Memorable Moments – Melbourne Balloon Ride

P1050005It’s far too early to be out of bed!

For my fiftieth post I thought I would write about a Memorable Moment – an early morning balloon ride in Melbourne, Australia.

The alarm clock blared Lauren and I awake at the ungodly hour when only drunks and worm getting birds are moving around. The temptation to hit snooze was overridden by the excitement of what was to come. We dragged ourselves out of bed and checked our phones to make sure the flight hadn’t been cancelled again due to increment weather. With no sign of voicemails to send us back to our bed we got dressed and hopped in the car, with our fingers crossed that the weather would hold.

We arrived in a field filled with oversized plastic bags and men with flamethrowers. We pretended to help by staying out of everyone’s way and waiting for the bulbous contraptions to fill to their immense size. After what felt like a long time standing around in a cold dark field, the sun started to make an appearance on the horizon and just in time we were ready to go. We clambered into a giant picnic basket with several other half asleep passengers and waited for lift off.

The actual launch was anti-climactic. The ascent was so gentle it was barely noticeable and before we realised it we were a hundred feet in the air. We peered into strangers gardens and remarked how many people in the suburbs had pools. We gazed at familiar landmarks with a new perspective, the Telstra dome appearing like a bowl of grass left lying around by an untidy giant. When the flamethrower paused there was barely a sound, it was so peaceful up in the clouds. Lauren and I held hands and took in the sights. We waved to the people in the other balloons, sharing this special moment with us.

P1050030Say hello everyone

Melbourne itself looked beautiful from this vantage point, the tall buildings cast against the pink sky of dawn. It looked like an alien landscape from a straight to DVD sci-fi movie. There was none of the hustle and bustle we’d normally associate with the city, just the peaceful whisper of a slight breeze. I tried to ignore the fact that I could see my work building.

P1050017Melbourne from the air

All too quickly we got the warning that we were out of time. The pilot showed us how to brace for landing, which no-one took seriously. We just assumed it would be like the gentle take off but in reverse. He aimed us for a large field where the pickup vehicle was waiting and started to lose altitude. At first it was gradual, but we were going too fast and were at risk of over-running our landing spot. The solution to this was to lose altitude more quickly, which we did. As we raced towards the ground I tried to remember the brace position and did my best interpretation of it just as we hit the turf. The basket flipped onto it’s side, the rotund gentleman on my left rolled into me, providing extra crash protection. Eventually we came to a stop. Adrenaline thumped through me in strong contrast to the serenity of the flight. Slightly ruffled, we climbed out to admire the swath of destruction we’d caused on the otherwise pristine field, like a tiny tornado. We shook hands with our pilot and set off back for the car, the day barely started and yet already filled with memories.

Balloon rideMelbourne – 17th November, 2007

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