Tag Archives: Australia

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.

Manilla Mayhem Part II: The Mayheming

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

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Manilla’s bustling main street

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

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Why would a fish need a walking stick?

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

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Giz a beer, bro!

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

Ready to enter the record books

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

khalifapg
I should be a graphic designer

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

My legs look great at 2100m

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

I dunno who this bloke is

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

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

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

An unidentified individual reacts positively to his flight

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

 

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

Manilla Mayhem

“Hey bro, you wanna go to Manilla?”
I was sunning myself on the balcony on a bright autumn afternoon, and was startled to look up from my book to see my mate Scott sitting a few metres away from me. The shock was threefold; firstly, I hadn’t invited Scott over. Secondly, my unit is on the third floor. Thirdly, the last I’d heard Scott was serving a lengthy jail sentence for human trafficking.

“Mate, The Philippines is a long way away, and I’m pretty sure the cops will stop you at the airport,” I replied, whilst pulling my underpants back on.
“No, not Manila in Philippine,” Scott said with a smirk. “Manilla in country New South Wale. We go paragliding at State of Origin Championships.”
I had my bags packed in five minutes, and soon I was rattling off into the bush with paragliding’s most wanted.

When Scott tells you to get in the car, you bloody well get in the car

Manilla’s a good four-and-a-half-hour journey from Gosford, and its a nice ride through historic towns and stunning scenery. Scone is a lovely town, but I am a little concerned about a statue I saw as we drove through. I don’t want to appear crass, but it’s of a horse sucking another horse’s dick. I’m serious about this. I’m sure the dude who made it tried to pass it off as a mare feeding its foal, but a horse’s boobies aren’t between its legs. Decide for yourself.

What happens in the country, stays in the country

Scott’s colourful past includes a stint as a pop music hearthrob, so he’s chums with some of the biggest names in Aussie music, and barely a day goes by without him bumping into another sonic legend. Whilst cruising through Tamworth, we pulled in at the Big Golden Guitar so that Scott could snort cocain off a toilet seat with his former bandmate Lee Kernaghan meet up with his good friend and fellow music industry royalty Lee Kernaghan. Lee – famous for hit songs such as Boys From The Bush and Hat Town – currently works in the gift shop behind the guitar, so while the two has-beens caught up on old times, I snapped some selfies in front of the gigantic instrument. Unfortunately John Williamson ambled over and asked if I had any spare change, so I grabbed Scott and we got outta there.

I’d hate to meet the bloke big enough to play that

With that unpleasantness out of the way, it was off to Manilla, population 2300. I was expecting the town to be a load of crap, but it’s actually pretty bloody nice, with old pubs and all sorts of historic buildings. Scott and I met up with the rest of our paramagliding team (the Minsinks, although reckon we should’ve called ourselves the Central Coast Guy Surfers) at the Rivergums camp ground. Along for the ride were team captain Geoff, his brother Philby, and The Ween Machine. The competition didn’t stand a chance.

From left: Geoff, some guy in a green shirt who photobombed us, Ween, your drunken saviour, Philby. Not present: Scott, who was off fighting a kangaroo

At 850m, Mt Borah is a great place to launch from, providing access to hundreds of kilometres of rolling hills, wide open valleys and bucking thermals – heaven for any cross-country paragliding pilot. It’s a world class site that draws flight fiends from across the planet. The longest recorded flight in Australia – a staggering 360km – started from Mt Borah, so it’s a perfect place for beginners and sky gods alike. Not surprisingly, as soon as the conditions picked up, people were throwing themselves off launch like lemmings.

Sending Geoff up as a wind dummy

It was actually a bit intimidating to be launching alongside so many people, but I had my mates around me and it wasn’t long before we were all in the air. I haven’t spent much time flying inland, and because it’s far rougher and much trickier than coastal soaring, I took a while to get the hang of it. That wasn’t the easiest thing to do with 50 or 60 other gliders around me, jostling for space. I ended up finding a ridge to work with Scott, and the frantic action had me grinning like a retard. I may not have been setting the paragliding world on fire, but I was loving every second of it.

