The three weeks I’ve spent in Candidasa have been more fun that a barrel full of greased-up monkeys. Apart from the 25 hours spent cruising the clear, blue skies of Bali, my days and nights have been filled with heavy drinking, good eating, frantic dancing, mesmerising snorkelling, brutal violence and even a touch of romance (and I’m not just talking about the blossoming man-love between Hamster and Alan).
Candiasa is a truly incredible corner of the world, and it’s a place where I’ve experienced a lot of growth and change over the past year. High above the temples, jungles, beaches and monkeys, I finally felt that I was getting somewhere with my flying. Closer to the ground, I built friendships with people from around the world and from all sorts of backgrounds. From mad doctors to sex-obsessed musicians, and lesbian pilots to conspiracy theorists, Candi is a meeting place for all sorts of wonderful weirdos.
If you’re a fan of paragliding or diving, Candi is your idea of paradise, but it’s a wonderful destination for anyone who just wants to hang out and watch life go sliding on by. Just grab an icy cold Bintang, sit under a tree, and chill out. Have a wank if you want to, nobody will care. Buy a pair of sunglasses from street hawker Eric when he comes round, too – he’s trying to send three kids to private school, you know.
If you’ve been following my adventures over the past three years, you’ll know I have a tendency to fall for attractive European ladies and subsequently change my life plans in order to follow them to the ends of the Earth. I’m happy to say that it’s happened again, and I will be joining the lovely Lena in Moscow in a few weeks time. I’m a handsome bloke, but I’m definitely the ugmo in this relationship; I guess she’s just happy to meet someone who doesn’t wear imitation Adidas tracksuits and smash cinder blocks with his bare hands.
As for Alan and Hamster, they’ve finally succumbed to their burning lust for each other, and have become lovers. I wish they’d waited until I was out of the room to consumate their relationship, but I guess a few years of therapy and binge drinking will help me forget the sight of their aggressive romping. Honestly, it looked like two wombats fighting over a tennis ball. Last I heard, they’re moving to Newtown together to open yogurt shop. I wish them all the best, even if their brand of love is a violent one.
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.
After nearly three weeks flying through the buoyant skies of Bali, from Nusa Dua to Candidasa, it’s time to pack up my wing and get out of here. During my time here I’ve ridden on dodgy motorbikes, danced in the street, met cool people, eaten weird food, been chased by monkeys, chased women, upset the locals, been hauled around in a rape truck, and sunk more bottles of Bintang than my liver wants to remember.
It’s been a truly special few weeks that I will carry with me forever. But it’s time to move on, and there’s a plane waiting to take me to Korea, so that I can explore another strange land and get myself into trouble with a different set of locals. More than anything, I just want to sleep, because me and Rich got on the Bintangs last night and I didn’t make it to bed until 2:30am. The best bit is, it wasn’t my bed (and it wasn’t Rich’s. either, before you come to conclusions).
Big thanks to everyone who made the tour so fucking awesome. Mark and Chris from Cloudbase, who organised it all. My mates old and new, who drank with me until two in the morning most nights (you’ve gotta love the fact paragliding is an afternoon sport). The Indos who cooked me food and brought me cold beer on command. And the Hindu Wind Gods, who certainly came to the party. Right, I’m off, see you all in Korea!
After a week of brilliant flying in beautiful Candidasa, Bali, it’s time for the majority of the Cloudbase crew to pack up their wings and fly back to Australia. Me and Rich have stayed on for a few days, however, to continue flying in paradise with our mates Jules, Lewis and Dr Pete, a man best described as a ‘unique individual’ and one of the smoothest operators I’ve ever met. The flying’s been incredible, really tranquil and plenty of fun, and with nearly empty skies I’ve been able to work on my turns, chase thermals, and increase my confidence in the sky. It’s the happiest I’ve ever been with my flying, and I really feel like my skills have taken a massive step up – but things have been eventful.
