AUSTRALIA: Nova-pilots fly their personal bests in the land down under…

AUSTRALIA: Nova-pilots fly their personal bests in the land down under…

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We were very hopeful when we were boarding the plane to Sydney to have some nice, sunny, hot weather after months of chilly Shanghai winter. Also reading the news from XC Camp in Manilla and almost daily >100km flights kept us very impatient to finally be there… Unfortunately cyclone Yasi visited north east coast of Australia just before our trip… so we landed to overcast skies of Sydney but still happy to switch to shorts, slippers and t-shirts.

We drove from Sydney to Manilla – half a day drive but really pleasant through almost empty highways and beautiful countryside of Australia… one stop on the way in Tamworth for the first fat steak of the trip and we reached our destination – the Oakhampton farm in Upper Manilla later in the evening…

Really tired from the trip we collapsed in our rustic cottage and slept through the night. Morning welcomed us with some strong winds and we spent the day at the farm chilling at the pool and doing some ground handling…

Next three days turned out to be rainy with low clouds and strong winds. It was my 3rd time to Manilla and it was a scenery I have never seen as both other trips were dry and sunny and consistent great flying conditions day by day. We tried to make use of the time and all the attractions of the Oakhampton homestead and we did some nice fishing in nearby rivers, some kayaking in beautiful lake and pretended to be farmers too.

Finally on day 5 of our stay the forecast was showing signs of improvement and we were all ready to give Manilla air a try.

Pascal, Tina and Francesco were the first timers to the site so they were all excited and little bit nervous about flying in the strong summer air… Moreover Francesco has his new bloody red Mentor 2 (never flown before) and Tina her new Ion light waiting to test some real thermals.

First day of flying was a warm-up and we didn’t do too well on the distance, just 25km on my Factor and some cruising around for Francesco and just a drop for Tina and Pascal.

The forecast continued to improve so we were looking forward to second day. Couple of beers in the evening and some great steaks at Royal Hotel was the conclusion of the day.

Weather on day 2 was great too… Tina took off first and climbed all the way to cloud base (~2200m) and went on her first xc glide and landed just 3km short of our Oakhampton farm… it was her personal best and she was really happy to have flown in ‘real’ thermals and gone away from the take off.. Ion behaved very well but required some work to actively fly it in truly dynamic air. Thanks to Bob for the guidance.

Pascal made it back to the farm and it was his best flight in Manilla.

I and Francesco took off in the afternoon and for me it was a shameful bomb 11km from the take off – this was the end of the day for me. Tina found me by the road and we started our – as it turned out – quite long retrieval trip for Mentor 2.

Francesco did much better than me and got under a nice cloud street which brought him on his 100km flight… I followed with Tina in the car keeping the radio control and assessing the size of the clouds around which were showing signs of over development. 6pm and we found Francesco waiting for us by the road with big smile on his face… it was his 4th flight on Mentor 2 and he made his dream 100km in 3.5h.

That evening we had a nice celebration with some BBQ, beers and whisky and went to sleep hopeful for another day of good weather.

Unfortunately it proven to be a strong, windy day and we were dwelling at the take off for hours and at 4pm me, Tina and Pascal decided to call it a day and we took a truck down to landing. Francesco was waiting till late evening but he was only lucky with a drop flight… not too successful day, but what a great dinner waited for us at Oakhampton… Our hosts prepared some really nice Australian style food and we had a great end of the unsuccessful flying day.

Saturday was our last day in Australia and we were really hungry for more flying (only 2 flying days till then) so we decided to give it another go to Mt. Borah and if it was good, make a short xc back to the farm and drive to Sydney through the night to catch the Sunday morning flight.

Saturday morning the wind at the take off was gusty and we were hesitating to open our bags, and so was majority of other pilots at the take off. We saw couple of guys taking off and going over the back but we decided to wait bit more.

We just hoped to be able to go up and fly back to Oakhampton (15km away) and spend the rest of the day by the pool…

I and Francesco took off at round 1pm and started laborious climb to the cloud base. His Mentor 2 was working its way up the thermal very well and I was unable to catch up with him but he was kind enough to park under the cloud and wait for slow me. We went off on the glide north along the ridge hoping for at least one more thermal to cloud base which we needed to reach Oakhampton. I didn’t feel very comfortable in the air and were gliding from cloud to cloud not finding any thermal I could core… Francesco was following below me and finally we were just couple of hundred of meters above the ground… we decided to cross to the east side of the valley to ‘bomb’ close to the main road and while flying there we were scratching on some broken thermals… I think we spent an hour trying to work the thermals up and finally we got enough altitude to cross another ridge and to reach the Oakhampton landing strip… Francesco went towards the farm to land, while I was gliding slowly over the fields and chatting to Tina on the radio. And then I hit the elevator which took me all the way to the cloud base in just few minutes. I didn’t want to waste that so I turned north, waved bye-bye to Oakhampton, swimming pool, beer and Francesco and moved on towards the city of Barraba…

From there it was laborious glide with not much wind in my back from thermal to thermal. Passed Barraba, then passed the place I landed in 2009 and it marked my longest XC flight till that day, then I almost bombed just to recover less than 100m over the ground, then reached Bingara town with a little storm cloud giving rain way too close for me to feel comfy… then I flew over the field we picked up Francesco just 2 days before and hey, another thermal and I was up at the base again.. Another glide and I landed after 6pm couple of kilometers before Warialda town… What a flight… GPS was showing 120km straight line back to take off… it turned out to be 125km XC flight. My personal best and the longest (nearly 5h) flight on board on my good ‘old’ Factor…

Amazing thing about flying in Manilla is also the people you meet… so I was packing my stuff by the road and a local guy pulled up in the blue pick up truck. Speaking a funny Australian language he asked me where I was from and when he got to know I was from Poland he became quite friendly and dropped me at the nearby cafe, introduced to the staff and assured I was well taken care off, really nice and bit rough countryside hospitality.

In the meantime Francesco and Pascal were on the way from Manilla to retrieve me. So I was having my massive burger and thinking about what a great flight on last day of the holidays and another pickup truck pulled up and there was a reporter of a local newspaper asking me to give interview.. Am I not a celebrity ;P…

Soon enough Francesco and Pascal arrived and we headed back to Manilla passing through the areas showing the effects of the storms (wet roads and broken trees)… I was lucky to be faster then them on the way to Warialda…

We were back in Manilla late in the evening, packed quickly and headed off to Sydney… 7 hours and 4 red bulls later we reached Sydney airport. Tired but happy we boarded the plane back to China.

Back in Shanghai we already could feel the signs of spring and somehow it didn’t feel so sad to be back in the city. We will come back to oz next year for sure. Maybe for 200km…

WW

Francesco flight: http://www.paraglidingforum.com/leonardo/flight/411079

WW flight: http://www.paraglidingforum.com/leonardo/flight/412006