Charline Eberhardt – one inspirational bucketlist to check out

It has been a while since I’ve had a new bucketlist to share with you guys. Here is Charline’s, Charline is in the middle of an amazing world tour which she shares over at her blog Elephants to Kangaroos (check it out). Charline is an incredible photographer, her love of photography spurred her to leave her job and safe life (sound familiar) to travel and really give professional photography a fighting chance. The title of Charline’s blog, Elephants to Kangaroos shows the extent of her journey which has taken her from her native France, to Africa, through South-East Asia and now onto Australia, where we met, and I planted the idea of a bucketlist…

Have a flick through this for some inspiration.

  1. Visit the MOMA in New York.
  2. Learn how to danse salsa in South America.
  3. Quit a job I don’t like.
  4. Play in at least 3 casinos in Las Vegas.
  5. Learn to surf.
  6. Watch a Bollywood movie in India.
  7. Enter an airport, look at the departure flights, and take a ticket for the destination that tempts me the most.
  8. Get a tatoo.
  9. Win a photo contest.
  10. Scuba dive with orcas.
  11. Swim with dolphins.
  12. Attend a Superbowl game in the USA.
  13. Spend more good times with my family.
  14. Offer a plane / train ticket to a stranger who would have missed his/hers to thank this man who did this for me once.
  15. Participate at the light festival Loy Krathong in Thailand.
  16. Prepare and attend the wedding of my best friend.
  17. Spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square in New York.
  18. Do something crazy for love.
  19. Attend the Rio carnaval.
  20. Create my company.
  21. Swing in the hammock in MY garden.
  22. Save someone’s life.
  23. Do my first photo exhibition.
  24. Swim in a hot spring one evening under the stars.
  25. Go to Roma with my grandma and listen to her telling me all these stories about our family that I didn’t know.
  26. Learn to play chess.
  27. Plant a tree.
  28. Buy the house of my dreams, close from the sea and the mountains.
  29. See the Taj-Mahal.
  30. Jump properly with my snowboard in a snowpark (without falling this time).
  31. Spend an entire day watching some Disney movies.
  32. Launch a lantern from the beach.
  33. See an aurora.
  34. Sleep under the stars in the Sahara after drawing the 1st mark with my feet on the sand dunes.
  35. Make a professionnal listening to my piano compositions. And see his reaction.
  36. Put my feet on all the continents.
  37. See the Eiffel Tower sparkles all over again.
  38. Publish my photography book.
  39. Play piano in front of minimum 5 strangers in the street.
  40. Climb and see the sunrise from the top of the Kilimandjaro.
  41. Make a parachute jump.
  42. Hug an elephant.
  43. Drive a convertible.
  44. Kite with children in India.
  45. Do a safari in Africa.
  46. Get involved in a humanitarian association for few months.
  47. Do another paragliding flight, this time during summer in the middle of the mountains.
  48. Climb a mountain that is more than 4000m high.
  49. Danse in Uyuni desert in Bolivia.
  50. Really learn how to kitesurf and make my 1st edges with a big smile.
  51. Learn how to jump with a kitesurf to have this feeling of being on the water the 1st second and in the air the 2nd.
  52. Leave, alone, on a World tour for a year.
  53. See a basketball game in the US and scream « DE-FENSE ». (Knicks vs Heat of Miami – Phil Collins as a guest star!)
  54. See a concert of Jean-Jacques Goldman.
  55. Do a hot air balloon flight.
  56. See the Machu Picchu.
  57. Ask a stranger in the street to take a picture of her/him.
  58. Go to Thailand and discover this country I’ve heard so much about.
  59. Go to Australia and find Drazic from Heartbreak High (or the koalas, as you wish)
  60. Speak perfectly English and fluently Spanish.
  61. Visit New-Zealand and its 1000 wonders.
  62. Go over my vertigo and my fear of heights.
  63. Cook some muffins or cookies and distribute it in front of strangers doors.
  64. Find the man who will share my life and have a family with him.
  65. Celebrate Holi in India.
  66. Know how to play “Hit the road jack“ and “I’ve got a woman” from Ray Charles in piano.
  67. See the hot air balloon flighting in Bagan for sunrise.
  68. Attend a handball World Cup or Olympics final and see France lift the trophy.
  69. Offer a week of vacation to my entire family to thank them.
  70. Run a half-marathon.
  71. Drink a cocktail on a wonderful beach with my best friend.
  72. Learn meditation.
  73. Learn to sew with my grandmother to make at my turn some clothes for my grandchildren one day.
  74. Have the freedom feeling of driving a motorbike around a countryside.
  75. Play drums.
  76. Do some roller at a disco party.
  77. Live in a foreign country for at least 6 months.
  78. Reach my ideal weight.
  79. Cook an Asia diner to my friends in France.
  80. Don’t use my phone or any other electronic device for at least a week.
  81. Be PADI certified for scuba diving.
  82. See a Cirque du Soleil show.
  83. Do a back somersault.
  84. Have a picture published in National Geographic.
  85. Spend an Asian New Year’s Eve and have fun while throwing water on everybody.
  86. Sponsor a child to pay for his education and more.
  87. Kick a punching bag.
  88. Admire the view from a helicopter.
  89. Get up on a famous stage. (Olympia, Paris – Concert de M)
  90. Have a big party with ALL my friends, no exception.
  91. Go to NYC with my 5 best friends and danse on “Friends” music.
  92. Play handball again.
  93. Have free drinks from stranger on my birthday
  94. Teach my kids how to dive in a swimming pool.

