It’s true that what happens on a bucks night stays on a bucks night, so I’ll not be mentioning any names or reporting any crimes in this one – but I couldn’t let such a fun and varied day pass without sharing a few of my own adventures and observations with you.
Alas, the bucks had a strict ‘no cameras’ rule, so you’ll have to make do with a few random photos that loosely fit what I’m talking about.
I wake before the sun has begun its ascent. The air is cold and outside I can hear the first spatters of rain as they strike the branches that shield my window from the morning sun I’d usually wake too.
I wash the sleep out of my system in a too hot shower, throw my backpack over my shoulder, and walk out into the grey half light of a miserable Saturday morning. A few dog walkers and early morning joggers are my only company as I wander up to the bus stop and wait for the 426.
I strike up conversation with the shift worker sharing the bus shelter. He marvels at my kindle as I try to find a new book to read. I eventually settle on Jeff Long’s post apocalyptic Year Zero. It’s fitting company for a dreary morning.
I get off the bus at Railway Square, walk through the claustrophobic tunnel that links Railway Square to Central Station. Already the place is abuzz with activity. Where are all of these people going at 6am on a Saturday morning?
A ninety minute train ride takes me from the heart of Australia’s largest city to the mist shrouded forest suburbs north of Kuring-Gai national park. The air is still cool at 7.30am and the rolling waves of mist and rain have chilled me to the core by the time I’ve crossed the road and ducked into the bakery to grab a breakfast of a sausage roll and a Oak ice coffee.
A dirt stained bus rattles to a halt in front of the liquor store across from me. Our wild haired driver stubs out a cigarette as I approach.
“You must be Chris,” he greets me as I step into the bus and come face to face with eight complete strangers. Introductions are made and I settle into the nearest free seat.
The bus lurches out onto the highway again and soon we trade carefully tended suburban lawns for breathtaking views of the Hawkesbury River and thick Australian bushland. Ribald stories begin to filter their way down from the back of the bus as a bladder full of vodka cranberry is passed back and forth.
Our bus pulls off of the freeway and bumps and rattles down a narrow road that eventually gives way to dirt. We’re afforded occasional glimpses of the world below through a thick curtain of mist that has filled the valley we’re descending into. The tell-tale hiss of a beer being opened starts me awake as I hang halfway between sleep and consciousness.
Soon we pull up out front of what we assume is First Strike Laser Tag. The morning air is laced with the sickly sweet stink of horse manure.
Another car pulls up and we collect a few more revelers. The owner of the ranch informs us that we’re not in the right place.
We head on farther down the road and eventually find ourselves in a broad clearing. Water clings to the knee length grass and sleepy campers emerge bleary eyed to greet the day.
We pile out in front of a pair of cargo containers with a tarp drawn tight between them. A man in camos stands behind a table laden with weapons.
It’s time to do battle.
Legen…wait for it… dary Laser Tag
The groom-to-be’s vetoing of paint ball meant we went with the slightly less macho alernative when it comes to running around shooting your friends and pretending to be bad-ass army soldiers.
First Strike Laser Tag, based halfway between Hornsby and Gosford, specializes in providing an alternative to paintball without sacrificing too much of the experience.
Our battlefield would be a stretch of woodland criss-crossed with hiking trails and fire roads.
Once we’d been briefed and had weapons assigned, we pulled on our camos and were split into two teams – imaginatively titled ‘Team One’ and ‘Team Two’.
Our first mission, a straight out skirmish designed to familiarize ourselves with the weapons, saw my motley crew edging cautiously between gum trees and stepping too loudly over logs. Little did we know that our travels were attracting the attention of a few hungry locals – mosquitos were finding purchase on bare skin while leeches snagged on socks and crawled up to where ankles were unprotected.
Some of us played a cautious game and lurked behind trees while others careened wildly into the midst of our enemies and saw their lives erased in a matter of seconds. A few more enthusiastic members would slide down hill, roll into cover behind logs, or crawl forward arm over arm as if standing up would draw lethal gunfire.
The poor groom-to-be found himself an easy target in his white evening gown.
Our team carried the field and then it was time to pluck off leeches and launch into a pair of VIP games. One team would escort a member of their team towards a heavily guarded flag which the others were charged with defending.
We did not fare well. In fact, four of our five team members were back sipping beers under cover before ten minutes had passed. Somehow, inexplicably, our loudest and least athletic member just happened to be our VIP and made a last second dash for the flag. Tumbling down a hill like the boulder in Indiana Jones, he somehow managed to avoid being shot and crashed into the flag.
We had stolen victory!
Two more games and two more victories follow, and then it’s time for celebratory beers and a welcome reprieve from the constant drizzle that had soaked through our camos and ensured every one of us reeked of sweat and damp.
War stories were exchanged and leeches were picked off of ankles and wrists and necks before being stubbed out on the end of angry cigarettes.
And then, bellies full of beer and little else, it was time for lunch.
Cricket, Skinning Dipping, and a BBQ
Our next stop, after a brief layover at a BP to restock on Red Bull and beer, would be the shores of the Hawkesbury River at beautiful Bobbin Head in Kuring-Gai national park. Eskies were toted down to the waterfront and the BBQ was fired up for a traditional lunch of snags (sausages), steak, and onions on white bread.
It doesn’t get much more typically Aussie than that.
While some of the boys stripped down to their shorts and braved oyster cuts by wading into the river, others set up the cricket stumps and began an impromptu game of cricket.
We were soon joined by a trio of Indian-Australian kids who put our increasingly drunk party to shame with their bowling form and fielding. Most of us were reduced to throwing arms hopefully in the direction of fast moving strikes or batting with one hand while the other held a beer.
We’d started out drinking Tooheys Extra Dry and Hahn Super Dry and had somehow been reduced to sipping tins of cheap German swill and flavorless Sol from Mexico. Hell, one of our party resorted to polishing off the better part of a bottle of Ouzo on his lonesome.
By this point the rain had given way to overcast skies and the beers had well and truly taken their effect. I managed to faceplant in attempting an ambitious run up for a bit of pace bowling.
After that, I decided to stick with spin.
It was 4pm and the day was young. The buck had yet to complete half of his Buck-Et List and we’d not touched on the more debaucherous aspects of a bucks weekend.
But that was set to change…