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Manilla paragliding

Thursday, May 7, 2009
Someone told Natalie Gruzlewski she should go to Manilla in New South Wales and have a go at paragliding. She did some research and thought it was something she would like to try, and she loved it.

Manilla, on the junction of the Manilla and Namoi rivers, is a small town with a big reputation. It has become famous throughout the world as a major sports flying centre, supporting hang-gliding, paragliding, ultralight aircraft and gliders. It is known as "Big Sky Country" and hosts major free-flight competitions every summer.

Under the caring wing of Godfrey Weness, Natalie had her first attempt at paragliding. He took up the sport in 1988 and has accumulated more than 7000 hours of flying time. He holds multiple records and has been teaching since 1994.

For many years Godfrey tried unsuccessfully to break the world paragliding open distance record. He really wanted to put Mt Borah on the international paragliding map and he achieved both goals in 1998. He launched from Mt Borah and flew 335km, staying airborne for seven hours and 29 minutes. That was good enough to put him and Manilla into the Guinness World Records.

Mt Borah is the only flying site in the world where paragliders have the choice of four launch pads, depending on the direction of the wind. It's a magnet for beginners and professionals as conditions suit all skill levels.

Beginners head out in tandem, and as a surfer Natalie was surprised how similar the two activities were. Paragliding is like surfing without the water, following rising currents of warm air.

When everyone is back on land, Oakhampton Homestead is a popular place to stay. The merino, Hereford and horse property was pioneered in the 1800s and has been in the Nixon family for six generations. It has the largest shearing shed in the district and the property has large areas of untouched country.

The homestead was built in two parts — one in 1876 and the other in 1938. Four types of accommodation are on offer, all giving visitors a taste of life in rural Australia .

There are guest bedrooms in the eastern wing of the homestead. They are spacious with high ceilings and have access to the breakfast and dining rooms and guest lounge. A two-bedroom apartment is attached to the main homestead. It has a private entrance and is air-conditioned. There is a fully equipped kitchen, living room, dining room, two bedrooms and bathroom. A balcony overlooks lawns, gardens and hills.

Bunkhouse cabins are perfect for large gatherings. A large family room sleeps 12 and eight rooms have two bunk beds each. They have a large dining area and kitchen for self-catering — or the owners can handle that for you.

The Farmer's and Top Spot cottages were built in the early 1900s. They each have three bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, sitting room, verandah and barbecue. Bedding and linen are supplied.

For leisure there is a pool and tennis court and shearing shed for indoor games. There are some great horses for a day in the saddle, and lake and dam fishing are on offer. Both are stocked with Murray cod, silver and golden perch, freshwater catfish and yabbies.


Manilla, around 430km north-west of Sydney.


Manilla Paragliding costs $160 for 30 minutes. The minimum age is 14 years with parental consent. Cost includes mountain transport and it runs year round.

Oakhampton Homestead bed and breakfast starts at $110 for a single and $185 for a double. Cottages are $130 a night or $500 a week. Cabins cost $35 per person a night and $20 for children under 12. Horseriding is $40 an hour.

Prices correct at May 7, 2009.

For further information

Manilla Paragliding
Wimbourne Road
Manilla 2346
Ph: (02) 6785 6545

Oakhampton Homestead
Oakhampton Road
Manilla 2346
Ph: (02) 6785 6517
Fax: (02) 6785 6573

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