If you want to see some of Charline’s incredible photography, go have a look at her blog here,

Otherwise you can return to Your bucket list


What a pity Kulula doesn’t fly internationally – we should support them if only for their humour – so typically South African.

A good mate of mine sent this to me as an email attachment and it was too good not to share with you guys. Sadly I have no way of knowing if these things are true or of crediting the original author, but they are too good not to share.
If any of you know who put this awesome little piece together, do let me know, enjoy.
grey What a pity Kulula doesnt fly internationally   we should support them if only for their humour   so typically South African.
“Kulula is an Airline with head office situated in Johannesburg . Kulula airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight “safety lecture” and announcements a bit more entertaining.
Here are some real examples that have been heard or reported:
On a Kulula flight, (there is no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced,”People, people, we’re not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!”
On another flight with a very “senior” flight attendant crew, the pilot said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants.”
On landing, the stewardess said,”Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.””There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.””Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Durban Airport, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: “Whoa, big fella. WHOA!”After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in the Karoo, a flight attendant on a flight announced, “Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted.”From a Kulula employee: “Welcome aboard Kulula 271 to Port Elizabeth. To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.”

“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favourite.”

“Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Kulula Airlines.”

“Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.”

“As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”

And from the pilot during his welcome message: “Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”

Heard on Kulula 2 55 just after a very hard landing in Cape Town : The flight attendant came on the intercom and said, “That was quite a bump and I know what y’all are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault, it was the asphalt.”

Overheard on a Kulula flight into Cape Town, on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain really had to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”

Another flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: “We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal.”

An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which  required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a “Thanks for flying our airline”. He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had got off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, “Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?’ “Why, no Ma’am,” said the pilot. “What is it?”The little old lady said, “Did we land, or were we shot down?”

After a real crusher of a landing in Johannesburg, the attendant came on with,”Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we will open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.”

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement:”We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of Kulula Airways.”

Heard on a Kulula flight:”Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing. If you can light ‘em, you can smoke ‘em.”

grey What a pity Kulula doesnt fly internationally   we should support them if only for their humour   so typically South African. grey What a pity Kulula doesnt fly internationally   we should support them if only for their humour   so typically South African. grey What a pity Kulula doesnt fly internationally   we should support them if only for their humour   so typically South African. grey What a pity Kulula doesnt fly internationally   we should support them if only for their humour   so typically South African.

















Why not check out my recently released book by clicking on the cover below:

grey What a pity Kulula doesnt fly internationally   we should support them if only for their humour   so typically South African.










When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)

This was 2013:
January New Years in Denmark, still love fireworks. 
February Skip out of work for a paragliding road trip.
March Work in a pharmacy arguing with highly strung accountants and lawyers in Melbourne’s CBD.
April Switch to relief pharmacy work instead.
May Marry the most awesome girl in the world.
June Decide to climb a big mountain. Realize my gut has grown. Madly start training.
July Get locum work in Avoca. Ride motorbike in freezing conditions through the only snowfields in Victoria to get there. Enjoy helping sick farmers and ‘real’ people.
August Freak out about gut again. Start training. Stop eating hamburgers.
September Go to Nepal. Get caught in biggest storm in Nepali history. Gut is gone.
October Leave mountain as I enjoy the use of fingers and toes too much.
November Release book. Get awesome feedback. Grin like an idiot. Eat a hamburger.
December Small business course. Start planning more pharmacy work. Tasmanian road trip. New Years watching Billy Connelly with Jette, Mum and Dad.

