Are you taking a flight in a Hot Air Balloon? Do you know what to expect? Are you too scared? Well, read about my morning adventures and make up your own mind whether you really want to go for it. Or not!
This was the morning to take my husband on a surprise tour. This is a Hot Air Balloon ride in Alice Springs, Northern Territory. We woke up at 2.45am because we had to be there at 3.30am. We are on vacation, traveling around Australia and this is one tour my husband will love.
I kept it a secret until I got to our pick up point in town.
We took a trip to the Alice Springs hotel to be collected by the tour bus, and with the logo on the side, our adventures were no longer a surprise. My husband was fascinated by it all.
The bus driver is also a balloon operator and he took us out of town around 10kms. After passing through the airport, he negotiated a dirt route to reach their take-off point. Another operator drives a 4wd vehicle that is pulling balloons and baskets folded in a trailer.
We got off the bus in the early hours of darkness, and using the bus lights, the operator unloaded the trailer and proceeded to arrange the balloons. They started a motor-driven fan to partially fill the balloon before firing a butane gas burner.
One of the operators called us to the basket and gave us a safety lesson before we left. He explains how to crouch in the basket and hold on to the rope when we land. He also asked us to volunteer to help fold the balloons after they land so they can pack them.
Since there are bigger balloons going with us, we watch their process with flowers and I take a pile of photos. There were 25 people going on that one, and only 6 people in our smaller basket. I have to admit, I felt some trepidation when I checked the basket size. But it’s almost 110cms high and we have to clamber over it using toe holds.
With encouragement and encouragement from my husband, I entered, alert awaiting takeoff. Even standing on the stairs scares me. I thought it odd that the person who took my booking didn’t ask us our previous load. Ok for the younger and fitter. After all, anyone who is very overweight won’t be able to climb in. Will they get a refund, I wonder. Maybe not, but they’ll be embarrassed!
No moon is shining, but millions of twinkling stars are still on display.
The operator gave the gas burners a boost, and the noise and heat scared me enough to almost make me jump out before takeoff. I thought about the situation for a minute, then I switched places with my husband, which of course, was more difficult than mine. I can still hear loud voices, but I’m far from hot.
Everything is fine. We lifted it off and it was a strange feeling of floating without engine noise. Only the occasional loud burst of fire into the balloon. Operators remain quite busy customizing gadgets, but still able to answer our endless questions. Some came from the other three as well.
Our height? How fast are we going? What are the lights in Alice Springs? Do you do this every day? Will we see kangaroos or other animals? I laughed at myself. Well, we want our money’s worth.
I took some great photos of the larger balloon following behind. It looks quite spectacular against the dark sky with flames shooting randomly at the balloons.
But now, the sun was starting to rise through a light dust fog. It’s a shame, because we don’t have a clear view of the range. I quickly snapped a photo of a bright orb struggling through the fog.
We can see the 4wd following us along the dirt track. Primarily, we see vast brown land with clumps of green and brown grass and a few white gum trees. Here and there are black shrubby gnarled trees. I wonder, have they been through a bush fire or is it their natural color? I wanted to ask the operator, but the guy was busy trying to land us safely. So I let it be.
I wait with my breath subsiding for the downward touch. Maybe the basket will fall? But we landed with a really soft bump and I’ve had rougher landings on the jet, so felt quite relieved. Okay. It’s not that bad. In fact, I believe that I enjoy it. I know my husband. I can see the look of pleasure on her face. He’s like a dog with two tails.
Our adventure doesn’t end here, because we are togethercharcoal going back to Alice Springs for a champagne breakfast. Well, better hurry up, as the sooner we pack these hot air balloons away, the sooner we have brekky and bubbles. You don’t have that every day!