Past Adventures

Choose a topic : Fraser Island - Lake Eildon - India - Bangkok - Canoeing - Skydiving


'
Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island. It has lots of Sahara-like dunes [photo], but most of it is covered in lush rain forest.

It has beautiful, freshwater lakes, filtered by the sand I guess [photo]. You can swim and drink at the same time, it was really that good. I should know, I sobered up in Lake McKenzie [photo].

This was the only time I've seen Dingos in the wild [photo]. They would circle our camp at night, looking for scraps. Apparently they have been known to take frying pans.

We got there from Hervey Bay backpackers where they arrange you into groups of six, give you a Toyota Landcruiser and camping gear. Best way to see it I reckon, as long as the weather is good.


'
Lake Eildon

Lake Eildon is a man-made reservoir that can hold seven times the amount of water in Sydney Harbour. It is massive. It is possible to hire houseboats [photo] from six-berth to huge, double-storey ones with spas. They are great fun, half-camping, half-caravan, half-boat. Even around Christmas and New Year, when it gets really busy, it is no problem to find a quiet inlet. Because it is so remote, you get a good chance to see koalas, kangaroos, possums and wombats in their natural environment.

They also hire out speedboats. First time I tried out waterskiing. Second time I tried wakeboarding. Now I have a wakeboard of my own and I just need to persuade some friends to invest in a boat!

If that all sounds a bit too active, they have a giant icebox for booze and sunloungers on top deck.

An amazing sight when we were bushwalking around Lake Eildon was this unusually straight line cutting through the grass. On closer inspection, it turned out to be an ant path. They had actually worn down a line where the grass wouldn't grow.


'
India

I used a stopover in Delhi on the way to U.K. to 'experience' India. Only the pursuit of things like the Taj Mahal [photo1] [photo2] kept me going (read 'couldn't wait to leave the place').

It is a very stressful place to visit, at least, the major cities were, which you can't avoid if you want to see the main sights. I was almost pulled apart at Agra by desperate rickshaw drivers.

The sights, and the food however, were amazing [photo].


'
Bangkok

I've used this stopover to break the 24-hour journey from Melbourne to Edinburgh a few times now. The traffic and humidity are amazing. There is good shopping here, but for photo opportunities, the Wat Po and other temples are amazing [photo1] [photo2]. Take lots of film.


'
Canoeing

I've always had a bit of passion for 'bobbing along on the water'.
That passion almost died when Penelope and I were dropped off up Glenelg River with a canoe and camping gear. It took three days to paddle downstream. Apart from the last day, it was about seven or eight hours rowing per day.

This huge river didn't flow. The wind only blew us upstream. The camping gear inbetween us was all that kept us from throttling or stabbing each other (Penelope wanted to steer a 'bee-line' where as I wanted to hug the shore where the wind was less).

I think we enjoyed it (in retrospect anyway).

I now have a one-seater (kayak) which I take to the Yarra River and up to Lake Eildon.


'
Skydiving

The following is an account of a parachute jump I performed around 1994:

When I investigated skydiving in U.K., the idea was to do a 'static line' jump; where the parachute opens automatically as you leave the plane.  The only way to do a freefall jump was to be strapped into the harness of a qualified instructor.  This seemed uncomfortable to me; a bit like a suicide jumper taking you with him.  In Victoria, you can jump with two instructors holding on either side to ensure a safe descent, at the end of which, you pull your own rip cord; more like a three way suicide pact!  Better still, the 'chutes that they use are now the square ones that enable you to steer and slow your descent.

The 'drop zone' for the parachute jump was a place called Bairnsdale, near the scenic Lakes Entrance (which I didn't get to see, at least, not with my feet on the ground!).  A converted sheep shearing barn serves as the accommodation.  All mod cons and cosy dormitories.  The experienced skydivers just never stop talking about skydiving, and they can drink and talk until very late at night.

The training for the parachute jump lasted one weekend and, surprisingly, skydivers get up extremely early in the mornings (first ones to the drop zone get priority!).  Unfortunately the weather was bad for that weekend and the next weekend that we drove through.  It takes about four hours to get there and the weather is so totally unpredictable and usually completely different in both places.  The small distances that I used to resent driving (like from Edinburgh to Glasgow) simply pale to insignificance in Australia.

The parachute equipment is explained fully and complete confidence is gained in it, and the instructors.  However, nothing can prepare you for your reaction when that door opens at 10,00 feet.  The initial '1000 to 6000' count is really to give your mind something to concentrate on when you leave the 'plane.  'Sensory Overload' can otherwise occur; simply too much for the brain to cope with.  A few 'dummy' rip cord pulls, and thousands of feet later, you signal to the instructors with your tongue (like scuba diving, verbal communication is out of the question).  They check your height awareness and 'tongue' to you back meaning "pull the rip cord".  If sensory overload should leave you babbling wildly in the wind, or worse still - in the foetal position, the instructors would pull your rip cord.  Another safety feature of the student parachutes is an automatic opening at a pre-determined height.  There was a case where the 'plane lost control just as a first-time jumper was getting ready to leave and he found himself in freefall without his two instructors! - very scary stuff.  I opted to have all this captured on video for an extra fee!!

Third visit we were lucky and the skies cleared.  The final preparation was carried out at a speed which I felt was comparable to the quickness of a hanging.  Similar reason - don't let the 'victims' mind dwell on what is about to happen!

The 'plane was very small.  My companion was doing a static line jump and
'left us' at 4,500 feet.  The climb to 10,000 feet took another ten minutes - plenty of time to watch the fields turn gradually into a small, green patchwork.  That's the one part that can't be hurried.  The waves breaking on the coast were visible many miles away.

The door opened at 10,000 feet and my brain wanted to think about something else.  Anything else.  It just didn't want to deal with the situation at hand.  Thoughts of fishing, reading and other relaxing hobbies had to be wrestled out in order for me to concentrate on what I was supposed to do when my feet left the 'plane.

"AARRGGHHONETHOUSANDAARRGGHHTWOTHOUSANDARGH!!!...

The counting helped,...slightly.  I managed to read my altimeter (height thingy) and do the right things at the right time (although I was understandably eager to pull the rip cord).  The freefall lasted 40 wild seconds.  Floating under the canopy wasn't the thrill I'd imagined, but I think that the thrill was totally diminished by the freefall.  I drifted too much, an effect of my mere body weight coupled with the fact that I had the 'brakes' on slightly, and landed on the runway tarmac.  Lady Luck being forever by my side (not literally though, I noticed!!), neither of the two 'planes were landing or taking off and I managed to stay on my feet when I landed.  A relieved numbness slowed the gathering of my 'chute, a numbness which quickly wore off when I saw the 'plane that I'd just jumped from, come in to land.  The pilot gave me a ride in, leading to a few surprised people thinking that I'd actually chickened out of jumping!

I had intended to complete the course - another eight, cheaper jumps - but I'm not sure now.  I simply wasn't hooked by the bug that most people get.  It seems even crazier to me now to be qualified to jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet when the need takes you!

The most interesting skydiver T-shirt had this written on the back:

If you can read this
as I'm getting out the plane-
STOP ME!