suits reached for their guns as I approached the wiry fella, but he told them to relax.

“G’day brother, I’m from Australia, how are ya?” I asked, sticking out my hand.
“I am doing very well,” the main man said in a thick Russian accent, before shaking my hand with a grip that could crush a doorknob. “My name is Vladimir.”
“Oh, you’re Vladimir Kozlov, the former WWE wrestler!”
“No.”
“Dominican baseball legend Vladimir Guerrero?”
“No.”
“Long-dead concert pianist Vladimir Horowitz?”
“No.”
Everybody Loves Raymond star Vlad Garrett?”
“No, no, no!”
“Yeah, figures,” I replied, walking off into the icy evening. “I never meet anyone famous!”

BEER OF THE DAY: 387 OSOBAYA VARKA

Legend has it that this creamy lager is named after the number consumed by the average Russian every week. I only had one, but amongst the sea of other brews, it was the best, and perfect for colder climates. Like the perfect woman, it’s comforting, not too thick, and goes down easily. It’s a bit like dipping a Caramello Koala in your beer and theen drinking it, only it’s not as disgusting as that would be.

Russia: A Place For Penguins

Moscow isn’t known for its beautiful climate, but I was still ill-prepered for the arctic conditions that Russia welcomed me with. I knew things were going to be bad when my plane descended through clouds as thick as a Mount Druitt schoolkid, and my fears were confirmed when I stepped out of the airport to be met by a day colder than a snowman’s arsehole. Fortunately my lady friend Lena was there to warm me up with a cuddle and then race my back to her place.

With the temperature outside struggling to climb past four degrees, Lena introduced me to the way Russians keep warm on cold days. Get your mind out of the gutter, you pervert, I mean that she served me a bowl of delicious borscht (soup) and then we started knocking back shots of vodka at 9:30am. I’ve gotta say that if I ever move to Russia, it won’t take me a long time to adapt to their way of life.

Despite smashing shots for 15 hours, I still managed to get up the next morning, squeeze into my singlet, and head out into the metropolis for a run. It was so fucking cold I’m surprised my dick didn’t get frostbite, and the Moscovians who I ran past – each dressed in woollen hats, ski jacket and gloves – stared at me as if I was afucking idiot. Honestly, a three-legged alien could’ve beamed down and start fucking a dog, and the locals would’ve looked at it with less surprise than they showed me.

After making it back to Lena’s place and warming up by, well, let’s just say eating soup so as to keep it PG for the kiddies, we headed out to Rainbow Park to hold hands and chase ducks. In a city packed with crumbling Soviet-era towers and crowded motorways, it’s a welcome oasis. Loyal readers of D&J would be aware that I’ve got a history of stripping off, but I though Lena’s already-dwindling level of respect for me would dwindle if she was to see me nude up in freezing conditions, so I kept my gear on the whole time. I guess this is growing up.

Russian parks are brilliant, and apart from the lovely landscaping and impressive selection of local and international plants and flowers, are packed with all sorts of excercise equipment. There was even a full-sized boxing ring – apparently the locals assemble there on saturdays to sort out their grievances. Husbands punch on with wives, employees throw fists at bosses, pensioners lay the smackdown on paperboys who keep chucking the Moscow Times in the bush rather than on the doorstep. If I prove to be annoying, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lena drags me back there on the weekend so she can kick me in the nuts in front of a bloodthirsty crowd.

BEER OF THE DAY – SOME STUFF I GOT IN A PLASTIC BOTTLE FROM THE CORNER SHOP

Like most places in Europe, Russia has a fantastic selection of beers at dirt cheap prices. While the cans and bottles of local and imported piss are great, there’s a better option. Most corner shops have beer taps, so it’s possible to purchase freshly-poured draught beer in 1.5 litre bottles. Drinking from a brown plastic bottle in a park makes you feel like a filthy wino, but the quaity of the brew ensures you won’t wake up the next morning feeling like a group of skinheads have been stomping on your face. Highly recommended!

