Tag Archives: camping

Torres del Paine, Day Tres: Avalanches A-Go-Go!

Patagonia’s hiking wonderland of Torres del Paine is like 50 worlds in one. It doesn’t take long to walk from dense forest to sparse flatlands, or to wander from bright sunshine into pelting rain, dense fog or worse. For my third day on the W Trek, I made my way up the Frances Valley towards Mirador Británico. It was a bloody unreal trip, but also saw the onset of horrible weather that threatened the rest of my hike.

The day began with angry winds that rocked Camp Frances, but nothing looked as wild or unkempt as my little Portuguese mate Antonio. He was wandering between the tents in nothing but his underpants, with scratches all over his body and a distressed look on his face.

“Did the rodents eat your clothes, Tony?” I chuckled.

“I wish,” he replied. “I ended up in a tent with a fat girl who had run out of chocolate. She took out her frustrations on me until I finally found a Mars bar in my pocket. I threw it into the bushes and when she dived after it, I escaped. I feel violated and unclean.”

I grabbed my daypack and left the European to piece his life together as I got back out there to see more of the park. The hike up to Mirador Británico is really pretty, running along a roaring river for several kilometres before heading up into the snowcapped mountains. Just look at these photos – it was fuckin’ beautiful and I enjoyed every second I spent looking out at that astonishing landscape.

The most stunning aspect of this hike is the massive glacier that clings to the cliffs far above. Every few minutes, a frightening rumble echoes through the valley, but while it sounds like thunder, it’s actually regular avalanches. They’re incredible to watch – tonnes of ice crashing into the abyss far below. Each frigid tumble emphasises the relentless power of nature, and it’s not hard to feel small when confronted with something that large (something I’m sure Antonio can attest to).

The hike heads through ancient forests full of skeletal trees clawing at the sky, across windswept plains, and ends up with a brilliant view of the rear side of the legendary Cordillera Paine. When I finally made it to the mirador, I had giant mountains on every side of me, providing a memorable view. I didn’t spend too long enjoying it, though, because the wind and rain started up and it actually became pretty dangerous being in such an exposed part of the park.

It was good to have a day’s hiking without my tent and other gear weighing me down, so I’d highly recommend spending two nights at the lovely Camp Frances. By the time I returned, Antonio had moved on to escape the clutches of his plump lover, so I drank a box of lukewarm Clos down by the lake with a group of excitable Chinamen I met.

“He who see rain at night will see mountain in morning,” slurred one of the fellas, before passing out in a bush.

“Ancient Chinese proverb,” explained his mate, whilst not realising he was pissing his pants. “It mean tomorrow will be good day for hiking.”

I just nodded and assumed the bush-diver was Shanghai’s answer to Tim Bailey, but when I woke up the next morning and looked out of my tent at the pouring rain, I realised the truth of another proverb; Never trust a Chinaman who’s smashed on cheap goon. I hope you enjoy these lovely photos because trust me, the story gets a lot nastier from here on.

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Patonga to Mt Wondabyne Overnight Hike

The seaside village of Patonga is one of the nicest spots on Central Coast of NSW, with calm waters, golden sand and spectacular views across the water to the Northern Beaches. If you just want to rock up, have a decent feed at the pub and enjoy the serenity, that’s great, but the area is best explored by hiking along the section of The Great North Walk that leads out of town. The views are tops, the track is well maintained, and for the more adventurous, it’s possible to make it over to Mount Wondabyne for an overnight stopover in the bush.

The track is easy to find; just follow the beach east from the pub, and you can’t miss it as it winds up into the thick coverage of the headland (but click here for in-depth directions if you’re worried about getting lost and being forced to live on tree sap and wallaby dung). It’s not long before the path offers up stunning views back over Patonga, across the legendary Hawkesbury River, and out towards Palm Beach. Warrah Lookout is around 2km from the beach and fenced, but there are heaps of other spots along the walk that offer more open views (just stay away from the cliff if you’ve spent the past four hours at the pub).

Most people turn around at this point, but if you’ve got enough provivions, the walk continues another 8km up to Mount Wondabyne (and another 120km or so up to Newcastle – you’d want more than a 600mL bottle of Coke and a bag of Twisties in your backpack to tackle that, though). It’s a good walk, crossing creeks and dipping into valleys while the cicadas sing loudly and birds flutter around in the trees. Mount Wondabyne is remote and beautiful, with a pak that offers jaw-dropping views out towards the coast.

