Tag Archives: hang gliding

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.

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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!

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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