#6 Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

When I was around 10 years old I saw a hot air balloon setting off from the local park, Ecclesall Park, in Sheffield. I thought it looked so glamorous and like the sort of thing that only super fancy rich people got to do…

Well today I joined the ranks of my childhood fancy rich-type people and went on a hot air balloon ride!

This post is mainly photographs of the morning, which was astoundingly beautiful, interspersed with ballooning facts about the day. If you’re tempted to try it, it’s worth every cent!

Esther joined me on a crisp, clear morning. The tour bus picked us up at 4:35am… yes we chose to get up at that time of our own volition.

We then drove down to Sandy Creek, at the Gold Coast Scenic Rim,where the balloons were waiting. We left in the dark and as we arrived the sun was just starting to come up, it was as if the world was changing from black and white to colour.

As we drove up to the launch site the last balloon was just rising majestically into the air.

IMG_2620We flew with “Hot Air” the largest hot air ballooning company in the world. These balloons are referred to as “450’s”, which means that when full they contain 450,000 cubic feet of gas. The gas burns at over 100 degrees.

IMG_2626We all clambered into the baskets of our balloons and practiced our landing positions, which was basically a group spooning session…. when you come in to land the basket can tip over on it’s side, so you have to practice ‘bracing’.

IMG_2629The basket is split into 5 parts, a central area were the pilot stands (and wear a seat belt!!) and then four other sections in which 6 passengers stood. It was pretty cosy!

Our pilot Paco filled up the balloon with gas. When the burners are on it’s really hot, which was much appreciated on such a cold day!

IMG_2633 We gassed up the balloon and were ready to go. We were the second balloon to take off. The first balloon took off just as the sun was coming up.

IMG_2639It was beautiful watching the mist rising up from the fields, the sky turning pink, orange and yellow until it became a clear, bright blue.

IMG_2640Because we were the middle of the 3 balloons we had a great view of the ones either side, with the mountains and sunrise behind them.

IMG_2644The ‘balloon’ section of a hot air balloon is actually called the ‘envelope’ and it’s made out of the same fabric as parachutes. The weight of the baskets is distributed through the straps that runs down the sides of the balloons.

IMG_2648I love the water rising from the lake.

The pilot changes the height of the balloon using the burner, this allows them to control the speed as the wind will be different at different levels.

We were flying on an extremely clear and still day, so we had a lovely calm journey, although we didn’t travel a huge distance.

IMG_2653We could see all the way over to Brisbane city and the Gold Coast, with the tall, angular city buildings just visible on the skyline (not really visible in any of photos though).

IMG_2654Balloon pilots have to be licensed, in the same way as airline pilots. The balloons all have to be registered with the civil aviation authority.

Australia is the world No. 2 location for hot air ballooning, with an average 320 ‘flyable’ days per year! Although they can still only fit one flight in per day before it get’s too hot. The world No. 1 location for ballooning is actually Turkey!

IMG_2656The colours of the ground because brilliant oranges and reds, contrasting against the yellow and blue skies.

IMG_2657Soon it was time for the balloons to descend and we headed down into a nearby field. As we came in to land we came right over the top of the trees and landed, with only a small bounce, in a farmer’s field.

IMG_2667The support vehicle met us in the field and they attached the balloon to the truck. We all adopted the ‘brace’ position and they used the truck to pull the balloon down to the ground. The pilot drew the top of the balloon in, so that the gas would escape and the balloon empties.

IMG_2674All the passengers then helped to roll up the balloon and stash it away in a big blue bag, which was then loaded onto a trailer with the basket. We all hopped onto the sides of the trailers and headed across the field back to the bus.

IMG_2684We then headed over to O’Reily’s vineyard for a champagne breakfast. I was so stuffed by the end! We also fitted in a spot of wine tasting and ended up coming home with a bottle of verdelho and a bottle of port :-).

IMG_2687After getting home I spent the rest of the day running errands before heading for a spot of retail therapy. H&M opened in Queensland earlier this year and after years of missing it from the UK I was excited to check it out. Shockingly, I thought it was terrible and don’t reckon I’ll bother going back any time soon… And now I know I’m really getting old 🙂

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