I tried to hike to Mount Wondabyne a year ago, but had to abandon my adventure when I was caught up in a ferocious electrical storm and had to hide in a cave (and subsequently spent the night drying off on my lounge whilst watching the mid-80s sporting classic, Rudy). This time, I headed out in winds that were approaching 50km/h, because I’m an idiot. The wind was smashing in and getting worse all the time as I arrived and, to make it worse, the drought meant that the ground at the campsite was so hard I could barely pitch my tent (ladies, I swear that’s the only time I’ve had that problem). As I tried to sleep, the wind was gusting in at close to 90km/h, which was loud enough to tear me from my slumber as it tried to tear my shelter off me.

It’s possible to continue along the track and spend the next night at Mooney Mooney or Somersby, but my car was back at Patonga, so just after sunrise I retraced my steps. I was tired and grumpy after a bad night’s sleep, and things were made worse when I crossed paths with a couple of good-looking Danish sheilas who were heading up to sleep at Mount Wondabyne that night. If I’d headed up a day later, I could’ve shared a tent with them, because there’s looked quality. To lift my mood, I nipped into the pub for a quick beer… which turned into an all-day session, and I ended up having to pitch my tent in a local park to spend the night.

WHERE: Patonga, at the southern end of the Central Coast, in NSW, Australia
WHY: It’s a great spot for hiking and camping

DON’T MISS: As well as unreal views out over the Hawkesbury River, the walk provides a scenic look at historic Woy Woy tip

IF YOU’RE THIRSTY: The Patonga Beach Hotel is a beautiful old pub with a remarkable view and cold beers (just don’t expect them to be cheap)

AND IF YOU’RE HUNGRY: The Patonga chippie does great food (and also sells booze). Make sure you lead up before heading into the bush, or you’ll be eating bark for dinner

WOMENFOLK: In Patonga itself, you might be able to find a pensioner who’s up for it. Up at Mount Wondabyne, a possum might be your best bet

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.

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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Breaking barriers: My record-busting paragliding flight through the Victorian wilderness

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When I woke up to the sounds of birds frolicking and Khancoban trailer trash bickering, I didn’t know that I was mere hours away from paragliding immortality. Alright, maybe that’s taking things a bit too far, but I was about to smash my own personal best and have a bloody good time doing it. But there was to be some drama before before I even left the ground.

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The wind looks good, and so do I

As I was unpacking my glider on top of Mt Elliot, Klaus pranced over to me while licking the remnants of last night’s quarkkäulchen from his smug face.
“Perhaps today you fly all the way to the moon!” he chortled, as his followers crowded around. “Nein, nein, who am I kidding? You maybe fly as far as I can throw wiener dog, haha! Silly man!”

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Scotty prepares for another epic jaunt

Klaus’s entourage started laughing at me, and everyone on the hill looked my way to see whether I would respond. Klaus was just leering at me, his stupid German eyes bulging out of his sweaty face, and I knew I had to hit him where it hurt.
“Yeah, well,” I said coolly, putting my helmet on, “I fucked your mum.”
The hill went wild. Pilots slapped each other high fives and started calling me a legend. The Germans pushed Klaus over and surrounded me, chanting my name. My tormentor crawled off into the bushes like some sort of deranged goanna, never to be seen again. My new followers demanded I take to the skies, and I was not about to disappoint them.

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Carvin’ it up above Corryong

Alright, I may have disappointed them a bit, as the light conditions demanded that I make four attempts to actually launch, but when I finally got up there I treated them to an unrivalled display of paragliding glory. I hooked a few thermals and climbed into the sky, making it well above launch before pushing out into the valley. I managed to link a few thermals, which was a skill I definitely didn’t have a few days earlier, and watched as the countryside washed away below me.

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I can see my igloo from here!

Inland is flying is tough, because it’s a rough ride and often incredibly humbling. The rewards are immense, however. Learning how to handle how to thermals, thinking about how to cross the valley, and watching my skills rapidly improve was incredibly satisfying. Soaring above such a beautiful valley, watching dams twinkle far below and mountains look like speed bumps, was humbling and awe-inspiring.

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Geoff in his airborne recliner

As I started to sink out, I looked into the distance and saw a racecourse. I set my sights on landing in front of the historic grandstand, catching a few more small thermals while I imagined touching down in front of an adoring crowd. I brought myself down right next to the home straight and landed like a feather before looking up to see that there wasn’t a person there. I’d missed out on the next meeting by around 11 weeks – but there was a very appreciative donkey tied up to a post.

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Things are getting a bit racy!