Looking down, down, down at launch

It wasn’t long before we were back on the ground, because Manilla’s legendary lift was nowhere to be seen, and the majority of the pilots who went up went straight back down to the bomb-out field. I’m never one to follow the mainstream, so instead of landing in the nice, soft, designated field, I went straight into a million thistles and ended up with more little pricks in me than my ex-girlfriend. Total distance covered: around three kilometres.

This is what they call para-spiking

It was an inauspicious start to my first paragliding competition, but after a few beers back at camp and a debrief with Geoff, I was sure that the next morning would bring better luck and greater heights. And without wanting to ruin the surprise of the next blog, that’s exactly what happened. So, ah, read the next entry to find out just how bloody good it was.

I’d like to thank team photographer Tina Bednal for some of the photos I’ve used. Thanks to you, I can prove to people that I did actually fly off that big, scary rock.

Closer to the Sun

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Paragliding is cooler than a dog on a skateboard, and I’ve been doing a lot of it lately. Most of my airtime has been spent at Crackneck, on the glorious Central Coast of New South Wales. It’s been more fun than a threesome with Siamese twins.

I took this video on the last day of daylight savings, as the sun died on a memorable summer. I couldn’t hope to capture the fucking awesomeness of flying above Crackneck, but I hope this gives you some idea of the beauty of paragliding. Peace and fucking, homies.

Girra-kool? No, Girra-wet!

The last time I tried to go on an overnight hike above the tiny riverside village of Wondabyne, I was somewhat less than successful. Alright, that’s an understatement – I had to call my mum to come and get me because I was at risk of being flooded out. So when I set out once again under grey, stormy skies, I was probably tempting fate.

The plan this time was to walk from Girrakool to Woy Woy, spending the night at the top of Mount Wondabyne. Yeah, that was the plan. Things started to skid towards the ditch when I was forced to spend an unexpected two hours bashing through the bush behind Kariong in a desperate attempt to find the track I was supposed to be journeying on. The trees were thicker than a diesel dyke’s pubes, and by the time I finally made it through, I was way behind schedule.

The walk across the ridges of Brisbane Waters National Park is spactacular, and bloody hard going. There are steep climbs, river crossings, and heaps of brilliant lookouts to stop at. I was starting to think that things were looking up, and that this would be a trip to remember for all the right reasons.

That’s when the storm rolled in. Thunder had been hanging around since I left home, but I thought it full of shit and didn’t bother about it. As I was passing Scopas Peak, the sky split open in front of me. I was blinded by the light from the lightning and deafened by the sound of it, and I could hear the world crackling around me. As the stench of sulfur overwhelmed me, the rain rolled in – big, fat drops that drenched me. It wasn’t just uncomfortable, it was bloody dangerous. It’s certainly the closest I’ve gone to being fried like a fat girl’s dinner.

I scarpered off the track and crawled into a cave, thanful for the scrap of shelter that the sandstone provided. I huddled in there, wet and cold, for an hour. The storm raged around me and then wandered off to bother someone else. When I was sure it was gone, I timidly climbed back out into the darkness.

With five tough kilometres of walking between me and my rest stop, I realised that I’d never make it in such  tough conditions. So, I did what any big, tough bushman would – I took a side track down to Wondabyne Station, jumped on a train, and was at home with a German stein of wine in my hand 45 minutes later! Instead of struggling through the bush and spending the night in a wet tent, I watched the acclaimed Sean Astin sports drama Rudy. It was shithouse.

A Night(mare) in Ourimbah

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I haven’t had much of a chance to update Drunk and Jobless lately, for a very good and extremely sad reason. My life has recently been hit by tragedy and disappointment, after learning news that will adversely affect everything about me in the future. My hopes and dreams have been shattered, and my goals will forever go unfulfilled, as I recently received the shocking news that I’ve been refused a spot in the Aldi Testers Club.

