Floating through the clear sky over the Yarra Valley, I can’t help but feel completely at peace.
Breathing in the crisp but not overly cold air, taking in the amazing views, snapping photo after photo.
But this was not the feeling I had before taking off with Global Ballooning.
Before the trip, I was excited, of course, but slightly nervous.
I’m quite scared of heights. And going up in the air in a balloon was slightly unnerving.
I got the call-up the day before to say I’d be flying.
The email came through with specific instructions to check in the night before to make sure I had the most up-to-date weather information (the pilots liaise with the Bureau of Meteorology) and so I could leave my contact details.
A word of warning – read the instructions properly and make sure you follow them!
I think I was one of THOSE people who didn’t, and ended up calling a few numbers (very early) the next morning to ensure the flight was still on.
And it IS an early morning – Global suggests checking their website again about 4.15am to get the final flight information.
And then it was out to the meeting spot – Balgownie Estate in Yarra Glen – for the 5.40am leaving time.
After checking in and getting final directions from our crew, our group of about 14 boarded a minibus bound for our take-off spot.
Just outside Yarra Glen, in a paddock that was still in pre-sunrise darkness, we stood in groups as the crew tested the wind’s speed and direction by releasing small helium balloons into the sky.
Given all manner of technology these days I found that quite funny.
We were told the wind direction and speed can vary at different altitudes, so pilots use that to determine which way they will fly and to move the balloon – which is “lighter than air” – to where they want.
Then the balloons (three on this morning) were slowly inflated.
We were told there was some audience participation along the way, so some people helped the crew get the balloons ready.
As we got into the basket (also known as a gondola) we were told to stay in the same spot so the balloon could be configured based on the weight.
And to anyone thinking these baskets are flimsy – they are anything but.
A few more instructions, including what to do when we landed, and it was time for lift-off.
By this stage, all the nervousness had disappeared as we started to float over the picturesque valley.
Over vineyards, paddocks, the Yarra River, Yarra Glen Racecourse.
We saw kangaroos hopping through fields, and they even stopped to take in the sight of our balloon floating above them.
We went over houses on the outskirts of Yarra Glen, waving to people in their backyards.
Our pilot Grega (pictured) controlled the altitude of the balloon with carefully timed blasts of the stainless steel LPG burners.
He was also in constant radio contact with the crews of the other balloons, and monitoring the conditions.
One of the interesting things while in the air is that the temperature varies depending on altitude, but isn’t too much different to that on the ground.
Luckily on this morning, the temperature was in the mid-teens, and with the burners going plus no wind chill, it was a comfortable ride.
There were quite a few photo opportunities, too, as we got pictures taken of the group by Global’s camera tethered outside the basket.
But you can bring your own camera as well and take as many photos as you want – just make sure you don’t drop any equipment over the edge!
The flight went for about an hour but the time flew by (pardon the pun), because before I knew it, we were landing.
We took our landing positions and with a gentle bump we came back to earth.
A couple of people got out of the balloon at a time so as not to upset the balance or cause it to fly off.
There is a reason you shouldn’t wear shoes too stylish – we landed back in the paddock, which I soon found out was full of cow poo!
And after landing was also where the audience participation came back into play.
We all helped put the balloon back into its covering, which I likened to trying to stuff a massive sleeping bag back into its case.
By the time that was done, we had definitely earned breakfast.
We got driven back to Balgownie Estate, where a buffet champagne breakfast was waiting for us.
We chowed down on bacon and eggs with all the extras, plus pastries, cereals, Nespresso coffee and other refreshments.
And we got to view the photos that were taken on our flight, which are available on USB to buy.
I left the experience with a head full of amazing memories and a belly full of delicious food.
And for anyone thinking twice about getting in a hot air balloon, conquer those fears and take a ride – it will be a trip you’ll never forget!
This post was originally posted at visityarravalley.com.au