There wasn’t anyone there to cheer my epic performance, but that didn’t matter. When I looked at my vario, it told me something that brought a massive smile to my face – I’d flown 6.01 kilometres, my best performance by far! Sure, it probably doesn’t qualify me for the world championships, but I was pretty bloody proud of my effort.

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Well, it’s better than flying with Jetstar

Scott was obviously pretty proud of his flight, too. He’s a deeply troubled individual who struggles every day with being an Oriental in a white man’s world. Paragliding seems to be his only escape from this torment, and I think his time in Corryong was really cathartic for him. I really hope he can overcome his demons and find peace, because his bad boy attitude remains remains a blockade between him and true happiness.

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Honestly, Scott, drop the attitude. You might think it’s cool to stick your finger up at people, but it just makes you look uncouth

Flying off Elliot for the hell of it

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There’s something brilliant about waking up in the country, and so it was with a smile on my face that I climbed out of bed to greet another beautiful Khancoban day. The birds were singing in the trees, the cows were mooing in the fields, and there was a violent domestic dispute in the caravan next door. But I didn’t have time to lay by the lake or call the police, because there was flying to be flown.

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“You’ll be going in the back of the van if you’re not careful”

I’ve never tried to fly cross-country in my paraglider, instead spending my limited paragliding career shitting myself closer to the coast, so it was with some reservations that I jumped in a 4WD and climbed to the top of Mt Elliot, which rises 900m above sea level. The view from the summit is spectacular, with epic views out over the sprawling Upper Murray Valley, with the picturesque village of Corryong in the distance. And there I was, getting ready to fly over it in my glorified plastic bag.

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A schnitzel sniffer takes to the skies

A bunch of sour-faced Germans were milling about on launch, complaining about Jews and stuffing their mouths with strudel. They looked at us like we’d crawled out of an open sewer and then started launching and spiraling expertly into the big blue. Their tour leader spat on the ground and sauntered over to me while chomping on a bratwurst.
“I am Klaus, greatest paraglider man in world,” he smirked, while sausage juice oozed down his chin. “Good luck. You will need it.” And with that he turned on his heel and goose-stepped behind a tree to have a leak.

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Sky Hog taking off

The world’s top cross country pilots can fly 500km or more, but I knew I wasn’t going to match that on my first day. Something around 300km would be a good start, I thought – maybe go for a few loops above Mount Koscioszko, then glide over to Melbourne for a coffee in one of their many trendy cafes. I strapped myself into my harness, trudged over to the launch, and then took off. I soon realised that I might not quite make it to Melbourne.

For people who regularly fly inland, catching thermals (giant columns of rising hot air, for those who aren’t experts on the lingo) is second nature, but as a cool coastie I struggled with it. Even with Geoff on the radio, I had a tough time seeking out the thermals, and when I did, they were so rough that I could barely suppress my childish sobs. I would’ve been better off with the violent woman back at the caravan park. I ended up bombing out down the bottom of the hill and almost landing on a cow, around 2km from launch. The record-breaking would need to wait.

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Geoff shows us how it’s done

I spent that night reviewing my GoPro footage, dissecting my GPS data, reading through in-depth thermalling literature and… nah, I just had a swim and a few beers, but by the next morning I was raring to go. And this time, things went a whole lot better. I launched and found a thermal almost straight away, managing to hang onto it until I climbed to over 1000m and pushed out into the valley. Things were starting to click, and cross-country flying was finally making a bit of sense. Melbourne was in my sights.

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That’s me!

I was contemplating the type of trendy coffee I would order when I started sinking out as I cruised along the valley. I was losing height quickly and found myself a nice, green field to land in. When I was a couple of hundred metres off the ground I hit another thermal, and was able to dance in the sky for another 15 minutes, hopping from field to field before finally setting down an incredible THREE kilometres from launch. As I pulled down my wing I heard a loud honking from the nearest road, and looked over to see a truckie waving his arms around and calling me a legend.

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“Yeah, I am a legend!” I thought as I swaggered out of the field, happy with my flight. As I climbed over the fence, Klaus pulled up next to me in an ominous black van and wound down the window. He looked at me with utter contempt, then spat into the dirt.
“You have already landed?” he sneered. “Pathetic.”
With little in the way of response, I shot him the one finger salute until he drove off in disgust.

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That tiny patch of grass up the top of the mountain is where I flew from

 

Of course, ‘Sky Hog’ Scotty had to go one better, flying all the way back to Khancoban and landing just outside the caravan park – an impressive distance of around 12km. The cheeky bastard even flew across state lines, which probably put him on some sort of government watch list. Not surprisingly, he was really happy with his flight.