You probably read this and thought, ‘where is the bombshell?’ Well I hate suspense, the bit in those movies with the quiet violin music and a first person view moving through a darkened room kills me, so here it is:

In the bit between giving up hamburgers and going to Nepal, Jette and I discovered that we are having a baby.

A frikkin’ baby, a little person that we will need to care for and argue with about bedtime and eating vegetables…

We’re making a person.

Mainly Jette.grey When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)

To my relief I have been chosen as the main supporting actor. All things going well, we are expecting a small human to create havoc in late April. Jette is doing great, and the bub is growing and kicking and moving about like something out of Alien, as apparently they should. Despite having written flat out since 2010 I cannot find words to describe how stoked, surprised, scared and thrilled I am with this parcel of news. I am also rather excited that the baby looks like Han Solo in carbonite but I digress.

Clearly things are about to change around here, mainly get noisier and messier, so in the spirit of change I have done some thinking about my future blogging plans. Right about now you are are probably thinking, “He’s going to launch full tilt into the Matrix, picket fences, father’s groups, ironed shirts, saturday ballet practice, all that stuff…”

The Red Rucksack has been, and always will be, an advertising-free space where I recount my adventures and sometimes offer advice (and hopefully some inspiration) to fellow adventurers. I love writing, and have spent an incredible amount of time building this site to be what it is.

There will be updates on here when I have mountainy adventures, and DO NOT STRESS:

Important statement coming … *Hand on chest*.

“I, Benjamin John West, do solemly swear that, despite impending fatherhood, I will still be having plenty of RedRucksack-worthy adventures. Furthmore, I do promise to continue sharing the aforementioned adventures with you here on Updates will continue in the form of the same high kwality posts you’ve come to expect, for free, and as they happen.

I make this statement on this, the twenty-fifth of March 2014 being of  sound mind <mostly> and free of inducement.”

Evidence to support this statement:

  1. Despite our news, Jette continued to encourage and fully support my desire to climb Ama Dablam  (I’d marry Jette twice if I could!).
  2. We are going to Thailand and Denmark mid-July through early September to introduce Cletus (bub’s current name is Cletus-fetus) to Jette’s Danish family and my Saudi Family. I am planning a side-trip to Switzerland to fly paragliders and climb the Eiger.
  3. Jette is as passionate about travel as me, we will be spending as much time abroad as possible.
  4. Tasmania is only 45 minutes away and I simply love playing on home turf.
  5. Cletus is currently kicking and swinging about like a gyroscope, it won’t be long until I am writing daddy/daughter adventures.
  6. I might consider opening up the Red Rucksack to adventure posts from select readers (only if you can ‘spell good and stuff’). This means that when you have adventures I might give you the chance to share your adventures and enjoy this great platform that I have built up over 4 years. Who knows, you may even end up writing a book

So there you have it. Rather than trying to forge on by writing empty ‘Top Ten’ posts or having off topic rants I will maintain the initial focus of the Red Rucksack which is to share quality, free posts about adventures. The main difference is that now you have an opportunity to join the fun.

Watch this space for more paragliding fun and news on my Switzerland trip.

As always, thanks for following.

Blue Skies and Happy Feet to you all…shit I’m going to be a dad! grey When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)


Home – getting back from Ama Dablam

When I made the somewhat difficult call to leave the mountain and get home, I thought I’d make a little video for Jette.

It follows my journey from Camp one on Ama Dablam and continues down through the snowline to Pangboche, Tangboche, Namche Bazaar and Lukla, then on to Kathmandu, Singapore, to Melbourne and then HOME!

At 4:40, due to a cheap upgrade, I was sitting in Business Class, stinking like hell, sipping wine and watching the entire Himalayas slide by.

Hot air ballooning in Melbourne with Andy from ‘Picture This’

You may notice in the attached photos that my wife has suddenly got a whole lot more hirsuite, this is because after booking our little adventure, Jette sadly fell ill and was forced to stay at home. It was too late to cancel or re-book, so I called my best mate Guy to ask if he wanted to wake at 4am on a Saturday morning, “No probs, that sounds great”, came his reply after I explained my plans for him.

