Paragliding in Aussie (or the holiday to the other Manilla!)
March 2003 saw Andy and Kris traveling to Australia with paragliding friend Colin for three weeks of flying at one of the world's best paragliding sites: Mt Borah, near Manilla (no, not that one! This Manilla is in northern New South Wales! For the other Manila, see Andy's report on his trip to the Philippines).
Andy's year as a Rain God continued in top form, with the two and a half year drought in New South Wales breaking in style the day our intrepid duo arrived in Sydney. Yes, it was pissing down!
We had a day in Sydney waiting for Colin to arrive, time enough for the fatal Shopping Bug to strike at Andy, resulting in the accidental purchase of a yidakki (a type of bell-ended didgeridoo). Andy at last found an instrument he can play- largely due to the lack of chords, notes, or anything else that makes learning to play most instruments so difficult! The circular breathing technique took only a few hours to master, and Andy is now looking for a band needing a didgeridoo player (and flying pigs).
We had hired a Holden Commodore for our visit- for the three of us, and Tim Whittaker, who arrived a week later. The next day, Andy Kris and Colin set out on the seven hour drive to Manilla, in rain showers all the way.
In Manilla, we located the Royal Hotel, a place of once- faded elegance on a corner in the center of town. Our high- ceilinged room opening onto a huge veranda seemed worth much more than the A$100 per week each (including breakfast) that we paid- that's less than the dreadful backpacker dorm in Sydney cost! The owners, Vicki and Tom, were the perfect hosts and we highly recommend staying there (though unless you are a paraglider pilot, there isn't much reason to be there).
Our first week was spent on Craig Collings' Cross Country Course with a smattering of other pilots from across the globe. Craig, a paragliding friend and Sky God from New Zealand was a great teacher, though that didn't help our positions in the subsequent competitions!
The weather was unflyable to start with, but gradually improved over the course of the 3 weeks we were there. Eight inches of rain fell in the nearby town of Tamworth a couple of days after we arrived , and needless to say, we didn't fly for the first few days of Craig's course (but got lots of theory!). A visit to the cinema at Tamworth one wet day proved pointless, as the cinema was closed due to flood damage!
Over the course of a few days, the weather improved, and the desert redness of the countryside was replaced by the lush greenness that could have been Ireland with kangaroos! The wetness reduced the thermal strength considerably, so flying was not 'classic Manilla' conditions, though it was still by far the best of anywhere we have flown barring Piedrahita in Spain. Andy's first flight was 34km, a second best ever! Several good flights followed over the next few days, though none quite as good.
After Craig's course, the Australian Open Competition was held. The skies became frighteningly busy, with 140 pilots in the air. Most days were flyable, with some great flights, Andy's best being 50km, just one kilometre short of his personal best. (This was nothing compared to the 30 or so pilots who made the 104km goal!). Kris failed to fly well this first competition, though, and our results were: Andy 110th, Kris 127th out of 140.
The NZ Nationals had a special welcoming introduction from Neville, an elder with the Kamilaroi nation. The NZ pilots sang a waiata in response. The second competition gave something of a role- reversal though, with Kris smashing his personal best with an excellent 54km flight on a day that Andy only managed 21km. This ensured Kris 118th place in the comp, compared to Andy's 122nd (out of 132!). Andy was chagrined to discover Colin beat him by one place after flying 30km less over the week! (wonky scoring system!!).
Despite doing so badly in the competitions, both Kris and Andy had a fantastic time, with some of our longest ever flights, great company (as always on paragliding holidays- including many people we last met in Piedrahita), and some great memories. Who could ever forget Karaoke night, with Andy dressed as 'Miss Burly Chassis' singing 'You make me feel like a natural woman' ? Certainly not the slack- jawed locals!
Other people's photos....