[dropcap]N[/dropcap]o but seriously, are you sure you want to do this? It’s no joke… we got banned from the last convention we went to because we took up too much of the ambulance crew’s time…
Today was an interesting day.
I’m in New South Wales, Australia at the moment - I’m here on a month long road trip with Destination New South Wales and MTV on a tourism campaign. The #unmapped trip has just reached the halfway point, and it’s been absolutely incredible so far.
I’ve been fortunate enough to go on quite a few of these trips over the last few years, but this one is the most extravagant and the best organised of them all. Basically there are 5 of us from all over the world, on a bus, and where we go is decided entirely by the New South Wales Facebook page. We ask people where to go and what to do… and then we go and do whatever they tell us to.
So far this has involved Mardi Gras, Skydiving, Abseiling, Rock Climbing, Mountain Biking, Surfing, and Guinnea Pig racing (yes, seriously). Today was a day that topped them all, however.
Right now, the bus has stopped in the Hunter Valley (Australia’s most prestigious wine region), and late last night we got confirmation that one of us would be allowed to take a 1 hour flying lesson in a plane at the local airfield. I wanted to do this really badly, but after a fearsome round of Rock/Paper/Scissors it was Kelly who came out on top.
I was gutted, but having come to terms with defeat - Kelly offered me a chance to buy the flying lesson back from her… if I would submit to some sort of humiliating challenge. We put a call out to the Facebook page for suggestions, and someone came up with an idea that proved to be a winner.
Becoming a Pilot
This morning I turned up at Hunter Valley Aviation, at Cessnock Airport, for my 1 hour introductory pilot course. I wasn’t nervous (something to do with jumping/falling out of similar sized planes rather recently - see here), but I was extremely excited. I met my instructor, Maddy - who showed me the aircraft control system in our Cessna, as well as how to correctly fasten the seat belt (vaguely important, apparently).
After a quick taxi to the runway and a few more brief explanations of plane functions, I pushed in the throttle and took off, solo, for my first ever flight.
I won’t bore you too much with dramatic tales of the view, although those were certainly present. It was actually a very relaxing experience, and honestly very similar to flying a plane in a video game. I got to circle the area at 3,000 feet for just under an hour before heading back in to land the plane (didn’t realise I was going to have to do that part) successfully on the runway.
The whole thing was surreal and amazing. I would absolutely jump at the chance to do it again. If you ever get the chance to do it, don’t hesitate. The Hunter Valley is a pretty incredible place for it, too.
Oh - the whole "no phones on planes" thing is crap apparently - there was no problem with me using my iPhone to take photos and tweet while flying. WIN. It's like tweeting while driving, but in 3 dimensions.
(The plane was a Cessna, I spelt it wrong in the image)
Paying The Price
The challenge was set… though my road trip partners decided it would be best to keep me in the dark until mere hours beforehand as to what it would actually be. Eventually, I was informed we would be going to a place called “The Chili Factory” which was close by.
Now, I assumed that this would simply be some sort of speciality chilli shop. With lots of different sorts of chillies… and maybe I’d have a few vaguely hot ones. Nothing worse than a Vindaloo curry…
I was wrong.
As we stepped out of the #unmapped bus, we met Alex - one of the owners of The Chili Factory - who asked introduced himself and then said,
No but seriously, are you sure you want to do this? It’s no joke… we got banned from the last convention we went to because we took up too much of the ambulance crew’s time…
It turns out that The Chili Factory is famous for one thing. They are in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the producer of the hottest chilli in the world. It’s called “The Scorpion Chili” - and it’s fairly spicy. Let me explain just how spicy: The humble Jalepeño Pepper, widely regarded as “pretty hot” - is usually around 2,500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). For the average person, this is enough for some serious tongue tingling.
The Scorpion Chilli weighs in at 1.5million SHU.
I was nervous, though I don’t think I was anywhere near nervous enough for a sane person. What happened next was a pretty extreme experience all around. The thing about The Scorpion is that for the first 1-2 minutes you don’t feel anything. It’s just like eating a Jalepeño. After that, the heat starts to build up in your mouth like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. By around the 5 minute mark, every part of your respiratory and digestive system is on fire.
It’s really hard to describe what it was like, because I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve ever done before. I felt like I wanted to throw up, pass out, fall over, cry, scream and gag - all at the same time. The worst of it passed within about 2 minutes, but they were a very long 2 minutes. After that it was just a constant unbearable heat for another 10 minutes. The milk didn’t help much, if at all.
Anyway, here's the video:
I’ve got to say - I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun. It was absolutely *awesome* - and an accomplishment that I will doubtless be boring people with tales of for many years to come.
I’ll be writing more about the road trip over the coming weeks (including the documentary filming with MTV - preview), and doing a bit of a general recap of my travels recently. Stay tuned, and eat some chillis. They're good for you.
Oh, and if you want to see me do more ridiculous things - please please head over to the New South Wales Facebook page and hit the "Like" button, then comment on the wall and tell them where they should take us and what we should do.
(I can still feel The Scorpion literally burning its way through my digestive system. Alex warned me that The Scorpion's exit from the body tomorrow will be just as fiery as its entrance. Not looking forward to that part if I'm honest.)