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Hang gliding and paragliding travel: Australia now!

Sunday 19 January, 2003

What are you waiting for? Carol Binder takes us to Australia’s top flight parks for visiting paraglider or hang glider pilots

When the rain’s lashing at the office window, a winter escape to somewhere close and warm can seem very appealing. But Southern Spain and the Canaries often result in coastal soaring, weak thermals and low cloudbase at best… and more wind and rain at worst. The prospect of going several months with no more than the occasional squeek from your vario might have you contemplating a longer trip to get your thermal fix. Australia could be your answer. The country offers plenty of space, cheap living and lots of big air. As an added bonus, this year’s another El Nino year, meaning hardly any rain and good winds in the flats to go for big distance.

Travelling around Europe this past summer, I’ve found the problem for many pilots – being working professionals – is not the lack of money to travel, but the lack of time… and for Australia, you definitely need at least a month.

With flights costing between $800 and $1500, the only real problem is getting the flying equipment over. As a paraglider pilot it’s pretty simple: pack carefully and take minimal clothes. For the hang glider pilot it’s obviously a little more tricky – but you can hire a glider when you get there. Many of the Ozzie flight parks have quality equipment available for hire which can make the travelling far simpler than sorting out roof racks at airports.

The Aussie parks are somewhat more relaxed than their US counterparts, and are generally not set up as resorts with swimming pools and luxurious facilities. The parks are there for pilots who want to fly, not be entertained, so costs are kept to a minimum. The locations of the parks are also hard to beat with the scenery and relaxed attitudes, and its hard not to get sucked in and lounge around in the warm southern sun. The parks are there for pilots who wish to fly their hearts out for as long as they are visiting.

Check out the Hang Gliding Federation of Australia at www.hgfa.asn.au which has links to club pages and many other schools. Membership is compulsory for visiting pilots; a four-month membership will set you back $55.


MANILLA SKYRANCH
LAKE KEEPIT, MANILLA, NSW

CATERS FOR
Hang Gliding (tow and foot-launch) and trike and three axis training, licensing and endorsements, including aerotow.

THE LOW DOWN
Unlike a lot of top pilots, Skyranch’s founder Willi Erwig hasn’t had much to do with competitions. Willi says he gets more enjoyment from his flying school and teaching his students. During 1999 Willi and Tina met Manilla Paragliding’s Godfrey Wenness. After camping on Godfrey’s riverbank for three months they found the farm that ultimately became the Skyranch. Their first customer arrived before the hanger was even built. Starting with trikes in 2000 then 3 axis ultralight’s in 2001 Willi says the Skyranch is mainly for trike instruction, but hang glider aerotowing is getting popular. “It’s really a paradise for hang gliders,” he says.

THE FLYING
Sky Ranch has three private runways, and hang gliders can be left rigged in the hangar. Flights of 330km with hang gliders, and 300km with paragliders have been accomplished via foot launch from nearby Mt Borah (Manilla Paragliding). Skyranch have a 4WD vehicle for tours to the local national parks.
BEST TIMES TO GO
October till the end of March. April and May can also be good, when the thermals are not as strong, but still large.
NON FLYING ACTIVITIES
Water-skiing, wakeboarding, and kitesurfing are all on tap at Lake Keepit. Further afield you’ll find Warabah National Park and Horton Falls.

FOOD DRINK AND SLEEP
Camping, hotel, motel and B+B are all available locally. Skyranch have accommodation from $5 – $40 per night and serve the best steaks in NSW.

GETTING THERE
Skyranch is five hours drive north from Sydney. The largest local town is Tamworth. Fly from Sydney to Tamworth (50mins), or take the 7 hour scenic drive through the Great Dividing Range.

SALES AND HIRE
Airborne gliders, trikes and 3 axis microlights for sale or hire.

CONTACTS
EMAIL: willi@skyranch.de

WEB SITE: www.manillaskyranch.com
PHONE: +61 (0) 2 67697771


MANILLA PARAGLIDING
MANILLA, NSW

CATERS FOR
PG, HG and Swift pilots are all welcome. XC tours and instruction is available for all levels with learn-to-fly courses available during autumn and spring, as well as SIV training and XC thermalling courses. Manilla Paragliding also operates the Borah basher service to get you up to launch.

THE LOW DOWN
Godfrey Wenness started Manilla Paragliding in 1994 and now owns Mt Borah and operates the school facility. Godfrey currently holds the official tandem record at 223km and set his 335km world record from Mt Borah in 1998.

