Monday, December 08, 2008

Balloon Flight

R had been to sis in law's recently widowed mother's eightieth birthday with Sister and Little Jo. I was at work and he sms'd me, Do you want some Scotch tonight? May as well, I replied, doesn't look like the balloon flight will go ahead tomorrow, Sunday. The weather forecast for ballooning was not good, but to our amazement when we called at 6.30, it was definitely going ahead. Ah well, the Scotch will keep.

We arose at 3.30 and walked along St Kilda Road to the meeting point at the Langham Hotel, Southbank. There was a sense of a lack of reality. A steady stream of taxis passed in both directions and the number of people out and about on foot at this hour was amazing.

I said to R, the last time we did anything like this was in June when we were making our way from Sussex Gardens to St Pancras Station to catch the Eurostar to Paris. We saw a squirrel then. I wonder if we will see a possum this morning? We didn't.

We met the group with whom we were flying and given some instructions and driven in a mini bus with the balloon in a trailer to a vacant gravelled site at Fishermans Bend, very close to the Port of Melbourne Control Tower. Our fellow passengers were two m/f couples and two m/f exchange teachers, one from England and one from Canada. The bus driver/balloon get readier person was a woman about thirty and our pilot, a Canadadian male with 25 years ballooning experience, including flying huge balloons over the Rift Valley in Kenya.

What was never told to us, was that we had to help with the balloon flight. So nine of us, the bus driver and eight passengers, unfurled the balloon, unloaded the basket and generally assisted. A small test balloon with a bright light was sent up and although to me it headed west, at some point it must have turned north east.

The balloon is intially inflated by a deisel powered air fan and once it reaches a certain point, one of the three gas burners ignight and it rises upright. There are eight passenger positions and a larger one for equipment and the pilot. We were shown the brace position for landing and in a very undignified manner, scrambled aboard using the footholes in the side of the basket. The basket was tipping over every so often and had to be corrected with a blast of hot air. We had been advised to wear caps to protect our heads from the heat. Otherwise, it was pretty cool, in fact I was a little too lightly dressed as usual, but I hate being too hot.

Clearance was given by Melbourne Airport Control Tower and we had lift off.

Three different companies operate balloons and they co-operate and launch from the same site and land at the same site. A total of seven balloons.

The flight was undramatic. Great views of course, dogs barking in back yards, horses running in a paddock, a kangaroo leisurely hopping along.

Of couse you must go where the wind blows and it was clear we weren't going to sail past the highrise. We followed the Yarra River upstream quite closely. It was quite breezy and as we decended near Templestow, I heard the pilot say on his radio that we were travelling at 25 knots, say 50 kilometres per hour, or 30mph. It seemed fast as we neared the ground.

We assumed the brace postioned, squatting down with our backs against the padded compartment divider and knees against the basket wall and gripping rope handles. I can't really describe the landing. It was sort of a few bounces and a drag along the ground. I laughed so much.

We were in half metre high grass field in Westerfolds Park, Templestowe. We were the first balloon to land, so we watched the others come in and then had to pack up the balloon and basket and load them back onto the trailer. Hard work!

We were driven back to the Langham Hotel for an excellent champagne buffet breakfast in the breakfast room with views of the river. The Langham Hotel is seriously nice. Go in and check out the foyer if you are passing by.

We caught a tram home and R went to bed, while I mucked around with stuffs

Depart Highrise, 4am, meet 4.45, depart hotel, 5.00, arrive Fishermens Bend, 5.15, Lift off, 6.00, land approx 7.00, arrive hotel, 7.30 for breakfast, home by 8.45.

The photos that didn't turn out very well, were of the Exhibition Buildings and St Patrick's Cathedral, Heidi and very old large historic house near Heidleberg and I can't recall the name.

Holding the balloon still and open while it is pumped full of air.

A bit of hot air and one balloon slowly rises. PoM Control Tower is in the back ground.

Docklands.


Even I, used to heights, felt a bit odd when looking directly downwards. But I was fine if it was via the camera.
From the top of the pic, Port Phillip Bay, St Kidla and St Kilda Breakwater, then Albert Park and the lake, the Royal Botanic Gardens with the Governer's modest cottage and across the Yarra River is the Melbourne Cricket Ground, MCG. Somewhere down there too is the Highrise. We could see it at times.


We passed over an awful lot of golf courses.

A fellow traveller balloon lands near us at Westerfolds Park.

14 comments:

  1. That is something that I really want to do one day, the photos look fantastic and the experience must be amazing!

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  2. OMG Andrew

    That's brave. I can't even drive in the mountains.

    xxx

    Pants

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  3. In my older years I have developed a phobia for heights.

    I wouldn't be able to do what you did. I was surprised that I handled the two flights into and out of the Bungle Bungles in September with only one moment of squeamishness.

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  4. Gorgeous. Absolutely fantastic, Andrew.

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  5. Wow, not I really want to do it! I see these balloons when ever it s a nice morning and I am drivin on in to work, or even, when I am driving home from night shift. Since I was little I have been fascinated by all things that lift off the ground, planes, birds, butterflys, and balloons.
    I never knew you had to help with the balloon either, I anticipated that it would all be set up ready to go when you arrive....there you go, you learn something new everyday.
    Great images, love it!

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  6. How much did it cost?

    Was the breakfast in with it?

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  7. Surreal is the word Kezza.

    Snarl snarl at Pants. No way to communicate with you, but thanks for the comment. I can't say anything on yours.

    Whoa, Victor, your avatar.Not a bad look. A real person and nothing like I imagined. Think I better do the same soon. You only seem to be aware of height if you look over the edge and down. Otherwise, it is just views.

    Most kind Reuben.

    Thanks Cazzie. Yep, I had no idea of hard work either. Bah, I am an old man, but I did my bit.

    If you had been listening Robert, you will know that it was a gift last year when I had a significant birthday, so I don't know how much it cost. Look at Balloon Sunrise and find out. Breakfast was included. I think it is known as value adding. Boiled down to bones, it was an expensive one hour balloon flight.

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  8. I price what I'm given.

    I thought everyone did.

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  9. Oh, I'm so glad you finally got to go! It's kind of a bad trick to make you do all the work, though.

    Did R love it too?

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  10. I will leave your comments up Golf Tee Times, but I really don't like such blatant advertising.

    Yeah well, Daisy. It is not the first time we have experienced something like that. R enjoyed it. We were just relieved to finally tick it off. It has been a bone of contention because I was not enthusiastic enough at the time. I was smitten with the new camera that he also gave me and did not pay enough attention to the balloon flight. Mea culpa. Learnt a lesson.

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  11. You should delete that golf advert, he's a user.

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  12. Done Robert, in spite of me saying I would leave them up.

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  13. Wow looks great. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Old house near Heidelberg was probably Banyule Homestead.

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  14. That was it Ben. I knew you would know.

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