Mission to Moscow

Most people leave Bali with a couple of Bintang singlets and a suitcase full of pirated DVDs, but I managed to leave The Island of the Gods with a Russian girlfriend and a plane ticket to Moscow. And so, against all my expectations, the next leg of the Drunk & Jobless Word Tour will take place in the frozen tundra of the northern hemisphere. Don’t worry, I won’t get frostbite, because Lena’s assured me that her bed is nice and warm, and that’s where I plan to spend a fair whack of my time. There’ll still be plenty of drunken shenanigans and outrageous adventures, so stick around.

The Russian Federation is an unusual land where vodka encompasses 80% of a balanced diet, bears walk the streets eating anyone they can find, and the most popular form of entertainment involves kicking homeless people. Alright, there’s a chance that none of that is true, so I spent the 22-hour flight from Sydney watching some educational documentaries on Russia, and was pleased to discover that the Russkis aren’t too different from normal people.

ROCKY IV

This award-winning film documents the epic boxing match between American champion Rocky Balboa and his towering Russian opponent, Ivan Drago. At first, the Russian seemed like a bit of a dickhead – he takes heaps of steroids and punches a blackfella until he dies – but he redeems himself in the end by having sex with Rocky in the middle of the boxing ring. I hope I don’t have to have sex with any giant Russian men, butI will if it helps international relations and brings about world peace.

RAMBO III

At some point Rocky stopped being a boxer and instead became an unstoppable killing machine, and that’s what this movie is about. There’s not a lot of story, but Rambo kills about a million evil Russian dudes, which is really cool. Although, if I want to fit into Russian society, I probably should’ve been going for the bad guys while watching this. I also learnt that the entire Russian army can be destroyed by a single shirtless bloke with a headband and a bow-and-arrow.

POLICE ACADEMY 7: MISSION TO MOSCOW

Russians aren’t know for their sense of humour, so maybe the government banned the filmmakers from putting anything funny in this awful sequel. I think the Russian characters showed admirable restraint by not slaughtering the bumbling fools in the first five minutes, which expanded my respect for them as a people. Honestly, I’d rather slide a pencil up my wee-hole and then let a dribbling retard write an essay with it than watch this crap again.

RUSH HOUR

I misread the title and thought it was called Russian Hour, and so was baffled when the movie was all about a blackfella and a Chinaman. I kept waiting for them to put on those furry hats and start smashing cinderblocks with their bare hands, but it never happened.

BACK IN THE USSR

This isn’t a movie or a documentary, it’s a song by Pom hippies The Beatles. They basically keep singing, ‘Back in the USSR!’ over and over again, and it gets old pretty quickly, so I’m not surprised that Russians have an intense hatred of westerners. This other song they have about octopuses is fucking ace, though, but I don’t think there are many octopuses in Moscow, so it’s irrelevant.

GREMLINS

I figured that, since this movie was named after that big, pointy cathedral building thing in Moscow, it would offer some interesting insights into Russian culture. Nope! It was all about little green monsters and Corey Feldman, which meant that it was very entertaining, but ultimately had had fuck all to do with the gremlin. It wasn’t even set in Russia! False advertising, I’d ask for my money back but The Pirate Bay don’t give refunds.

SOVIET SLUTS #69

This was by far the best documentary on Russia that I watched on the plane. If it’s anything to go by, I’ll be getting my dick sucked by half-a-dozen big-titted Slavic goddesses within minutes of stepping foot in the Federation. Then again, I only got to watch it for about 30 seconds before the woman next to me complained about my ‘enthusiastic’ reaction to the hardcore action on my laptop, so I don’t know how it ended up (and on a side note, the Vladimir Putin-lookin’ fella in it was surprisingly accepting of lesbian relationships, so perhaps Russia is becoming a more inclusive place).

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.

The Six Hour Orgasm

Some people find their thrills in drugs, others need group sex to really get their hearts racing. Hell, some almost shit themselves over a new episode of Game of Thrones. Me, I get my jollies by strapping myself to a couple of kilograms of fabric and ascending to the heavens. A year ago I handed myself over to paragliding and decided to put it before pretty much anything else, and that’s why I’m in Bali right now – to rack up as many hours in the air as possible.

After three months of being grounded due to a life-changing journey through the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa, I was absolutely fanging for a fly by the time I swept into Nusa Dua. For the first three days the place was blown out, with winds strong enough to blow a Chinaman’s hat off. And then, on the fourth day, the Wind Gods smiled and everything came together for an epic flight I’ll never forget.

