Sunshine Coast: A few stings in Ray's tale

By Elizabeth Binning

Elizabeth Binning meets a bloke who has survived some hair-raising moments, and is now passing on his expertise
Ray Carson tries on a pair of night-vision goggles. Photo / Patrick Woods
Ray Carson tries on a pair of night-vision goggles. Photo / Patrick Woods

It would appear Ray Carson is one hard man to kill.

Mother Nature has had a fair whack at it. South African gunmen have taken shots. The bungled base jump got close, as did brain bleed he suffered 18 months ago and the open heart surgery several years before that. Then there was the time an elephant called Mac chased him for seven hours.

But, despite the odds it seems the tough Aussie's time just isn't up - and he's the first to acknowledge it.

"I seem to be extremely hard to kill."

When I meet the 49-year-old he's dressed in shorts and a singlet and holding a shredded skin from a 3.2m long scrub python - and preparing for a group of dangerous prisoners to overtake a plane. It's a Con Air scenario and will put a group of businessmen's skills to the test.

We are in a section of bush on the Twin Waters Novotel resort on the Sunshine Coast. Despite being just a couple of minutes away from the main hotel lobby and a function centre that's preparing for a wedding expo, Ray's base - surrounded by trees and two grounded planes - feels like the middle of the jungle.

It also feels kinda like a movie set. In a few hours time Ray's mates - think big bulky military type blokes dressed in full camo - will storm a conference room, call out the names of unsuspecting employees and march them outside. Half will become prisoners, half prison guards. They will be blindfolded and marched into the back of a plane which will be shut up and filled with smoke. Then, it's time to put team-building skills to the test. Once the masks come off, the group will have to work out how to handle the situation, who will take charge and how they will get out of the plane.

It's scenario that's been played out many times at Ray's base, the home of Xperience corporate and group adventures. In the next month dozens of other groups, including corporates, students and army cadets, will go through the same thing. Most will leave with great stories to tell.

One such example is the group of young army cadets who were impressed by Ray's "tricks" during a survival exercise. He was holding a large iguana while a colleague tried to pull a tick from the back of its head. It wriggled free and latched on to his hand - prompting the group to gasp and jump back. With blood dripping everywhere and the iguana's teeth firmly embedded in his hand Ray told his mate to do something or he'd be cutting it's head off.

By the time he was free there was blood everywhere and the cadets were enlisted to help with first aid. Ray still laughs as he recalls how many walked away saying impressed with the "realistic scenario".

The more time I spend with Ray the more stories come out.

He started out in the military and worked in a sniper unit (he tells me he never shot anyone) before having an aortic valve replacement which led to a medical discharge. He moved into mines rescue work as a paramedic. When it became time for a change, he headed to Africa and got a job in security protecting conservationists as they tracked and tagged elephants.

Eventually tourists accompanied him on the trips - a way of generating income to pay for the tags. It was during one of these outings that he had a run-in with a very determined elephant called Mac who wasn't happy about Ray trying to get footage of some baby elephants.

Out of the wild, his time in South Africa was spent in security and paramedic work, a job that could see him dealing with up to 15 shootings a day in Johannesburg. He describes how he always donned his bulletproof desk vest - something his colleagues, who kept theirs in the boot, often laughed at. The day after that, they were shot at. Their car was riddled with bullet holes and Ray's upper body was badly bruised by the impact of a bullet to the chest. His colleagues all turned up with their vests on after that.

Fascinated by his experiences I ask what other adventures and brushes with death he's had. I wasn't expecting such a list. There was the time when he was base jumping from the 26th floor of an apartment block and ended up mistiming things.

"Instead of opening on the beach I opened on a Norfolk Pine which went through the bottom part of my leg and out the back. There are were a few holes in the front of my leg but considering what it could have been I'm pretty lucky."

Eighteen months ago he woke up and noticed his vision was funny. When he walked into the doctor's surgery with what turned out to be a brain bleed his doctor said: "I can't believe you are talking and walking." There was also the time when a snake bit him on the head while he was under a house.

By this stage, I can't help but turn to the girls who work for him and ask if he might be pulling my leg - or at least slightly embellishing these stories each time he tells them. They don't hesitate to back him. Nor do others who know him locally. He just seems to be one of those blokes who runs into all sorts of trouble and keeps coming out the other side with a smile on his face.

After five years in Africa, Ray decided it was time to come and start a business where he could share all his military, paramedical, conservation and rescue skills with others. As is typical with Ray even the trip home was story-worthy - everything he owned was stolen at the airport.

Seven years on, life is going well. Ray has plans to further expand at Xperience and could talk for hours about what he's doing and why For Novotel - a resort with a pool, big lake, catamarans, kayaks, wedding venue, golf course and an inflatable beach park - the outdoor adventure Ray's business offers is a unique drawcard.

For those who are a little unsure about the Con Air experience, he has plenty of other adventures available. There's laser clay pigeon shooting, segway tours, and Ray is also embarking on a fitness centre with climbing walls and weights. But, for those who aren't feeling energetic there's always the chance to simply sit down and have a good yarn with a man who has everything to live for.

CHECKLIST

Getting there
Air New Zealand flies daily from Auckland to Brisbane, with one-way fares from $259.

Details
For details on Ray's activities, go to xperiences.com.au.

Online
visitsunshinecoast.com

- NZ Herald

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