“If you see hot air balloons over Melbourne in the morning, you know it’s going to be a great day!”
Wise words from my daughter’s school principal several years ago.
Since then, every time I look up in the morning and there are hot air balloons in the sky my heart lifts and yes, the day ahead takes on a rosy glow.
So, the opportunity to go up in one of those hot air balloons was irresistible, even when the journey starts under the cover of night.
A few facts first: hot air makes balloons rise. However, what many don’t realise is that it’s specific wind currents that push them along. The ideal wind is not too strong, not too light and only occurs at dawn.
I tiptoed out of the house at 4.15am and arrived at the meeting point in the Yarra Valley 45 minutes later – stars still bright in the night sky – to meet the Global Ballooning crew and my fellow passengers.
We set off in the back of a truck to the launch site with Ed Saunders, who was born into the business. Just a few months old when his dad (and owner of Global Ballooning) took him for his first hot air balloon ride 16 years ago, Ed is now a qualified pilot.
He explained: “There are 70 launch sites around the Yarra Valley and we pick the best one each day based on the direction of the wind.”
Our site was a sports ground and a long roll of balloon (the largest in the Global Ballooning fleet) stretched towards the tree line, attached to a five-metre-long basket.
Inflated with 450,000 cubic feet of air it rose upwards, towering over us as we all stepped in.
Our pilot, Steve Buckley pulled down on the gas burners, sending a 4 metre-high burst of flame into the balloon and casting a surreal orange light over the 22 passengers.
Almost without realising the balloon was moving we rose up into the wind current and set off high above the gum trees as dawn broke on the cloudy horizon.
The burners went off, silence blanketed us and we glided effortlessly 1500 metres above the shadowy ground below as the sun illuminated distant hills and the clouds cleared.
Neat house blocks gave way to farmland with a mob of kangaroos bouncing across the paddocks, onto golf courses and finally down to a farm where we gently landed an hour later.
At the champagne breakfast, after the balloon had been loaded back onto the truck, I asked Steve and Ed what got them out of bed at 4am each day.
Ed said: “No two days are the same and I get to fly hot air balloons. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Hot air ballooning weather is ideal for about 240 days a year in the Yarra Valley, which means Steve and Ed’s day starts with a rosy glow more often than most of us.
For me though, seeing hot air balloons in the sky from now on won’t just be an indicator of a good day, it’ll bring back memories of a magical experience.
To book, go to: www.globalballooning.com.au
Note: Jomo Travel was a guest of Global Ballooning in February 2019.
Please note that flights can be cancelled at very short notice by the company if the weather is not suitable. If this is the case you will be booked onto another flight within a 12 month period.
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