The Stig, the Shire, skydiving and Sydney culture

25 March 2014

Whoa. What a few weeks it’s been! Let’s catch up real quick.

I had the chance to attend Top Gear Festival Sydney at the Sydney Motorsport Park. Imagine everything you love about the TV show, right in front of you, in real life, all at once. Massive plumes of smoke from burnouts, cars whizzing by at heart-pounding speeds, and dream cars are everywhere to be seen. In typical fashion, the Top Gear hosts came up with something absurd and attached a car to a bungee, put somebody inside, and tipped them off a suspended platform 73 metres in the air. Between stunts performed, hot laps raced and records broken, it was awesome. I think my favourite part was a hot lap with The Stig, ripping around the course with the masked speed demon. I can now confirm, he does not talk.

Chief Funster with The Stig

The Chief Funster with The Stig

Less than an hour south of Sydney, the Sutherland Shire has an immense natural environment, prime for adventure. I travelled down with a group of local Instagramers to capture the sights and experiences. We were all set in front of brilliant beaches, mountains and waterfalls as we trekked through the moonlight near Wattamolla Beach. Andy, from Understand Downunder, leads a tour that begins in the evening and ends at 3am. Yep, you read that correctly, 3:00 AM. We journeyed through the bush by foot while learning about the landscape and night photography techniques. We then waded across an ocean inlet to a sandy beach that served as our bed for the night. Waking up at 6.30am to capture the sunrise, I didn’t even have to leave my sleeping bag to seize some incredible shots. Did I succeed? I’ll let the photo do the talking.

Sunrise in the Sutherland Shire

Sunrise at Wattamolla Beach Falls

Nearby Wollongong is home to Skydive the Beach. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Being located right on the shore, I showed up admiring the location itself before I looked up and saw people floating down from the sky over this view. The team at Skydive the Beach calmly welcomed me and it seemed like there was nothing out of the ordinary happening. Meanwhile, I was thinking, “I’m about to jump out of a plane 15,000ft above the ground – on purpose!” But really, I wasn’t worried about it as everyone is so relaxed beforehand, especially the instructors who have done over 10,000 jumps before. As you jump out of the plane, the first 10 seconds are pure adrenaline – the rest, serenity. The beautiful coastline is the main thing you can see, as far as the horizon. The blues and greens of the ocean water transition into lush green as you look inward. The five to seven minute parachute descent is one of the most amazing things you can do.

Chief Funster with Skydive the Beach

The Chief Funster skydives in Wollongong with Skydive the Beach

Back in the city, rePLAY: Symphony of Heroes, an orchestral piece featuring the themes and songs of famous video games, debuted at the Sydney Opera House. Being a pretty big nerd myself, I was really excited to hear my favourite games played in such an iconic location. Usually you hear these songs coming out of a speaker system, but rePLAY featured 81 musicians and 16 singers performing live in front of 2,100 enthusiastic gamers.

Finally, the Tyrannosaurs exhibition at the Australian Museum in the city was great fun. My inner kid, obsessed with dinosaurs, immediately came out to play. All my childhood dreams of being an archaeologist or reptilian animator came flooding back as I looked on in awe at the massive dino skulls, examined their bones, and heard their roars down the halls. Arguably the funniest and/or scariest part of the exhibit (depending on your taste) is the life-like dino, Winnie, that comes out to “play”. Roaring loudly, Winnie will pose with you, chase you, or both. Here’s what happened when I met Winnie.

You could say that I’m keeping busy alright, but more importantly, am I finding enough fun moments in New South Wales to prove it’s the Most Fun Place on Earth? I’m ahead of schedule, in fact. I can confidently say I’m not questioning whether the fun moments exist, but I am wondering whether I can get to them all quick enough! New South Wales has enough fun for a legion of Funsters, but someone has to lead the way. Wish me luck!