Tag Archives: State of Origin

Miles High in Manilla

Ask most people about Manilla and they’ll mention streets overflowing with sewage, drug-crazed violence and X-rated ping pong shows. But that’s the Filipino version, and when you mention the name to a paragliding pilot, they’re more likely to talk about epic thermals, heart-stopping collapses and vast distances covered while strapped to a glorified Coles shopping bag. I headed out there for the recent State of Origin comp, and it was ace.

Unidentified individual, Aido, Your Drunken Hero, Tommy the Legend, Matty

For a village of 2300 people that’s right out in the middle of fucking nowhere, Manilla is actually a really nice place. There’s a pretty river, good restaurants and an awesome pub run by Uncle Tommy, who’s a deadset legend. The beer’s cold, the schnitzels are fatter than Rebel Wilson’s arse, and there’s usually a sheila around willing to grab your donk for a bourbon and coke. That first night I got hammered there with Aidan and Matty, a couple of pilots from around my way who prove that not all of the younger generation is adsicted to sending dick pics on their phones and drinking paint for YouTube videos. I think I woke up under a bush.

Shitting myself on launch. I pretended it was the roos

I was feeling dustier than a wombat’s wang the next morning, but I shook off the fog and headed up the hill to join the competition. Conditions were spectacular and, after almost hitting the deck three minutes after launching, I hooked a thermal up to 2600m and started heading north. With a strong southerly I was scooting along at more than 60km/h and picking up lift the whole day, meaning I made it 50.34km before landing – a new personal best! What an awesome way to spend my birthday! Alright, let’s not mention that the Bombastic Bednal Brothers both bested me.

And shitting myself at around 1500 metres. Maybe I have IBS?

I hitched a ride back to the Royal, where I smashed beers and met a swagman who told me he’d once eaten the barman’s pet turtle. I don’t know if he lost a bet or was just hungry, but he seemed pretty pleased with himself. Ah, Manilla is full of characters, which is one reason I love the bush. People rarely acknowledge each other in the cities, but in out-of-the-way places it’s possible to meet a truly facinating person every day of the week. As the sun was setting, things took a turn for the truly bizarre when a highly unusual man walked into the pub wearing a dog as a backpack.

I hope he doesn’t start pissing! And I don’t mean the dog…

When the rest of the gang finally made it back from wherever they’d landed, we hit the sauce hard, celebrating a great day of flying above the beautiful countryside. However, the good mood was soon shattered by a commotion in the beer garden. I raced out there to see a familiar figure brawling with a group of tough-looking locals.

Scotty showing the extent of his dramatic range

Scotty kicked one in the balls, tipped another into a garbage bin, and bonked the third over the head with a chair. With the hard work done, he wiped the gore from his swollen fists, slicked back his glorious mullet and greeted us with his award-winning smile. After being implicated in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa (which was made worse by the fact they weren’t his balls), Scotty had been keeping things low-key, but was now ready to show the paragliding world what he was made of.

“The trophy is mine,” he sneered, swaggering over to a young lady and pinching her on the bottom. “You chumps might as well go home, play with your Barbie doll. Tomorrow I fly 1000 kilometre. Maybe I land on the moon. It depend what I feel like.”

I spent most of the flight watching my wing flutter around like an epileptic chicken… but it served me well!

Unfortunately for Scott, the trophy wasn’t to be his. Later that night he was shot whilst attempting to steal tomato sauce sachets from the local takeaway shop and was unable to compete due to massive blood loss. The rest of us had a great day, flying west in bumpy conditions, with Matt and Aiden smashing their personal bests (and well and truly outflying me), whilst some other pilots pushed out towards Narabri. I landed next to some sort of dorky-looking horse thing.

Me and popular television homosexual Josh Thomas

The first two days were good, but it was the third day that separated the priests from the boys (or however that saying goes). The conditions were difficult, with weak thermals and a tough launch, and I again found myself heading for the bombout within minutes. I was only metres from the ground when I finally found some lifty air and climbed up to 2000 metres. That was enough for me to get going, and I spent the next three hours scratching away for any height I could get, and slowly crabbing north. By the time I made it to Barraba some of the boys were already pissed at the local bowlo, so I prepared to land and get on the cans. But a rogue thermal carried me away, and I ended up landing 48km from launch – putting me in the top 10 for the day. Best of all, the rest of the boys did so well that we ended up finishing fifth out of, I dunno, let’s say 1000 teams. And let’s not mention that Aido and Matt’s team beat us.

Eleven of the coolest people you could ever hope to meet at launch, a dog, and a gatecrasher in the middle

I touched down next to a bull who looked like he either wanted to fight me or fuck me, so I bundled up and jumped over a barbed wire fence. Once back at the bowlo, I proceeded to get epically smashed, and we all ended up back at Tom’s that night for bulk drinks. I was stoked with my performance – 120km over three days was more than I could’ve hoped for – and happy to have spent a long weekend with some great people. The next morning I jumped back in my glider and launched from Mount Borah one more time. I went up and up and up, before heading east. Over the mountains, over the beaches, over the oceans, until I landed somewhere very interesting indeed…

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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!

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.

I took a lot of drugs in Amsterdam and got chased by cartoon characters

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When I rolled into Amsterdam for the first time a few years ago, I only had three things on my mind; beer, drugs, and naked women with big titties. Who cares if it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world, that’s what me – and most other people – go there for. But first I had something very important to take care of – it was State of Origin day, and I had to find somewhere to watch the big game.

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It’s my home! For two days! I hope I don’t get molested by a sailor!