The reason hot air balloons fly is the same reason midgets can survive mexican buffets; hot air rises. The cooler the surrounding air, the more reliable the lift. This is why hot air balloon rides leave so damn early. After meeting in town and signing a disclaimer that said we wouldn’t sue if we plonked down in a tree, we got to the launch field at around 5am. Our Pilot Andy efficiently organised us to help set up this big rip-stop nylon death machine. First cold air is blown into the balloon. This is done by holding the bottom end open and pointing a massive, petrol powered leaf blower thing inside. Soon the sheer size of the balloon became apparent, I’m guessing you could make at least 100 paragliding wings out of one balloon. The fan was making a raoucous and I noticed lights coming on at nearby houses. I could imagine the conversations, “Every bloody morning…I told you this park-side house was suspiciously cheap Beryl…”

Once Andy determined that enough cold air was inside it was time to heat things up. With the wicker basket on its side, Andy turned on the gas and gave the balloon a long hot blast from the burners. They sounded like some kind of possessed fighter jet, “Every bloody morning…” Soon the balloon was straining to lift the basket (which was very cleverly anchored to the van). Once the balloon was stable above the basket, Andy told everyone to clamber in.

Before I could say, “how safe are these things?” the anchor was untied and we silently floated up. The feeling was like being in a totally silent elevator, there was absolutely no breeze and we were all hushed as we skimmed over the trees. Launching a hot air balloon is far more relaxing than hurtling off cliff with a paraglider wing above your head. As we cleared the park we saw right into someone’s lounge room. A poor unsuspecting lady sat, relaxing in her lounge room, drinking her coffee and reading the paper in her nightgown. When she looked up with a startled expression Guy and myself waved and grinned manically until she scuttled red faced out of view.

Hot Air balloon pilots have two controls: blast the flame for up, release hot air for down. Pilots cannot steer the craft in the normal way but they manage to fly the whole rig going where they want. This piqued my curiosity. Once we were well above the city and in a pack of about six balloons, I started interrogating Andy. The magic force which pilots use to steer are called inversions. Usually as you increase in height, the air gets cooler. Sometimes there is a layer of air which is warmer than that  just below it called an inversion. Inversions create a change in wind direction so that if the wind is going North – South, it might be going East – West at the inversion layer. By bobbing between these subtle layers, hot air balloon pilots can effectively steer the craft and go [almost] anywhere they want. The level of skill required boggles the mind. I struggle to land my Paraglider on a big cliff with up/down/left/right steerage!

The views were expansive, the whole of Melbourne sprawled out before us as we watched the sun rising over distant mountains. As we were going with the wind there was not a single puff of breeze and an intermittent blast from the burners kept our shoulders warm. Soon Andy was busily radio-ing fellow pilots in the group. It was comforting to hear them asking him for advice. Peering over his glasses Andy was checking weather monitors and carefully adjusting our height. I was hugely impressed when he bought all his knowledge into play to swing us around in a big, graceful loop to land right in the middle of Fawkner park, St Kilda. We touched down with nary a bump and a rope was pulled to let all our hot air out. I felt rather deflated to be finished with the experience [I know, sorry].

We all helped to pack up the rig and were chauffered off to the Sofitel Hotel in the CBD where we were treated to the most impressive champagne breakfast buffet that I have ever gourged on.

I can highly recommend that you try hot air ballooning, even if you are scared of heights. There is a real feeling of security inside that tiny wicker basket full of propane tanks and flames, no really.

I know what you are probably thinking and yes, I asked Andy about launching my Paraglider from one of their balloons (see video at bottom). Andy gave me a contact who should be able to make this happen. This activity has received the green tick from the ‘safety committee’ (my wife) so I’ll keep you posted.

Blue skies and Happy Feet to you.


We flew with Picture This – Hot air ballooning The crew were highly professional and looked after everyone really well, especially the little nine year old girl who was hysterical before lift off. This experience and post was in no sponsored by Picture This.

Post note: On Tuesday morning, three days after our flight, Guy forwarded this article to me. Andy was forced to make an “unscheduled landing” that was “highly controlled”. Read: The wind died and Andy pulled off an incredibly prescise spot landing between Anna’s roses and back fence!! Read more here


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This business partnership has expired.” Ben has no idea what adventures are in store when he sets out to discover what lies over that next mountain.

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