The day’s airborne adventures were cut short when a frighteningly huge storm cell rolled in, and we decided to head to the nearby Black Sand Beach for a few Bintangs, rather than stay in the sky to be tossed harder than a frustrated virgin’s pecker. After pulling off the best landing of my life (the words of advice finally worked, Mark!), it was off to the village’s tiny general store for the customary post-flight feast of icy cold beer and fried chicken skin. I’ve had some cracking afternoons sitting outside that general store, with friends old and new (and old and young, to be honest). Flying is brilliant and the ultimate drug, but the social aspect of paragliding is what really makes it the king of sports.
One Bintang turned into six, and soon me and the Hamster were becoming animated. I pulled out my phone and filled the dusty village with the feel-good beats of legendary 80s pop group Wang Chung, and we started boot scooting through the palm trees, which startled a group of small children who were using a dead chicken as a football. The locals had seen and heard enough (they must’ve been Duran Duran fans – there’s no accounting for taste) and ordered us into the back of a bright green truck with blood smears on the side. I yelled out to the driver to ask him what they usually carried in the truck, because it smelled awful.
“Mainly rice and rapist for execution,” he shrugged, and climbed into the front seat. He started it up and drove us away from the beach in a cloud of smoke while people danced around us.
As we bumped along the bumpy road the Indos raced out of their shacks to watch us cruising through the village. They laughed and cheered and threw flowers, obviously excited by the prospect of seeing a group of sex offenders get beheaded for their pleasure. Despite being in the back of the Gary Glitter Rape Wagon I felt like the queen, and waved to the little people as we passed. Unfortunately, bright green trucks designed for hauling paedophiles aren’t very comfortable, and were for thrown around as it bumped along the road. Palm fronds and electrical cables reached for us, and a moment’s lapse in concentration was enough to be beheaded by by a stray branch. I managed to dodge most of them, but then disaster struck. A jolt knocked me towards the back of the truck and a jagged palm frond lashed at my clothes and tore them off my body, leaving me rolling around the bed in my undies.
Rich, never one to miss an opportunity to defrock, tore off his clothes and tossed them out the back, where they hit an unsuspecting motorcyclist in the face and caused him to crash into a stray dog. The truck driver had every reason to keep driving us to Kerobokan Prison, but thankfully he took us back to our palatial accommodation at the Puri Oka Hotel, before using a rusty machete to force us out of the back of the truck. The small crowd who had gathered around us slumped off in despair when they discovered we weren’t going to be executed for their entertainment.
Despite being paraded around in the back of the Jimmy Savile Express, threatened and laughed at, it was one of the best days I’ve ever had, and another high spot in what has become one of the best and most insane holidays I’ve ever had. As the sun slid behind the horizon, we did our best to raise the stock price of Bintang and I did my best to win the heart of a beautiful young lady. What can I say, it’s a life…
The full moon makes people do funny things. Some transform into werewolves and go around eating anyone too fat to run away, while others dance naked around bonfires and have sex with goats. The Balinese don’t do anything stupid like that, though – the full moon is simply a reason to eat fish from the gutter and beat each other with bamboo canes. Every time the moon is big and round the Balos celebrate with ceremonies, and with one going on in the hills of Candidasa, me, the Hamster, Al, Luke, Benny, Ando and our token female Mel jumped on our motorbikes and headed out there.
When we rocked up, thousands of locals were scurrying around like ants, dressed from head to toe in traditional sarongs and headdresses. The women had offerings balanced on their bonces, the children danced in the moonlight, and the men pretty much just lay around and did nothing. It’s the Balinese way. When we tried to walk into the street where the festival was being held, a beefy bloke with an eye patch and wicked body odour stopped us and explained that we couldn’t go any further unless we started dressing like the locals. We bought sarongs and funny little hats that made us look smart and sophisticated. Well, smart, sophisticated, and like the most half-arsed ladyboys of all time.
