As a gift for our wedding, my parents gave Francisca and I a voucher for a balloon trip. I had never really contemplated doing one before, because it's a bit of an outrageous cost to do it yourself. We had tried to go one time before, but bad weather put things off. A couple of months have already gone by, so it was time to try again. I called up last week and they had no spots available, so I booked in for this weekend.
It was an early start, making the 5am call to check if the wind was ok, I expected it was probably going to have the result where we went back to sleep, but we were on. After the coldest ever May 6, May 7 was slightly warmer, at just -3 overnight. By the time I got to scrape the ice of the car, it was probably only slightly below zero.
Our meeting point was at the Hyatt Hotel, we headed there, then we went to check out Weston Park as a possible launch spot. A test balloon was sent up, and seemed to head straight up, with not much drift to take us anywhere. The balloonists were slightly concerned about the fog, but after sometime of waiting in the cold, some more time of waiting in the truck with the heaters on, the thumbs up was given.
We drove further into the park itself, and all systems were go. There were quite a few balloons going up that day, but in the end our one was the first to go up, and the last to land. Our pilot Richard had 20 years of flying experience, and he seemed to know exactly what he was doing.
Once we were away, which was 2 hours on from when we actually met up, we shot up quite quickly, straight above the park with views over the lake and the Arboretum. What's currently mainly dirt, it will be a very different sight to behold in 10-20 years time. We could look down and see the rowers on the lake, they were also off to an early start.
There's not so much control of where you can go in a balloon, but our drifting took us right through the inner south area of Canberra. After floating around for a while, it looked as if we would be landing in the fields in Deakin, near the mint, but then we went up again, over past Manuka and towards Narrabundah. It seemed at one stage we would be landing on the fairway of the 5th on the golf course, we came so close to the ground that I was able to grab a leaf from a tree, but then we were up again, bound for the model plane airfield.
Yes, Canberra has a model plane club, and yes, they have their own airfield. We had to land west of the Monaro highway as to avoid any air traffic coming into the airport, but also to avoid landing in the jail, as they may become suspicious this vehicle with no steering may be used as a getaway...
Once we finished up with the balloon it was on to the Hyatt, firstly for champagne, then on to breakfast. As we had been up in the air so long, the breakfast was about to finish, so I'm not so sure it was as good as it could have been, but we talked to some of our fellow balloonists and enjoyed our meal