Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Men in the mountains

Wednesday 30th of July

What does it all mean people? You take a bunch of guys and put them in a shack in the mountains, then things start happening that maybe wouldn't have otherwise. Its like there is some kind of up the mountain sub sense that rises. It surfaces through layers of civilisation and conditioning, the patterns of society seem to slide away. Next thing you know you are taking a photo of eight guys with their clothes off poised at a cliff face at 2600m in the Swiss alps. 

What a strange thing, standing naked and looking south towards Italy. Right? Pretty strange hey, and yet today on a peak at the half way point of our five hour walk, the boys were blasting some energy down into the peninsular and the photo made a lot of sense. Mountains. 

There has been some spectacular meal work up here in the hills as well. A commercial sized pasta dinner in two cartoon sized pots, gourmet adjacent breakfast and some local themed stinky cheese fondu tonight. It has been some mountain style eating. The drinking you can imagine yourself. 

It might be about spending a week with a team of mates, it might be about the absence of the majority of broad life responsibility, and it might be about being up a big cloudy mountain. Regardless of the reason, it has been a fairly quality sojourn away from frisbee and our standard lives. Colony went to the mountain and tomorrow we will ride down into Italy like the wild mountain tribe we may have become. 

Strange things up on top of this part of the world, strange things and great times with the team. When on earth would this Sacha guy hike for five hours up this mountain wearing these shoes? 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Story time with Abra

Joel’s van- Bernin rapids, cars on trains and the ‘only’ gondola in Switzerland’s Alps…

The day started a little late for Joel’s van but pastries were plentiful and the look on Gus guy's face as he stuffed croissants down like it was his job was priceless. We left our German chapter behind and headed towards the Swiss border. Little did we know the border was well protected, not by dramatic mountains but by a terminator-esk customs officer who was not f*&^%ing around. Oli and Joel did not help the situation with comments like… “Do I look guilty” and “we should have floored it”. 

After our passports were scoured and Joel pulled some Gary on the young lady officer, we were permitted entry into the neutralist nation on Earth. There was a sense of close call for me, but the boys assured me I was a paranoid yank, so I breathed deeply wondering where the alps were and where our day would take us. And what a day it was. 

We had gotten behind the other van, which was far more respectable and made it through customs like a calm summer breath. Our first destination was Bern to check out what Sasha had said was an amazing lazy river experience through a beautiful old city. He explained you could drift down the river and take in the sites. Little did we know the river was beasty and full of icy cold rushing water after some serious rain. In fact it was flooded and as we came around the corner and saw the amazing picturesque old city we crossed a bridge to see the  overflow gates rushing like torrents and the banks flooded to the brim. Some of us were somewhat hesitant at the sight of the not so lazy river pumping through the city, but Oli was full throttle convinced it was a piece of cake. We stopped a German version of Bruce Wayne on his bike and he told us it was not recommended, while struggling to find his English he did tell us to find our way to the public swimming pool and that we could enter there. We neglected the Navigation and followed our nose (which was frequently interrupted by Mark’s ass) to the opposite bank of the river. In finding our way we realized that Bern is a stunning city, with traditional Swiss buildings and a steep landscape densely packed with immaculate gardens and architecture not seen before in neighboring and slightly less outgoing Germany. 

After several Swiss told us not to dare enter the water due to debris and strong currents Oli decided the Swiss and anyone else who dared dissuade us from conquering our mission were simple sissies who did not have an adventurous bone in their bodies, spoilers without backbone. After a test run the ducklings followed Mom into the rapids for an icy dick shrinking 200m joy ride ending in Joel pulling Henry through thorns, saving his life of course. I was the ugly sissy duckling who bailed after committing only to hear a local claim that the ‘professionals’ did not enter when the flow was so high. According to her the recent success of Joel, Cupcake and Oli was a survival story. 

After being the odd one out and burying my pride in a shallow grave, we dried off and headed for food in Bern. It was a mission but we found our way to food just as Mark and others were fading into grumpy desperate hunger. Fueled up we headed back to the Van to find dents and bruises we had not noticed before. Hmmm, we did park in a very tight spot. As we left we got the message that the last Gondola to the Alps Cabin we had ready was at 5:30pm and we were not going to make it there on time. 

Adversity is our bread and butter so after some water off a ducks back nerves about where we would sleep that night we flew into some of the most spectacular valleys with imposing step mountains that just seemed to keep getting bigger. Waterfalls galore and immense rock faces jutting out of forested villages. Big valleys with distant snowy peaks, and then a wrong turn. 