I was staying on a boat moored on the river, so I dumped my bags in my closet of a room and headed out into the freezing afternoon, stopping only to pick up a roadie or two as I waltzed down the streets. Amsterdam might have thousands of years of history and be a melting pot for arts and culture, but I didn’t give a shit about that right then – I had to find a pub with the footy on, and I found it in Coco’s Outback, not far from the city centre.

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Well, at least the beer was wet…

The joint was jammed wall-to-wall with pissed Aussies, so I grabbed myself a long, tall glass of Grolsch and settled back to watch New South Wales pull out a hard-fought 12-8 victory. As the game wound down I got chatting to Clint, a middle-aged miner from Newcastle, and when the less-than-jovial chaps from Coco’s kicked everyone out of the joint five seconds after the final whistle, we both headed to a local Italian restaurant for another few beers.

That’s when I found out Clint’s a bit fucked in the head.

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The incomparable Clint

While I would’ve liked to talk about the footy game, Clint only wanted to talk about his ex-wife. Apparently she was a fucking bitch, a psycho, a slut. I’ve never met the woman, so she probably is, I just wanted Clint to shut the fuck up about it because he was seriously bringing me down. And then he took it a step further.

“Lot of places to bury a body in Australia,” he said, staring me straight in the eyes while taking a deep pull of his Heineken. Shit, now Clint wasn’t just annoying me with his incessant whinging, now the mad bastard was making me an accessory to murder! I needed to get out of there, so I skolled my beer and told him I had to get going.

“Yeah, it’s probably time we left this shithole,” he sneered, looking around. “Let’s head up to the red light district and go halves in a hooker. Whaddya say?”

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Walk out your front door, step on a fish…

While the thought of sharing the orifices of an Eastern European sex slave with a deranged murderer certainly sounded appealing, I was forced to decline. Who knows, the nutter probably would’ve strangled the chick while I was balls-deep, and I have no inclination to become a necrophiliac, even if it’s not my fault. Instead, I headed out into Amsterdam by myself, stopping regularly to drink at the endless supply of beautiful pubs.

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If you think that canal’s wide, you should meet my ex-girlfriend!

It’s a gorgeous city, with sparkling canals, fairy tale streets, and ancient churches and monuments. The city centre is small and easy to walk around, and it’s just a great place to spend time. The weather was atrocious when I was there and I was freezing cold as I walked around, but it didn’t matter because Amsterdam has such a special feeling. And then, as I walked along, the ancient buildings gave way to the decadence and depravity of the infamous red light district.

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It’s the happiest place on Earth!

As I stumbled along drunkenly, I realised it was everything I’d ever heard and more. Stunning women with massive fake tits dance behind huge windows, waving to any bloke who looks at them. Gangs of smashed Pommy tourists wobble along cobblestone streets, beers in hand, loudly debating which brothel to head into. Swarms of Japanese tourists, following a leader with a flag and a colour-coded hat, syphon into X-rated sex shows. It’s bizarre and awesome and disgusting at the same time, and definitely worth experiencing.

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Hello, ladies, who wants 50 cents and half a bag of chips?

After checking out a sex show featuring a barely-legal blonde teenager getting fucked by a black fella with a cock the size of a Chinaman’s leg (I bet she was walking funny after that), I decided it was time to indulge in Amsterdam’s other famous commodity – the drugs. Now, I don’t ever use drugs, but felt I had to in order to get the whole cultural experience, so I didn’t really know how to go about it. All the cafes had menus with various drug-sounding items on them, but I couldn’t work out what was what, so I just kept wandering around and drinking. Finally, I walked into a shady-looking cafe, saw some muffins on the counter, and asked what they were. When a creepy bald man told me they were space cakes, I told him to wrap one up for me, and away I went. Big fucking mistake.

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Before: Not fucked up

I ate the huge muffin an a few bites and chucked the wrapper in a bin, wondering why the effects hadn’t kicked in. Thinking I must’ve been dudded, I ducked into a pub and ordered a beer, grooving around in time to the live band that was playing. I was putting the moves on a big-titted brunette when the music started to echo and the lights around me started to blur. My mind became clouded and I suddenly had to get out of the stuffy pub, so I left my beer (and the big-titted brunette) and burst out into the crisp night air. Sounds hung in the air like butterflies and lights burned intensely as I made my way over to the bank of a canal, holding onto a railing as I watched throngs of people walking by. And then everything changed.

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After: Really fucked up

At once, every single person in the crowd transformed into grotesque cartoon characters, with oversized, pointy heads like the crows in Fritz the Cat. Hundreds of the things stared straight at me, their massive eyes burning through me. As the filed past, every person said my name – it was all anyone could say, their voices deep and dropping with evil. I just stood there, freaked out but, deep in my mind, aware that nothing I was seeing was real. I also knew that I had to get out of there.

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This is basically what happened

As I walked down the dark streets, trying to avoid the crows, I was hit by alternating waves of euphoria and terror. One second a pulse would hit me and the world would be bursting with colour and love, and seconds later I would be hit again and I’d be walking through a rotting cesspit with corpses staring at me. It was incredibly strange, and I was very glad to get back to my tiny room on the boat.

Only it wasn’t so tiny, and it wasn’t on a boat. After closing the door, the room magically transformed into my grandparents’ backyard, with an endless blue sky opening up above. I could feel the grass and smell the flowers. I lay back and stretched out, listening to a light breeze rustle through the trees, and gold fish swimming in the pond. I’d found out less than a week beforehand that my grandfather had died while I was flying over from Australia and, while neither he nor my grandmother were in the garden with me, it was a lovely and peaceful way to spend the night.

And bloody hell, I certainly got my money’s worth on that room booking!

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