Tag Archives: Victoria

Bright ‘n’ Beautiful!

With a sunny name like Bright, it’s obvious that this tiny Victorian village is a pretty happy place. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a Mecca for cyclists, hikers, skiiers and paragliders from around the world. I can barely keep a bike upright, walking uphill makes my legs hurt, and snow makes my pee-pee shrink, so I went there to get some epic flying in – and it was mission complete as far as I’m concerned.

Most paragliding hotspots are in the middle of nowhere and infested with buck-toothed inbreds, so I was shocked to discover that Bright is a lovely cluster of houses in the mountains. Honestly, the place looks like it was built with postcards in mind. With so many adventure sports calling it home, there are no shortage of pubs, restaurants and awesome little shops to explore. It’s a picturesque spot that’s worth a visit even if you don’t like jumping or sliding or riding off high things.

There are a thousand incredible hikes through the Alps that surround the town, but if you’re not that adventurous (or have to be ready to fly at midday, like me) the Canyon Walk is a pretty special way to spend an hour or so. It starts near themain street and follows the bubbling Ovens River for a few kilometres, passing old gold mines and crossing dodgy suspension bridges. The best thing is that no point of it is far from one of Bright’s great pubs, so if the stroll gets boring, you can go and sink piss till you pass out.

The number of cashed-up tourists who pass through Bright means that there are bucketloads of attractions to check out, with local wine tours and the epic Wandiligong Maze being highlights. Seriously, that thing is massive, so take a packed lunch or stop off at the well-stocked cafe outside before you enter. There also seems to be a bit of action in the public toilets after dark, according to this hastily-scribbled sign. I slipped my pecker under the wall, but the fella in the next stall just threatened to step on it.

The exquisitely-landscaped water park and picnic area that straddles the river is very close to town and popular with people of all ages. It’s the perfect place to cool down on a hot day, with diving boards and splishy-splashy water jets, and the massive slippery dip that descends into the cooling water is plenty of fun. Just watch out, because I saw a sicko weeing (or should that be Wheen-ing?) onto it, so don’t be surprised if it’s a bit sticky.

I was there to do a fly, and it really is a fucking great place to go paragliding (and you don’t need to have experience – there are plenty of companies that would love to take you for a tandem). Mystic Mountain looms large over the town, and has a brilliant launch out over the valley. It’s a world-class place to get high, and with clear blue skies and plenty of thermals popping everywhere, I couldn’t wait to chuck myself off the hill and see what would happen.

Bright looks great from the ground, but the best view of this quaint mountain hamlet is from 2000m up in the air, while strapped to a lawn chair and a glorified plastic bag. There were a few bumps here and there, and I was so scared I almost cried at one point, but I’ve gotta say the flying in Bright is sensational. People come from around the world to explore the skies above Bright, and I met people with all sorts of funny accents up on launch. If you’re the sort of nutter who enjoys paragliding, you need to check it out.

I had four unreal days sailing through the sky, and really improved my skills and blasted through my expectations. The gang I of scoundrels I was with all managed impressive flights, too. I even made it over to the nearby township of Harritville a few times. There’s a really nice pub there, so I wasn’t going to land short, was I? Bright surprised me with its stunning good looks and wide range of things to see and do (and drink). I’m proud of my achievements in the air, and I’m already counting down the days until I return to this unreal patch of Australia. Although I might have one or two places to visit before then…

WHERE: Bright, Victoria. 321km north of Melbourne, in the heart of the majestic Ovens Valley

WHAT’S THERE? A huge mountain to hike up, cycle down, or paraglide off. A delightful river. A picture-perfect town full of restaurants, pubs and kooky little shops

IF YOU’RE THIRSTY: Even a blind bloke could find a pub there, but I recommend the Alpine – the food’s grouse

AND IF YOU’RE STILL HUNGRY: There’s a top pie shop near the Alpine. I think they even provide free sauce

WHAT ARE THE WOMENFOLK LIKE? During ski season the joint is crawling with good sorts, but it can be slim pickings outside of that time. In Autumn, when people descend on the town to see the leaves change, you could probably pick up a granny pretty easily

FUN FACT: The town was originally known as Schittsville, but the name was changed to Bright to appeal to tourists. It was probably a good decision

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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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