The launch at Payung looks out over a sparkling blue lagoon that looks like something an office worker fantasises about, but as good as it looks from ground level, it’s a helluva lot better from the sky. That first day, I flew for six hours, testing out my new wing and exploring my aerial playground. It was beautiful and exciting, and the sort of experience that reminds me life is pretty bloody good.

I you’ve never been paragliding, the best way to describe it as one long, lingering cumshot hundreds of metres above the ground. And not one of those crap orgasms that you have with a woman you don’t really care about or like very much, or after having a lazy Sunday afternoon wank during an ad break in the footy. I’m talking about one of those senses-shattering, brain-splattering, ball-draining orgasms that make you feel as if nothing outside this moment has ever existed. But with paragliding, it doesn’t last for 30 seconds, it lasts for hours.

Like the best orgasms, I didn’t enjoy this one alone – I got to share it with my good mate Alison (or Al, as he likes to be called. I dunno why, because I think Alison is a very graceful name for a man). Just to be clear, that’s the only orgasmic experience we’ve shared. After making a small fortune as the manager of beloved pop group Milli Vanilli (and experiencing a toreid love affair with Vanilla) he recently retired to Bali and has become something of a legend on launch for his ribald sense of humour and seemingly endless collection of functional sun dresses.

I’ve met a lot of extraodinary people through paragliding, and many have told them that this wonderful sport has filled a void in their life, often one that they didn’t know existed until they first climbed into the sky. I can definitely say that’s the case with me. I spent years trying to fill the empty spacces with alcohol and women whose names I’ve either forgotten or never bothered to learn, when the answers were floating about 210 metres above the coast of Nusa Dua.

Back in Balangan

After three weeks back in Australia, I was sick of winter and ready to head back out into the big wide world, so I hitched a ride on a Qantas jet and zipped over to Bali to go paragliding and chase backpackers for a month. Actually, it wasn’t quite that easy – some Islamic terrorist knob jockeys have been doing their best to blow up Aussie planes, which meant an extended journey through security. I guess rocking up with a backpack full of radio equipment and other electrical goodies probably wasn’t a great move. Sadly Fortunately, I didn’t end up with some customs dude lipping his arm up my arse.

Oh, bloody hell, it's sunny!

The other hassle during my flight over to Asia had less to do with bearded Islamic terrorist bum boys and more to do with my own goofiness, because I wasn’t allowed to check in without having a return ticket booked. With only $126 to my name, a flight back to Sydney was out of the question, so it looks like I’ll be spending a week in Darwin on the way back. Cold beer, hot Euro travellers, and heaps of crocodiles to punch. Oh shit, however will I deal with that?

The place I'm staying at looks like it was built by drunk children

Much like last year I’m kicking off my Bali sojourn with a few days in the hidden paradise of Balangan. If you want to know more about it, just read my award-winning post from this time last year. The only real difference is that I’m 20kg lighter this year, so I’ve been spending every morning jogging around in the heat and trying not to shit myself the whole way. Thanks to the rabid dogs that chase me everywhere, I’ve actually been cracking out som good times, and the seven litres of sweat that pours out of me each morning clears plenty of space for Bintangs.

Olympics, here I come

It was on one such not-so-fun run that this story begins. I was doing my best to sidestep a cow when a motorbike came to a spluttering stop a few metres from me and a stunning sort climbed off. She pulled off her helmet, sending blonde hair cascading halfway down her back. I did my best to hide my erection.

“You look like you have plenty of stamina,” the babe said in a thick eastern European accent. I just nodded dumbly and hoped she wouldn’t realise I was about six steps away from collapsing into a bush and spewing on myself. “You should jump on the back of my bike.”

We've all woken up next to someone who looks like that, right?

I was faced with two options. Either I could continue on my run, improve my health and fitness, and live a longer life, or I could climb on the back of a conked-out bike ridden by someone barely old enough to have the training wheels off and drastically reduce my life expectancy. I’m not a fucking idiot, so I went with the option that offered the best chance of getting laid. By that I mean I got on the bike – I guess I could’ve porked one of the cows wandering around, but even in Indonesia such behaviour is largely frowned upon.

