Kari Ellis introduces the little town of Deniliquin, home to booming thermals, ripping climbs and long glides until sunset
Deniliquin is a town in the New South Wales Riverina region of Australia and, amongst paraglider and hang-glider pilots, it is fast building a reputation as a mecca for flatland flying.
Similar to other famous flatland sites like Zapata in Texas and Quixada in Brazil, Deni sits several hundred kilometres inland from the coast. Over spring and summer, the southerly winds that follow cold fronts blow in from the ocean over the dry landmass, delivering beautiful, consistent conditions for flying.
Flying days can start as early as 10am and go until sunset. The cold airmass brings strong climbs, with cloudbase typically starting as low as 800m ASL and lifting to over 3,000m ASL towards the end of the day. Most importantly, in the flat terrain and launching from behind a winch, it is possible to fly in a lot of wind.
I am strongly biased towards Deni and its charms, but even I wouldn’t describe the flying environment as “comfortable”. For pilots, every day starts in a 40C tow-paddock that by mid-morning feels like a hot, windy furnace and offers no shelter from the sun. Once in the air, the surrounding road networks are scarce and a bombout will mean a long hike with flies and at least partial heat stroke for company.
And then there are the long, 1,000km retrieves dodging kangaroos and rabbits, which stretch the days out until 2am and test the endurance of even the keenest pilots. This can be a punishing combination, but a reliable winch, an organised retrieve with a good driver, 10 litres of water per pilot, good comms, GPS tracking devices and tropical grade mosquito repellant can make these conditions easier to manage.
This might sound like the kind of ‘paradise’ only free-flying flatland specialists (and rice farmers) will truly appreciate. But every season more and more pilots of all levels and from all over the world turn up in Deni, chasing their first 100, 200, 300, 400 or even 500km flight. And they come for two reasons…
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