“Everything looks perfect from far away” may have been the words of US electro-pop group The Postal Service (and countless others with at least half a dozen cover versions), however it truly is applicable, at least in the context of our sunrise balloon flight over marvelous Melbourne.
It was due to a generous gesture by Sarah’s mum that saw us all gather in the foyer of Melbourne’s Hilton on the Park (right near the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground), ready to be bused to that mornings suitable launch location.
It was a crisp morning indeed, and in the pre-dawn light we found ourselves assist in the inflation of the balloons themselves, ready to put our faith in both pilot and the strength of a large, but rickety looking wicker basket.
I’ll let you in on my first misconception regarding ballooning here. I expected it to be cold, especially before sunrise. As such I made sure I was layered up, even donning a beanie to keep the head warm.
Reality was somewhat different, as perched beneath a reasonably large gas burner certainly eliminated the need for the beanie very quickly!
Before we realised what was happening, we were gliding effortlessly into the air, gazing down at the other balloons down below as the earth slipped away.
Time to let you in on my 2nd misconception. It was so incredibly calm and still.
I had always imagined that up in the air, it would be windy and exposed in an open balloon basket, but reality is that the wind is not noticeable, as you are traveling with it (not against it)!
The views that soon revealed themselves through the morning mist were spectacular…
Launching from a northern inner Melbourne suburb, our wind was taking us to the south, just skirting the eastern side of the cities CBD.
Then, to the east, the Sun began to rise above the horizon.
Balloon trips around the heart of the city can in fact only be conducted in this beautiful morning period.
As there is so much concrete in largely populated areas, the longer the Sun is risen, the more this concrete heats up and this creates warm up drafts which make control of the balloons difficult, and therefore presents a risk to pilot and passengers.
It really is difficult to convey how beautiful an experience this was, and it has only given us greater desire to experience it again, perhaps in Australia’s ‘Red Centre’ or in Turkeys Cappadocia.
Perhaps illustrating the unpredictable nature of the winds, on approach to our chosen landing field (at the end of Melbourne’s Albert Park), we were unable to lose enough altitude to land, instead having to float further afield, landing in nearby Faulkner Park, cruising low enough to clip a few trees on the way through.
With the balloon still floating, the basket was actually fastened to the waiting trailer, as had we been required to move it manually it would have been near on impossible.
We were then all required to aid in the folding and eventual packing of the deflating balloon, which to our amazement fit into a seemingly too small bag.
A chicken and champagne breakfast was on offer back at the hotel, however we were forced to decline, as being midweek, we had to press on back at work, which unsurprisingly, felt a pretty dull affair in comparison!
Our impressive hosts for this adventure had been Global Ballooning, and it had been a wonderful gift indeed from Sarah’s mum.