The festival was absolutely fascinating. There were dozens of roadside stalls selling fried chicken, satay skewers, chicken broth and other delicacies, and the smell of sizzling fish and chicken wafted through the night air. Small children handed over piles of money as part of a dodgy gambling game run by an even dodgier old man. At the end of the main street was a temple where everyone was making their offerings to whichever god it is they worship, with incense burning amongst piles of fruit and flowers. Around that stood dozens of strapping young men, bruised and bleeding after spending the evening beating each other with bamboo. I was devastated to miss that, but was told that I can compete in it next year, so the Hamster needs to bloody well watch out.
As we strutted around, it became obvious that the locals were appreciative for us wearing their traditional clothes and doing our best to blend in, but also that they were all laughing and pointing at Luke, who was the only one wearing a bright green sarong. A little bloke with an odd face tapped me on the shoulder and pointed at him, shouting, “Benchong! Benchong!” Apart from Bintang, the word benchong represents the extent of my knowledge of the Balinese language, and means homosexual. Apparently Luke, in his quest to find the most exotic and handsome sarong to wear, had unwittingly chosen to present himself as the only gay in the village.
It was a really brilliant night with fantastic people, and we all enjoyed this rare look into traditional Indonesian culture. We were the only westerners there, and enjoyed exploring the festival, eating the delicious food, and mingling with the locals. So, of course, I had to go and fuck it all up. I was swaggering around, slapping high fives and generally being cool, when I tripped over and bumped into a woman, sending the offering balanced carefully on her head crashing to the ground. The crowd fell silent and every eye in the place burned into me. The woman shouted at me, and then a few of the bamboo boys picked up their weapons and started strutting in my direction. It was time to get out of there!
We turned and ran in the direction of our bikes, the footsteps of the bamboo boys growing louder as we raced through the angry mob. Blinded by tears I tripped over a stray dog, crashing to the ground next to an old man wearing a dirty nappy. The boys surrounded me and lifted their weapons, ready to sacrifice me to the moon gods. And then my hero saved me. Al really enjoys his satay skewers, and was still clutching a dozen pointy sticks decorated with squares of smoked fish. He took a deep breath and gobbled them down, then used the slimy sticks as deadly missiles, firing them at the violent thugs. They howled as the tiny spears pierced their skin, then dropped their bamboo sticks and scuttled off into the darkness like bugs. Al picked me up and carried me in his arms back to the bikes, and we made our escape. All in all, a good night was had by all.
Paragliding isn’t all about flying through exotic lands. Most of the time is spent bludging around waiting for the wind to pick up, or drinking Bintangs by the pool with your mates, or stripping off in public while the locals hoot and holler like rabid monkeys. This is the story of a night out with my mate Richard ‘The Hamster’ Ham, a man who struggles to remain fully frocked at the best of times, but who becomes a walking arrest warrant once beer is added.
After another long day of zipping around Candidasa at great heights and rehydrating with bulk Bintang on the beach afterwards, me, The Hamster and Jed headed out for a feed at Bali’s most exclusive restaurant, La Rouge, where the waiter even places a napkin over your lap. I was grateful for this, as I had wet my pants and needed something to mop up the mess. Anyway, the food was brilliant and, full of beer and Long Island Iced Tea, we tootled off to a local nightspot, where the trouble started.
The place was deserted bar for a group of volatile Germans in one corner and a bored-looking band packing up in the other. While the Hitler Youth were shouting about world domination “the fucking Jews”, the band were sombre , and refused to start playing for us. As we slumped dejectedly at the bar, a strange man man appeared from the shadows and presented us with the most hideous smile time has ever known. This character looked like he’d been kicked in the mouth by a horse and had a special needs child glue everything back together. He had about seven teeth, none of which pointed in the right direction, and were coated in a thick, brown goo.
Toothy’s negotiation skills were as good as his ability to play with his balls, and before long we came to a financial agreement that had the band picking up their instruments again. The deal was not, however, sealed with a handshake. As the band tumbled headfirst into a unique interpretation of Wonderwall, we celebrated by smashing beers and ignoring the deranged sexual advances of Toothy, who just couldn’t leave his fuckin’ balls alone.
I can honestly say that we kickstarted the band’s professional career that night, because I can’t imagine anyone else would’ve paid them to play. They were awful, with only a rudimentary understanding of the concept of music and a set list that consisted of Don’t Believe Me Just Watch! and a number of jams that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Nazi concentration camp.