THE FLYING
At 890m asl, Mt Borah has four launches for all wind directions with landing fields directly below. It’s also easy to top-land the site, not that you’ll need to. Godfrey’s records from Mt Borah say about all you need to know about its potential. Both the paragliding school and River Gums caravan park have bus services to Mt Borah from Manilla

FLYING TOURS
Tours run between October through to March. Manilla Paragliding provide facilities for a maximum of ten pilots. Average distances flown are of course dependent on the pilot but 50 to 200 km distances are common.

BEST TIMES TO GO
September to May

NON FLYING ACTIVITIES
Playing with pet Kangaroos

FOOD DRINK AND SLEEP
On site there’s a homestead, cabins and camping. The homestead has six beds and there are sixteen cabins. Pilots are advised to book ahead during comp season. There’s tons of cheap accommodation in Manilla. Prices vary from $8 for camping camping, $15 for a room in a pub, through to $55 for a motel room.

GETTING THERE
Manilla Paragliding is located 335km NW of Sydney. The largest local is Tamworth (55km). Godfrey’s crew can collect you from Manilla or Tamworth if pre-arranged.

SALES AND HIRE
Manilla Paragliding are dealers for Advance, Flytec, Hanwag, JDC, Aeriane, Icom, Charly, Manzella, Garmin, Lazer. All paragliding gear is available for hire including gliders, radios, varios and mobile phones.

CONTACTS
EMAIL: Skygodfrey@aol.com
WEB SITE: www.flymanilla.com
PHONE: +61 (0) 267 85 65 45


HIGH ADVENTURE AIRPARK
LAURIETON, NSW

CATERS FOR
Paragliding, hang gliding and microlight pilots, plus in flight XC training.

THE LOW DOWN
High Adventure Air Park was set up by Lee Scott in 1990, and has now grown into one of the largest operations in Australia, offering hang gliding, paragliding and microlighting tuition.

Lee says his main aim is offering modern training techniques, using the most up-to-date equipment that can be bought or designed. 60% of High Adventure’s students are now from overseas, thanks to the moderate climate, the huge number of flying sites and the value for money their courses offer, especially with the low Australian dollar.

THE FLYING
Being close to the coast, High Adventure’s sites can’t offer the high cloudbases or the big distances that some of the flatland parks can. What the area does have however is some of the best year-round weather in Australia, with thermic conditions all year round and 40-80 km flights possible over beautiful coastal inlets. The Longest flights to date are about 110 km. Seasons vary but High Adventure estimate four to five flyable days a week.

FLYING TOURS
High Adventure has been hosting tours since 1987 and now have regulars from all over the world that return each year including a group of 20 French pilots who’s favourite is a mix of coastal and flatland tour. Their typical tour starts off soaring coastal sites, with lessons in winch towing and aerotowing in smooth coastal conditions. They then head to the flatlands southwest of Manilla for an XC towing tour, where 160 km flights are often achievable. The tour costs$88 per day including transport to all sites and retrieves.

BEST TIMES TO GO
September to April is the best period to visit – but you can fly in shorts and T-shirts throughout winter.

NON FLYING ACTIVITIES
Being located in one of the Australia’s largest tourist locations for summer sports, most things are possible. See www.atotaladventure.com.au or www.portmacquarieinfo.com.au

FOOD DRINK AND SLEEP
Options range from camping on the beach with Kangaroos, to caravan parks, motels and holiday units in nearby Laurieton. For groups, there’s a 2 bedroom self-contained apartment for $22 per night per person, plus cabin accommodation.

GETTING THERE
High Adventure is 3.5 hours north of Sydney. By public transport take either the bus to Kew, the train to Kendal, or plane to Port Macquarie. Pick-ups can be arranged from any of these locations.

SALES AND HIRE
All flying gear for sale and hire.

CONTACTS
EMAIL: info@highadventure.com.au
WEB SITE: www.highadventure.com.au
PHONE: 1800 063648


DYNAMIC FLIGHT PARK
BALLARAT, CENTRAL VICTORIA

CATERS FOR
Hang Gliding only, with full licence courses, XC tours, plus ground and aero tow endorsement courses. Dynamic also offer introductory hang gliding and trike flights plus trike tuition. Towing is available year-round at the Flight Park. Dynamic also offer thermal instruction with Australian CFI Rohan Holtkamp.
THE LOW DOWN
Rohan and Sandra Holtkamp started the business in 1991, and in 1999 became Dynamic Flight developed a flight park. Dynamic say their main function is bringing people into the sport. Rohan’s been flying since 1986 and he’s currently No. 1 in Australia and No. 4 in the world with a number of world and national records set at Eucla on the SA/WA border.

