When you think of the Hunter Valley you think of touring around tasting the finest Cab Sav right?
Well how about being bleary eyed in the wee hours of the morning standing in a basket floating in the sky? Doesn’t sound like something you’d be keen on? Well let me tell you exactly why you’re wrong.
Hot Air Ballooning...I assume it’s quite a foreign concept for most of us. Though, it really is something everyone should do at least once in their life. If you’re reading this thinking ‘no way I’m scared of heights’ I ask you to face your fears and reconsider. Ballooning falls somewhere in-between standing in a tall building and throwing yourself out of a plane.
I was lucky enough to experience hot air ballooning with the crew at Balloon Aloft in the Hunter Valley. You probably could already guess what’s involved with ballooning so let me share with you the finer details that made my experience unique and pretty special.
It was a frosty Saturday morning in Autumn 2018, I woke in the Apollo campervan with the boys I was travelling with at 4:30am to some of the worst alarms I’ve heard. Digging through all my clothes I had strung around the camper (sorry boys) I threw on my striped overalls that would not overly compliment the 6 degrees I was about to endure.
5:30am was our call time. We rolled in, got our names marked off and joined some excited faces. After filling out some housekeeping with our pilot ‘Byron’ I was pleased to be asked what I would like for breakfast after our flight. Because who doesn’t think about breakfast within an hour of waking up right?
In addition, tea; coffee and biscuits were on the house...like I said…It’s the little things that count.
Byron then briefed us about how the flight would go down and then before we knew it we had jumped in the bus en route to our takeoff spot. The ocker staff are well stocked with classic dad jokes that they aren’t afraid to fire at you at 5:30am , though this really did help those nervous feel comfortable and reassured.
Stepping out onto a grassy field we watched on as the other balloons began to inflate. The hills around us were blanketed in fog with only the sounds of fire from the balloon being heard. It was quiet and serene. Cameras began to flood the peripherals with big smiling faces ready to pose for them. Everyone got chatting to each other discovering that we had all come from few and far to enjoy the same experience.
Stepping into the basket, it almost feels strange that you have no safety restraining devices, was this really an Australian activity? For me, that is one of the beauties of it all, no restraint and nothing stop you from the wind ripping your phone from your fingertips. You are quite literally ‘gone with the wind’.
The flame fires and you begin to drift off into the buttery morning sun. Floating higher and higher you notice that you’re in fact witnessing a perspective of the earth you probably haven’t seen before. Unlike a plane, you feel the cold air on your face, you feel the earth disappear from under your feet and the wind take you wherever it likes . You begin to bestow a certain trust that you’re pilot can in fact whisper to the wind.
Grabbing countless photos of the sunrise and taking them for others, it's a moment you do really need to capture and keep forever. The more you get talking to those around you, the better the photo you’ll get! Well that’s my theory at least. Don’t be afraid to ask for another shot if you’re not happy (girls you’ll understand).
As your pilot get's closer back to ground, you see kangaroos hop out of the way for your landing. With ecstatic humans all around you, the experience just keeps getting better! Arriving back at the beautiful Peterson’s winery, you are welcomed with friendly staff who have champagne ready to go, reminding you that its ‘never too early’ .
Comforted by outdoor heaters, there are beautifully laid wooden tables with two Lindt chocolate balls waiting for each person…i love chocolate so this made my day. Comparing and sharing photos with your new friends, your breakfast arrives and let me tell you, they don’t do it half assed. Ill let the pictures speak for themselves
I’m quite particular with things and for me to recommend this to you or to purchase for a loved one or do with mates is a big deal. The guys at Balloon Aloft have really got it right. Not only is the process of playing in a basket ran so smoothly, the pilots are so passionate about what they do, that you feel like they genuinely want to show you a taste of what makes them tick!
This morning was one that I will remember and a big thanks to Pat Suraseang and Charlie Brookes-Allen who beautifully capture all my stoke. Huge thank you to Balloon Aloft for hosting us!
If you're still not sold, I'll just leave this video by CBA Films here....