All of a sudden we were on a bridge with a red light and cars backing up behind us. There were odd signs. They seemed to indicate that the car would be on a train and we should keep the car in first gear with the hand break on. No way was I staying in the car so I pleaded to get out to take pictures. When the light went green and we piled into the car at light speed the confusion cleared and we were indeed driving our van onto a train, yes a train. The train went into a mountain just as we called German Oli to find out if this was supposed to occur. He said no, that was not supposed to occur. 15 minutes later and after a stuffy dark tunnel we re-appeared in French Switzerland, or Italy? 

We were back in the daylight at least and the drums from the deep had not swallowed us. With new found enthusiasm and confidence we decided on a whim and a naughty GPS system that we were indeed in the right place, in fact we decided we took a sneaky short cut. We were wrong. After some amazing switchbacks and views of the other side of the mountains we noticed one gondola, it had to be the one we were late to make and the other van had to be there. I mean, there couldn’t be more than on gondola in the Swiss Alps right? We hustled to the gondola to find that it was not the correct place at all and we were still very late for the last Gondola. We reset the navigation and headed down a spectacular valley with stunning peaks on either sides and huge vineyards dominating the valley floor.  

We found our way up the most precarious winding cliff buffeted road in the civilized world and finally found our gondola a good km above the valley floor. German Oli met us with his stoic smile, a freaking good poker face of ambiguous German charm. He reported the Gondola was closed and we had a serious hike ahead of us with the food and gear. Luckily he had waited 2 hours for us while the others had gone up the mountain and he must of pulled some strings because the gondola operator stayed on to get us up there. Yeah we did not have to do the Vercorin death march. A huge sigh of relief as we boarded the gondola and took in the amazing scenery. 

At the top we were met with a sweet Mountain hut and some serious ropes courses. This was a Ski slope under Mt Blanc and other peaks of up to 4500m. We got off half way up the mountain at approx. 2000m and this cabin was sweet. In fact the whole area of wooded mountainside was covered in wild flowers, cross eyed Billy goats and grassy slopes. I wondered into to forest and up the mountain after getting settled to find the other group coming down the mountain form their hike. Rory and Lado were hiking in their underwear, I did not ask because I was so happy to be reunited after conceding defeat and figuring we were spending the night in our stinky van down below in the valley. A great dinner and some stories of past World’s pre-tour campaigns ended the night. Actually Will busted out Roman candles and Cupcake and Mark almost lost an eye each after loosing there one on one battles. Tommy Lamar and Nick D were the victors. What a day!

Alps time

It is starting to get pretty special up here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Some photos so far

Frankfurt by the river.


The old boys. 

An afternoon in the park. 

We are staying in an alpine hut in the Swiss Alps tomorrow night. When next we hit some wifi I'm hopeful there will be some more good shots to share. 

One win, one loss, Ollie's still alive.

Sunday 27th July, Karlsruhe

The second day of games continued at the same lovely venue. The two lush green playing fields sit at the bottom of a medium sized hill that is coated in early season grapes. The aesthetically pleasing relationship between the order and geometric nature of the rows of vines and the unruly organic flow of the hillside creates a beautiful backdrop. Looking up at a vineyard from a frisbee field also taps into the imagination, and draws the mind towards playing in Italy.

The fields are flanked on their other side by a wide river, and crowned by a long two lane bridge that spans the fields and river alike. Complete with schnitzel serving club house and crisp painted lines, this was an excellent location for a mini pre-tournament tournament. Congratulations to Stephan and the local teams for hosting a quality opportunity for the six teams to prepare.

In the morning we played another Swiss team called Freespeed. From their own evaluation they played better than the day before, it seems all the teams are excited by the opportunity to play a team from Australia. The game was close the whole way through with a few micro swings of momentum. It probably felt fairly in control for the majority of the time, and we closed it out at 17 - 15.

The second game of the day was marked by the arrival of another Colony traveller, Lado competed an epic fourteen hour overnight rail trek from the Juniors tournament in Lecco to arrive just in time for a late lunch and the final game.

Picture this if you will; the whole Colony team is spread out in a post lunch/pre game sprawl in the location previously described. Guys are lying down with their heads on bags, some in the shade, some in the sun with hats on faces. There is a bit of chat going on, however in general it is a pretty casual scene. In the middle of all this classic frisbee mess is one guy sitting upright on the grass with a large porcelain plate, metal knife and fork and a generous chicken schnitzel and chips. Lado had arrived and was rejoining the team in solid German style.

The game began not long after against the local team Bad Skid. They are young and drilled and were looking pretty keen for the game. The Colony D line got a block in the first point through some tight early pressure and aerial agency of Ollie D. We failed to convert and then the O line turned a huck in the next point and we were in a 2-0 hole pretty quickly.