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Fuck you too, Aldi

Obviously distraught following this callous twist of events, I packed a bag and headed into the wild, wanting nothing more to do with this open wound of a society. Unsure of where to begin my new life, far away from the heartless guffaws of Aldi employees, I remembered a conversation I’d had with Scott, one of the local paragliding bad boys.

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Scott: rebel with a heart of gold

“Whenever the pigs are after me, I hide out in Ourimbah State Forest,” I recalled Scott telling me, while listing a stolen car radio on Gumtree. “Very beautiful, very remote, nobody find you there. If you need to bury body, you can do that, too. If you find my old business partner One Eyed Sanchez up there, you say hello to him for me – he can probably be found in shallow grave, tee hee!”

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A fish lives in this water

As Scott is currently serving a six-year sentence in jail for participating in the white slavery trade, I was forced to find the track myself, which proved to be quite simple. It’s at the end of Ourimbah Creek Road, and after parking my car I walked through a lovely valley full of very large dogs. Fortunately, they weren’t aggressive, and allowed me to wander into the dense jungle.

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Woof!

The walk from Ourimbah Creek Road up to the old archery fields at the top of the hill is pleasant if not spectacular. Over the course of 10 kilometres I crossed a few streams, climbed some pretty steep hills, picked up heaps of leaches, and finally made it up to the camp grounds just as the sun was setting and the mozzies were getting mad. There’s not much left of the archery range – the targets are gone, as are the sheds and tables once used by the club – but it’s a nice place to spend a night.

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My luxurious accommodation for the evening

I enjoyed a delicious hamburger for dinner and watched the footy on my stream, so while it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, it isn’t really. I even managed to match with a couple of good sorts on Tinder, and they were really impressed by my adventurous nature and cheeky smile. I hope to disappoint them in the near future.

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Hey ladies, if you want a mouthful of meat…

The trip home took me along the same road, but this time things were very different. I was nearing the end of the track when I saw something white lurking behind a bush about 100m in front of me. I stopped and realised it was a dude in a white shirt, who popped out as soon as he realised he’d been spotted. He looked around in embarrassment, then sauntered up to me with his hands in his heavily-stained shorts. When he got close he tried to strike up a conversation, but I brushed him and kept walking – I’ve already got enough perverted mates, so I don’t need another one. The man in the white shirt appeared crushed.

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Can you spot the pervert in this photo?

I assumed that was the last I’d see of him, but every time I looked back along the track I could see him hiding behind a tree and weeping. It was a pathetic sight, and I was happy to get back onto the road where there was less chance of him raping me. As I powerwalked back to my car, a filthy white van crept past me, and behind the wheel was the sicko in the white shirt. He stopped next to me and wound down the window, revealing a puffy red face streaked with tears.
“We could’ve been perfect,” he whispered, then drove off into the sunset.

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Mr Flying Man

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I grew up on the hill above Forresters Beach, and one of my most vivid memories from that time is watching hang-gliders cruising through the clear blue sky while I played on the sand. I never grew up dreaming of flying, but those memories obviously had an effect on me, because when I got older and awesomer I started paragliding.

Thirty years on, I was looking down on that patch of sand I used play on, hundreds of metres beneath me. My first flight from Crackneck to Forries was mindblowing, and it was sweet to watch over the town of my youth while doing something I love. It was even better to be up there with great mates.

I’ve spent more than 40 hours flying that site over the past few months, and it gets better every time I leave the ground. More often than not, landing on Bateau Bay Beach attracts a throng of awe-inspired wellwishers who can’t believe what they’ve just seen. Usually, a plucky child will push himself to the front of the delighted crowd and say, “Mister! Mister! Are you Superman?”
“Almost, kid,” I’ll say while packing up my wing. “I’m a paragliding pilot.”

Here are just a handful of the thousands of exquisite photos I’ve taken during my airborne adventures above the Central Coast.

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