‘Where have you been, Richard?’ I hear you ask. ‘You’ve gone missing from cyberspace leaving only a scary bald-headed guy wearing your face.’
I’ve been in Manilla. No, that’s not a spelling error. It’s Manilla, New South Wales, a town 512km north-west of Sydney.
The reason for my visit was an invitation from Manilla’s excellent Born to Read festival to talk to school students, teachers and interested readers about books, writing and Bananas in Pyjamas.
The work was enjoyable, the organisation smooth and the hospitality wonderful. But what I also loved was a glimpse of life in and around a lovely small NSW town that sneaks under most tourist radars.
Manilla is world famous with one particular group of tourists. Nearby Mount Borah is a renowned jumping off spot for paragliders and hang gliders. It was an introduction to another world for me. No way was I going to participate – my fear of heights and sense of self-preservation is legendary – but it was fascinating to see close up how they get airborne.
Human birdmen and birdwomen from around the world flock to Manilla, which hosted the World Paragliding Championships in 2007.
Thanks to the Born to Read committee for the invitation, the organisation and the excellent company. Thanks to all the staff and students who welcomed me so enthusiastically. And finally many thanks to Margaret and Erik Dekkers for the transport and the tour guiding.
PS: Anyone visiting Manilla should stop off at Danderleith Gallery and have a look at Erik’s fine paintings.