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Come on, Scotty, you can look happier than that!

We celebrated with a swim in the lake and an astonishingly good meal courtesy of Ladda, the wife of one of our senior pilots, John. As the moon climbed over Khancoban and bathed the whole world in silver light, I had to admit that life can be pretty good sometimes. But it was about to get a whole lot better, for the morning would bring with it some epic flying.

 

The Blue, Blue Skies of Corryong

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As the first golden sunbeams of 2017 hit me, I knew something was wrong. My pillow was the unforgiving concrete of the gutter outside the pub, and my pants were awash with a mixture of urine and vomit of unknown origin. I clutched my throbbing head and felt no hair there, and had painful flashbacks to a New Years Eve spent partying with a gang of violent skinheads who had initiated me into their deranged cult.

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New year, new look. I call it ‘jihadist-chic’

My mate Scotty pulled his car into the street just as I was stumbling to my feet and asked me if I wanted to go paragliding. I realised I had to get my shit together, and the only way to do that was by heading to the tiny Victorian village of Corryong and throwing myself off a giant hill with nothing but a glorified plastic bag to save me. Five minutes later we were heading for the border, leaving the skinheads far behind us.

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Scotty – he’s a great bloke, but he doesn’t like having his photo taken

A few hours later we were about nine miles from Gundagai, and I was reminded of the shithouse Aussie poem of the same name. It’s about a dog who takes a crap on some bloke’s lunch and then he eats it (the lunch, that is, not the dog), and surely only attained popularity due to a severe lack of entertainment options during the 1800s. The statue of the infamous dog on the tucker box is absolutely rubbish. In a country full of giant roadside bananas and gargantuan pineapples, a lifesize dog statue fails to impress. I’ve seen actual dogs, and they move around and lick their balls and everything, so a crappy statue was never going to get my blood pumping.

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If you wanna impress me, try a Dagwood Dog on the Tucker Box

To make things worse for the dopey dog, it’s completely overshadowed by a massive koala that’s only 100 metres down the road. This big fella – who is apparently known as Kip – took my broken heart and rebuilt it with love, welcoming me into his colossal arms. I truly felt at peace whilst being cradled by that mammoth marsupial. Of course, Scott became jealous of my blossoming relationship with Kip and stormed off to sit in the car until I was ready to leave several hours later.

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I’ve never felt so safe

After a teary farewell, I reluctantly climbed back into the car and we continued on our way. I thought Kip would text me, but he didn’t, and it was with tears in my eyes that we stopped at the site of the Southern Cloud air crash. Eight people died in 1931 when an Avro 618 Ten was blown wildly off-course and smashed into the Snowy Mountains, disappearing without a trace. The wreckage wasn’t discovered until 1958, when some bloke accidentally stepped on what was left of the plane’s wing.

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The wreck is out there somewhere…

As a darkly humorous aside, a fella named Stan Baker was booked on the fateful flight, but cancelled at the last minute, and consequently developed a lifelong fear of flying. Twenty years later, he finally plucked up the courage to step aboard a plane – which crashed shortly after take-off, killing him and everyone else onboard. I hoped that all this airborne tragedy wasn’t an omen for my own flying.

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That’s where the Egyptians live

An hour later we were cruising into the buzzing metropolis of Khancoban, just outside of Corryong, population 281. Nestled by the shore of a glistening lake in the Snowy Mountains, Khanco is a delightful village from a simpler time. It’s quiet and rustic, and perfectly located for hiking, skiing and other fun activities. Sure, there’s probably a slight history of incest in the region, and some of the local sheep were walking funny, but it really is a very nice place.

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These nice people allowed me to hang out with them for five days!

We stayed at Khanco Lakeside Caravan Park, which is by the side of the lake. What a coincidence! With almost a dozen pilots and family-of-pilots there, we had the run of the place. Dinner was at the Khancoban Hotel, which is a true step back in time and where a schnitzel is considered exotic effnic food. There were a few good sorts behind the bar and I was raring up for an all-night bender when the place shut down around nine, and I was forced into an early night back at the cabin. But that’s alright, because the next day promised some epic paragliding – and it delivered.

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The triumphant return of The Naked Luchador

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I’ve been as sick as the proverbial dog since getting back from Sri Lanka (who’d think that three months of drinking and making sexies with women of ill repute would have such a negative impact on my health?), so I decided to celebrate my first healthy day in three weeks by going bush. I packed my tent and a box of goon and rolled out to Watagans National Park, between Gosford and Newcastle, pitching my tent at the beautiful Gap Creek camp ground.

