As you’ll hear in the opening minute of the video, we were told to meet at Yering Station. In the time it took to get from my suburb over to Yarra Glen, as I passed (and was passed by) a surprising amount of traffic on the back roads of winery country, I had woken up a little thanks to the sip of old coffee that was leftover in the percolator and had begun to wonder what on earth I was doing. After all, yes, they might be graceful, giant pendants of the sky – but they went a long way up! What if we lost control and floated up and away in the manner of the Wizard of Oz? Or come crashing down to earth?
These were the thoughts that went through my mind as we bundled in to the van that was waiting to take us to the launch area – a place that had yet to be determined; out of the 70 possibilities, our pilot was on his mobile talking to the pilots of the other two operators, as to where we should go on this still and cloudy morning. The decision was made and we headed off to Coldstream airport. Once the balloon was up, we climbed into the oversized wicker basket and we were away – very quickly, without any fanfare, we shot up. I made eye contact with the woman next to me and I could tell she had the same thought I did: “Oh, okay, this is it!”
You can’t hear it in the video, because I dubbed over it with music, but on our way up you can hear me take very audible deep breaths, interspersed with, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay’. It was unnerving, but I managed to get my thoughts under control. The clouds rolled in and soon we were enveloped, feeling the dampness on my cheeks and unable to see the ground made things a little better – I could imagine the ground was right underneath us. But then the pilot lit the burner again and we ascended again, popping out on top of the clouds to the sight of this:
(Shot straight out of the camera)
It was like that moment in Mary Poppins where she takes Bert and the children up on a plume of smoke to survey the beauties of twilight London. I forgot all my anxieties – briefly – and just enjoyed the sight; a fleeting sight, too, as the balloon then dropped back through the clouds and we drifted along. At least twice, the balloon descended almost to the ground – if I’d wanted, I could’ve jumped off the side and landed without breaking any bones (the thought did cross my mind!). I could tell several passengers, like me, were far more comfortable at this cruising speed, just above the tops of the vineyards and orchards. I realised the pilot kept doing this to show off when he drifted over a small dam, just inches above the water (well, the back corner did get a little wet). Then we landed in a paddock and it was over – as the balloon deflated, we were invited inside to look at it, and it was a beautiful thing to behold. Parties have been known to be held in balloons in similar states (they are huge and keep out the wind). Wouldn’t that be marvellous!?
All up, it was a wonderful experience – a combined Christmas present from both my sister and mother (and the rest thrown in by me). They’re not cheap (and I bought mine through Groupon) and there was an expectation to both help set up the balloon and pack it down at the end. Fine by me, but I could tell some people weren’t expecting that. And my right arm was hurting the following day until I realised why – I was gripping the strap on the balloon very, very hard. The left arm was left for shooting, which I did, and hopefully you like the photos. The company I went with was Go Wild Ballooning, if you’re interested.
Another tick done! Next up? Paris!