Tag Archives: pilot

Hot air ballooning in the Hunter Valley

I had wanted to go hot air ballooning for a long time. I saved up birthday and Christmas money for 2 years and finally had enough for the ride and some nice accommodation in the Hunter Valley. I jumped on Red Balloon straight away and booked the experience with Balloon Aloft and then counted down the days until it was time to take flight.

The excitement started the night before when you have to check in by phone at 6pm to make sure the next days flight is going ahead and to confirm you were coming.

The next day I woke at only a little earlier time than usual at just before 5am- yes, my name is Roshan and I have a toddler. I drove myself to Peterson’s Champagne House to check in in person with my pilot Richard, by all accounts a very experienced hot air balloon pilot who had flown everywhere from the Swiss Alps, to, well, the Hunter Valley.

There was 20 to a balloon basket, so our team, the blue team, piled into our allotted bus and we drove to the first launch site to release a test balloon- the same as the ones you get at kids parties- except with a red light on it.

The wind was not right, so we were driven past Margan and Cockfighters Ghost to another launching site in Broke which was nestled at the foot of a very nice looking mountain range.

We got off the bus into a very chilly field, just as the sun started rising. And then we all spread out the balloon in a fashion reminiscent of the parachute game I used to play at school.

I met a balloon enthusiast and his wife, who had been ballooning in my dream destination, Capadocia, plus also Egypt and a few other places. They were planning for Portugal or Morrocco next.

Our balloon was inflated with cold air by dangerous looking and noisy fans. While this was happening I watched 3 other balloons be inflated and take off into the dawn. It was a beautiful sight and you could almost feel your spirits lifting up with the balloons as they went. My excitement built as I knew we would soon be joining them in the air.

Richard added hot air to the now inflated balloon, using four gas cylinders and then the basket started lifting from horizontal to vertical and it was time for all the passengers to jump in quickly before the man on the ground holding the balloon was taken away. I had to switch sides and was scared the balloon would take off without me.

And then we lifted up and drifted off. It was so quiet and still that you could hear dogs barking in the nearby farms.

We floated around, away from the mountains that now had the early morning sun shining over them.

Taking in the other balloons drifting around us and the shadow of our own in the fields.

The scenery was shrouded by early morning fog that lifted to expose vines, farmland and kangaroos, just waking up and hopping around.

A camera suspended on the balloon took a group photo and I took a terrible selfie shot.

We flew up and down and through the valley taking in the gorgeous view and enjoying the moment.

The silence only punctuated by the occasional burst of gas into the balloon to keep us afloat.

Before too long, it was time to land in a friendly field with enthusiastic cattle dogs and startled kangaroos. We braced in the landing position, took a couple of hops and then it was all over.

Time to pack up the balloon- a lot harder than unravelling it- and head back to Petersons for a champagne breakfast with chocolate. We were also given a thoughtful thank you pack with discounts at other wineries and shops for rest of the day.

What a great experience, definitely not one for adrenalin junkies. More peaceful than I thought it would be, I was glad that I had done it. Now, just to get myself to Capadocia for round two.

Related posts: It’s a Winery ThingAdventurous vs Risk TakerAll creatures great and small

Canada, 1997

When my parents gave me a round the world ticket instead of a uni application after school- my first stop was Canada to visit my uncle, aunt and cousins. My cousin Jay had just spent the summer in Australia surfing around the country with his best friend Geoff. We were the same age so it was very easy to mix into each other’s social groups.

I flew in from 35 degree weather in Australia and was driven straight to Big White, Kelowna for a family skiing trip. Why not Whistler? Because Big White’s better, I was told. Having never seen snow before, I was overwhelmed by huge snow banks taller than cars on the side of the road and snow on the fir trees just like I had seen in the movies. I learnt about snow angels and drinking hot toddies.

As I had never skied before it was my cousin Jay’s task to teach me. I was dressed in my aunt’s old and unfashionable full body aqua ski suit, clutching onto Jay’s ski poles as he dragged me down the green run whilst I snow ploughed. It must have been a very amusing site for the toddlers whizzing by who could all ski before they could walk, as most Canadians can.

Back in Richmond, I was sleeping under the pool table this time. Holly the Dalmatian had been replaced by Rover the vicious tabby cat who brought me birds and mice for breakfast. The pool room also doubled as the band practice room for “Public House”. Jay played drums, Geoff played violin, Wayne was on vocals and Chris on guitar.

I became friends with some of the girls, Jeanette, Kim and Dana. We went drinking at “The Keg” and had a bonfire party at the dyke. One day, we went to the beach and a field full of sunflowers.

Revisiting the killer whales at Vancouver Aquarium and the totem poles in Stanley Park was a hi light. I went to Prospect Point with its iconic view over the green Lions Gate Bridge to West Vancouver.

I went driving around town with my cousin Kate who had just gotten her driver’s license. We cruised to Dairy Queen or Tim Horton’s with pop music blaring and a couple of her friends in the back seat. We drove to the family’s holiday land at White Rock and visited the pier.

My cousin Glen introduced me to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which I didn’t like; and Maple Walnut ice cream, which I loved. We flew kites in Stevenson and went to Granville Island.

Glen was training to be a pilot and was getting his flying hours up with small plane trips from Boundary Bay Airport. He took me on a flight to the Gulf Islands. We flew over Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island and saw the point where the Fraser River meets the Strait of Georgia. We had a bird’s eye view of Madeira Park Peninsula at Pender Harbour, Capilano River and the house in Richmond.

Related posts: Canada, 1990, Travel rememberings, The Seven Year Itch, TV replays and Movie marathons, Friendship: Great Expectations?