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It’s a lovely little place to spend a night, and only 15 minutes from the Pacific Highway, so it’s the perfect place to stop if you’re heading north and don’t want to pay for a night’s accommodation. Its location means that you might have to share the place with other visitors… or maybe just a wallaby! This fella bounded over to say g’day and pose for a photo. Champion.

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There’s a waterfall pretty close to the camp ground, and I love running water, so I trotted over to see it. The walk is about a kilometre, and climbs through beautiful rainforest. I’ve been around the world, but nothing is as awe-inspiring as the Australian wilderness (alright, there have been a few sheilas who have come close). With giant palms and swinging vines, it’s like travelling millions of years into the past, and is far removed from the noise and hassle of the city. I expected a triceratops to wander over, but it didn’t happen.

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The waterfall itself was as dry as a lesbo at a Manpower show and not nearly as impressive as the falls I saw in Croatia, but the shadowy canyon was really pretty. I enjoyed just hanging out by the water, listening to my favourite Vanilla Ice CD and dancing. With steep cliffs on three sides, it felt like I was sinking to the centre of the earth, which was really cool.

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With the sun setting I headed back to camp and whipped out my cock wine cask and got stuck in. As the light dwindled the bush truly came to life, with all sorts of bird and animal calls tearing through the night. I made myself some delicious burgers, and when I was finished those I went for a much needed slash. Unfortunately, I tripped and fell into the fire, where I was burnt to death.

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After a remarkable recovery I woke up the next morning to the sound of something eating noisily outside my tent, and assumed it was a possum or a turkey munching on my leftovers. I crawled out of bed and was surprised and amazed to find my old mate The Naked Luchador hanging out under a tree, casually eating a tin of baked beans. When he saw me he gave me a thumbs-up and went back to munching his delicious breakfast.

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While I didn’t get much out of The Naked Luchador the last time I met him, he was more talkative this time. As he shovelled the beans into the mouth-hole of his mask, he opened up about his life and loves, hopes and dreams.
“I was forced to leave Tijuana by a dangerous dug cartel,” the deranged pervert wept, wiping bean juice from his chest. “In Mexico, I was hero to millions. They chant my name in the street, women throw theyself at me, but I have only one love; a beautiful woman name Charlene.

“Charlene was most famous donkey prostitute in Mexico. Big, brown eyes, fat bottom, lips made for sucking on penis. We were in love, and planned to leave Mexico forever as soon as I win major wrestling championship belt. I was preparing for match against the champion, man named Ultimo Doodle, when drug lord come to me and say they he has kidnapped Charlene. I only can have her back if I lose match to Ultimo Doodle. It very hard decision but…”

At that point The Naked Luchador was startled by a butterfly, and catwheeled off into the bush without finishing his incredible story. Oh well, maybe I’ll run into him next time I go camping…

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Camping, Latvian style

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All roads lead to Riga, so I’ve spent the last few days back in the Latvian capital with my lady friend Marty. She’s smart and pretty and nice to me, and really quite pleasant for a Norwegian. Thankfully, she also has poor taste in men and a soft spot for a Gosfordian accent. One thing I’ll never let her do again, though, is plan a camping trip.

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Still looking good after a night of sleeping in sub-zero temperatures

We headedout towards the beach at 8:45pm, as the sun was setting behind the Riga skyline, and made it to the sand just as the northern European twilight was fading. We set up the tent and the fire (alright, Marty set up the fire after my disastrous attempt) as the cold settled around us, and when everything was organised we lay back on the sand and ate good food and drank good alcohol under a full moon. It was a fantastic night with fantastic company.

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It would be even more romantic without the empty beer cans in the background

Bedtime was a different story, though. No, no, I’m not going to get rude, it’s just that Latvia gets really, really, really bloody cold at night. Seriously, there are snowmen with willies warmer than a Latvian evening. And despite Marty having spent most of her life in climates too cold for human habitation, we were unprepared for the elements and spent the evening shivering and fighting off the effects of frostbite. Seriously, the next morning I was counting my fingers and toes to make sure none had dropped off in the evening.

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Showing off my sausage. Marty was not impressed

It was the perfect way to end my (longer than expected) trip to Latvia. Now, it’s time to head south to the beautiful land of Lithuania, where dragons roam wild and free and all the women  are strong enough to bend iron bars with their bare hands. I won’t be going camping down there, though – well, unless one of those Lithuanian women with the strong hands promises to keep me warm at night!

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Checking off all the rules we broke. While we were taking this photo, a handsome policeman with a bushy moustache stopped us and told us to leave the beach immediately