Alright, they are kinda cute

Milana (for that was this lovely lass’s name) took me to a gorgeous bar on the beach, where we ordered icy cold Bintangs and did our best to piece together a conversation, despite her being from Estonia and possessing a looser grasp on the English language than your average Bauer editor. When she told me that she’d been in Balangan a year ago and had a disappointing sexual experience with another Aussie paraglider, who looked like me but was much fatter and had longer hair, I just nodded and pretended not to be hurt.

The long-haired, overweight disappointmnt may have looked something like this

Long story short, after 15 Bintangs each we found ourselves in a run-down shack on the beach, the waves crashing beneath our heaving bodies. After a few minutes of fumbling around like a drunk seal I felt very contented and was ready to roll over and have a sleep, but Milana was somewhat less pleased with the proceedings.

“I take back what I say about you have stamina,” the babe said, struggling into her dress. “Maybe you is more like 100 metre runner.”

“Luv,” I replied with a smile as I swaggered out the door, “that’s the first time anyone’s likened me to Usain Bolt. Cheers.”

I like swingers' parties

Bali is still a beautiful place, but it’s time for me to stop looking at it from ground level, and instead check it out from a couple of hundred metres in the air. I’ve got a brand new wing and an almost aggressive desire to spend as much time paragliding as possible. Let’s just hope I can keep it up for a bit longer than I did with poor bloody Milana!

Patrick Swaziland

I’ve been an admirer of Hollywood heartthrob Patrick Swayze for decades, and was crushed when he was tragically killed during a breakdancing competition several years ago. So when I discovered that there’s an entire country where Swayze fans congregate, I hopped in my 1965 Buick Rivier, blasted the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, and headed over to check it out. Swayzeland, I assured myself, would be as awesome as watching Road House and Ghost back-to-back with a bucket of choc chip ice cream (otherwise known as every Tuesday at my place).

I expected the border to be full of handsome white folk with big hair and acid wash jeans, and was shocked to see large numbers of black people who certainly didn’t look like Swayze’s regular audience (unless his films have found unlikely popularity with people who cook chicken in the burning wrecks of cars). It was then, like a kick to the stomach, that I realised I was actually entering Swaziland. I bet it’s a common mistake.

Swaziland is geographically close to Lesotho, but a world apart in most other ways. Instead of steep, barren mountains, I was greeted by rolling green hills. The capital, Mbabane, is easily bypassed on the impressive road system, but looks tidy and prosperous. It was certainly a gentler welcome than the culture shock of the comparitively bizarre Lesotho. 

I was cruising through the spacious valleys of inner Swaziland when I saw a sign pointing to a concert for one of my favourite black rapping men, the face-tattooed, hat-wearing, buck-toothed singer of Bitch Wat A Ho, Bitch, Yo, Lil Wayne. Seeing him ‘spit fire’ on stage would ease my Swayze disappointment, so I turned up a dirt track and followed the signs. However, instead of finding the finest voice of our generation, I was ambushed by a herd of zebras. Turned out I’d actually ventured into the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Sometimes I think I’m not very smart.

It’s a quiet and peaceful park in a gentle and welcoming country, and offers plenty of hiking opportunities, so I laced up my boots and got out there. Antelope and weird horny cow things grazed in the wide open paddocks that I sauntered through, and birds flapped around me. I just hoped I didn’t bump into the park’s resident hippos, which are known to plod around like they own the place.

Before long I found myself surrounded by dozens of zebras, and they really are goofy-looking things. Fat horses with short legs and mohawks, really. They’re very tame here and I was able to hang out just metres from them, which was a much better experience than watching them from my car in Addo. I was able to get so close that I can confirm they’re not just ponies with spray-painted stripes, so the Swazis are one up on the Chinese in that regard.

Nyonyane Peak dominates the skyline around Mlilwane, so I got my legs moving and powered up there. It provides an incredible look out over the park and a good portion of the tiny country of Swaziland. Even though the park is only 20km out of the capital, the valley it lies in is quiet and rural, with fertile farms and surprisingly tidy villages. This country is certainly a surprise after the shambles that is so much of South Africa, and the barren wastelands of Lesotho.

Now, if they can just stop naming everything after my favourite celebrities, we’ll be fine. What next, Garyglitterville?