THE FLYING
There’re a dozen or so flying sites within an easy half-hour drive from the Flight Park. The sites are located in the Mt Cole State Park and have often hosted the Australian Nationals. Dynamic offer transport to sites being used on the day as well as towing if preferred.

FLYING TOURS
Dynamic’s XC tours run in December and February. The seven-day tours operate out in the flatlands of north Victoria with up to four car-towing systems. The road structure is good allowing for easy retrieves and navigation. Distances for newly licensed pilots with no XC experience usually average around 70-80km with advanced pilots often clocking up distances of over 250km. Dynamic say the main focus of their business is skills-building in preference to record attempts, although some world and Australian records have encompassed the areas they fly. Tours include 4 star motel accommodation room, restaurant meals, all tows and retrieves and cost $1450, beers not included.

BEST TIMES TO GO
December to April.

NON FLYING ACTIVITIES
Various tourist attractions and wildlife parks in nearby Ballarat.

FOOD DRINK AND SLEEP
On site accommodation is in mud brick, bungalow-style accommodation. Two rooms, one with four beds, the other with two beds are available with shared kitchen and bathroom. Cost is $15 per night including bedding and continental breakfast. Nearby Beaufort also has a range of accommodation available including caravan park, hotels and motel. There are also free camping places available in the State forests approximately 2km from Park.

GETTING THERE
Dynamic are 150km west of Melbourne on the Western Highway. The nearest large town is Ballarat, 40km east of the park with many tourist attractions including wildlife parks to keep the non-flyers happy.

SALES AND HIRE
Dynamic Flight Park are dealers for all major brands and rent all types of gear and gliders.

CONTACTS
EMAIL: info@dynamicflight.com.au
WEBSITE: www.dynamicflight.com.au
PHONE: +61 (0) 53 492 845


TARAGO FLIGHT PARK
CANBERA, ACT

CATERS FOR
Hang gliding and trike flying only – Full license courses, aerotow courses, tow conversions, etc

THE LOW DOWN
Originally from Norway, Tarago’s owner Tove Heaney has been living in Australia for twelve years. Tove is a three times World Record holder, and last year Tove and her team, ran the hugely successful Australian Open Hang Gliding championship in Deniliquin. Tove runs the park with her husband Grant. Between them, they run a well-organised business with a friendly, go for it attitude.

THE FLYING
Tow and foot launch are both available via two trikes, and two long runways set in 700 acres. There are a few local flying sites including the famous Lake George, a huge inland lake with daily sea breezes allowing soaring until sunset.

FLYING TOURS
Tove and the team also run tours, the next of which departs from Tarango on Feb 7 through to Feb 15. Included in the tours is all transport, three meals and comfortable air-conditioned accommodation to recover in time for the next day’s flying. Tarango provide brand new Toyota air-conditioned vans and you can tow as often as you like and fly as far as you can. Accommodation is located in Deniliquin’s Golf resort and also has a swimming pool. Cost: $1450.
BEST TIMES TO GO
November to April.

NON FLYING ACTIVITIES
None mentioned other than drinking beer.

FOOD DRINK AND SLEEP
Accommodation includes caravan parks and motels, up to five star hotels in some of the nearby larger cities. There are also free camping places available for those on a budget.

GETTING THERE
2 hours to the south from Sydney, 50 min from Canberra, ACT. Provided you arrange it in advance, Tarango can collect you from Canberra.

SALES AND HIRE
Tarago Flight Park are dealers for Moyes and sell new and used gliders, harnesses, parachutes, instruments and radios. They also rent out tow equipment and have a limited number of UHF (Australian standard) radio equipment.

CONTACTS
EMAIL: chgpgc@goulburn.net.au
WEBSITE: enquire via email for the new address
PHONE: +61 (0)24 849 4516

Published in January 2003. Contact details may not still be correct

• Got news? Send it to us at news@xccontent.local. Fair use applies to this article: if you reproduce it online, please credit correctly and link to xcmag.com or the original article. No reproduction in print. Copyright remains with Cross Country magazine. Thanks!

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