The first half continued in that vein with their O scoring quickly and ours struggling, the half time score was 9 to 5 Bad Skid. Though some affective, but possibly a little slow adjustments we began to gain some traction on D and some fluency on O. After a few chances to get back to even we ended up going down 15 to 17. It was a good win for those enthusiastic guys, and for us either a required wake up call or a strong cue that we should go to bed.

The feeling is pretty good in the team, it is great to have clear ideas about what we need to work on. This is always a key goal of any pre-tournament game play, and it feels like we will be better at Worlds for our games here in Germany.

We finished the weekend by attending a large festival in town, some live music and plenty to eat and drink. The Sonntag festival attracted over 300 000 people over the weekend. Our local fixer and scrap catching O line handler Ollie J has been on fire herding this team of strong opinions and loose behaviour around.

Next we spend a final day here in Karlsruhe before we head up into the snow caps and green grass of the Swiss hills. It should be a nice relaxing time for the team.

Oh, also Ollie jumped off the bridge into the river, he is still alive.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday night 26th, July

Here is a quick recap of day one before I fall into the sweet embrace of sleep. It has been a fairly sharp welcome to Europe as most of the team virtually walked off the plane and straight into two games.

For Tulett and Dousett I think it could almost be described as literally. Tom ran from the car after getting off a train that carried Ollie and he from the plane. He was in time for the first warm up, impressive.

We played two games today, first against some plucky Germans in team Heidees. These guys were fired right up and managed to stay tight and then return a break to take the game to double game point, 16 all. What is the deal with games to 17 at worlds? Long games hey.

Anyway we started on O and worked it around for a bit before Tulett pulled the trigger on a spectator and we won our first game. The result was pleasing however the learning, refining and general preparing was the real point of value.

The second game was against the Flying Angels of Bern. It also started pretty tight before the D team got a good hold and found some systems to turn up the pressure. The final score got out to something like 17 to 8. It was a pretty good effort.

Big Tommy from North Carolina had a strong first day with the team, and it was very good to have Mark back in the Colony again. Pretty good contributors across the team today, and tonight as the fatigue and refreshments take hold I think most of the boys can drift off feeling pretty happy about their day and about being here with the team.

Back at it tomorrow with some more Swiss and some more Germans to play. Feels pretty good.

Saturday 26th July, Frankfurt

"It alternates between bumper to bumper and 170km/h on the autobahn... " Joel Pillar, team captain.

And isn't that just one of life's truths? The bulk of the Colony team met in Frankfurt yesterday. For the most part the day was like a pleasant drive on the Autobahn, cruising at European highway speed as we collected ourselves together throughout the day.

However much like Joel twelve hour drive from Milano to meet the team with a van, there were plenty of dead still, bumper to bumper moments. Here are some of the minor calamitous moments:

British airways fails to deliver Sacha's bags and box of team hoodies to the continent.
The end of school term Friday afternoon traffic added multiple hours to the eta of Joel and Gus with the team vans.
Joel arrived in Germany with the team shorts, Mark arrived with team hats, however no one arrived with the team shirts.
Abra lost his important bag with lap top, personal delicates, etc. He then found it under the next bench in the pub.
Finally and most significantly, Tom 'Cupcake' Tulett and Ollie 'O.D. Overdose' Dousset found themselves stranded in London through some combination extremely cheep flight purchasing and peak summer travel chaos.

These were the bumper to bumper grid lock moments of the day, however there was plenty of 170km an hour sections. Walking in the sun down by the river. German beer for lunch, life changing schnitzel for dinner, Sacha has been talking these up since 2004.

There was plenty of laughs and good times and through the good work of Sacha, Joel and Ollie Jung pretty much everything got sorted out. We'll see if those clowns make it over from London this morning.

Today we play. The Bad Skid boys from Heilbronn are hosting a tournament and we are getting pretty pumped to play. That is it from the Colony in Europe for now. Plenty more to com, to the Autobahn!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Expanding the Colony

The 2014 expansion of the Colony to Europe, and specifically Italy, begins this weekend. The boys are drawing in from around the planet to southern Germany in the next twenty four hours. Pre tournament travel has been happening for days or weeks depending on who we look at. That all changes tomorrow, it is team time.

Colony are kicking off our European summer schedule with a tournament in Heilbronn. Two days of frisbee preparation against other World Clubs bound hopefuls. Germans, Swiss, Italians and the Colony boys.

It's hard to imagine a more exciting week of action. The meeting, the stories, the tournament, the antics in the Swiss hills. It will all exist under the looming cloud of one of the biggest frisbee events of our lives, the 2014 World Ultimate Club Championships.

The Colony is growing, the question for us is how big can we get.