The Hamster is a former drummer with legendary Pommy band The Jimmy Savile Experience (they might want to think about renaming themselves if they ever reform), and soon became enraged by the lackadaisical attitude of the drummer, who spent the majority of the performance looking at his imitation iPhone and yawning. He stormed the stage and threw the teenager to the ground before taking his place behind the drums, where he busted out some lightning beats that even had the Hitler Youth grooving around.
Jed and I took his lead and threw the other members off the band off the stage and took their place. We performed a rocking set of classic rock songs and stuff we came up with on the spot, and the masses poured in to dance and sing along and throw their panties at us. The Hamster became so caught up in the moment that he took off his clothes without missing a beat, which sent the ladies in the audience into raptures. Toothy, meanwhile, simply continued playing with his balls.
We finished off with a rousing rendition of Stairway to Heaven that was deemed by all in attendance to be better than the original and were carried out into the street by our adoring fans. They chanted our names as they carried us through the night, eventually dropping us off at the Indomart because we all wanted Cornettos. During the ride my fans had stolen my clothes, meaning that two of us were now naked, with only Jed remaining decent.
Tragically, while searching for a Cornetto that hadn’t been defrosted and re-frozen a dozen times, The Hamster tripped over a dog and knocked over a large rack of imitation sunglasses, sending it crashing to the ground. With only a handful of rupiahs on him and no way to pay for the damage, he was forced to take up a job working in the Indomart for a couple of cents an hour. After loading up on ice creams, Jed and I left Hammy to work off his debt. He was later arrested by corrupt Indonesian police and is looking forward to spend the next 20 years in a cockroach-infested jail cell with a Chinese drug runner/sexual predator named Rodney Yap. I trust they’ll be very happy together.
Candidasa is a mystical land full of ancient temples, turquoise beach, and angry monkeys, but the only way to truly appreciate it is from the air. This isolated collection of beaches along the Balinese coast have provided me with an aerial playground that has proven to be nothing short of mind-blowing and life-changing. In short, this place is fucking amazing.
The launch is unusual in itself, because it’s located on a peanut plantation overlooking the sea. Locals chatter and laugh among themselves, while dogs root each other in the scrub. Once off the ground,the flight is as daunting as it is awe-inspiring, with the whole world opening up beneath my glider.
It’s a big hill that reaches far into the Oriental sky, and the ride up there took me over thick jungle and screeching monkeys. Far above me dozens of gliders soared through the sky, and it was a surreal experience making the slow ascension to the ‘bubble’ where they hung together at the peak of the world. It was truly breathtaking stuff.
I’m not going to lie, I was absolutely shitting myself during my first flight in Candi. It took me half an hour to pluck up the courage to take my hands off my brakes long enough to turn on my vario. But despite feeling like it was my first flight all over again, that first climb to the roof of Bali is something I will never forget. It was epic, and truly life-changing.
I got so much height that I made it to cloudbase for the very first time – and even swung my glider through the clouds a few times, which was a heart-stopping experience. Never have I been surrounded by so much beauty, with the freedom to explore it all (well, never outside of a Thai knock shop).
The landing is on a long stretch of black sand, dotted with traditional fishing boats. There’s a tiny village seeming untouched by the western world, full of children who think dead chickens make excellent toys and topless women who are really good at balancing stuff on their heads. There are also icy cold beers, making it the perfect place to land (as long as it’s not on one of the boats).
There’s only one way to celebrate such an epic day, and that’s with a dozen Bintangs and a bunch of good mates. There are plenty of great places to drink beer by the water in Candi, with all sorts of tiny bars and warungs. There are more restaurants in the hills surrounding and along the main road, where bars boast awful Asian cover bands with long hair and only a rudimentary grasp of the concept of music.
I even got lucky with a big-titted local. She’s the quiet type and and a bit on the heavy side (and I also suspect she’s a stoner), but I feel like this could be the start of a long, loving relationship…