I love giving the gift of experience for birthdays, especially if it is a “big one”. So when my gorgeous second daughter celebrated her 21st this year I gifted her a Hot Air balloon ride over the Hunter Valley. Last weekend it was time to take the trip!
Setting the alarm for an early start we went to bed for the night. I felt the night dragged on and I drifted in and out of sleep, till finally I checked what the time was. I sat up suddenly, trying to focus on the time in front of me. No that couldn’t be right… I quickly lent over shaking Jasmine as I mumbled something about the time. Bleary eyed she looked at me replying that it was 4.33am. Shocked I pointed out that we were supposed to meet in 12mins! I jumped into the drivers seat, pulling out just as Jasmine sat in her seat with her clothes in her hands. Lucky we weren’t to far away ( we had stayed up at the Hunter Valley Resort) but I didn’t want to risk being late so we went as fast as we could travelling through the darkness to our destination. I really hoped a Kangaroo didn’t come out in front of us! Arriving right on the dot, I jumped out, getting dressed and brushing my teeth in the carpark.
That was our chaotic start to an amazing morning!
After meeting our pilot Daren, from Wine Country Ballooning, we left on our journey to the take off point. The crew was concerned about the wind, it was a little bit blowy and they warned us about a possible bumpy landing. Showing us how to brace ourselves was a little bit concerning! Testing the wind they decided that we were in a prime spot and began to prep both us and the balloon. Watching the balloon inflate in front of us was so interesting and before long we were climbing into the basket ready for take off. Leaving the land under us was quiet eerie…we just slowly started to float up, the only sound being the irregular burst of flames from the burners above our head. As we took off, heading higher and higher, we reached a point that you could feel the wind take the balloon, moving us quiet fast along with the farms below us disappearing below us. Then as we ascended we the suddenly hit a point that the wind slowed down and we came close to a complete stop. This gave us the opportunity to get a birds eye view, so we looked around taking in our surroundings, the trees, farms and vineyards far below us. By now the sun had began to rise on the horizon. Peering through the clouds, the sun showed its face to us, greeting us on our journey through the skies. Looking around we spotted other balloons on the morning run, their own passengers enjoying the view. Suddenly as we flew near the Hunter Valley Zoo we could hear the roar of the lions waking up, echoing through the morning silence. Such an amazing sound to hear from above!
Floating along we caught sight of some highlights from the Hunter Valley, even if sometimes they we hard to recognise from our height. Our pilot was in constant communication with the ground crew, the wind was to determine our landing spot, so the man on the ground was to be our guide. With our journey coming to an end we were heading to a field ready to land, slowly floating over a mob of curious Kangaroos. As our pilot gave us the heads up on landing procedures, I became again very aware of the bracing that we might have to do. But I needn’t have worried. The wind had calmed and we landed so softly I barely felt it. Climbing out of the basket we were all so happy to have been part of this amazing experience!
What: Wine Country Ballooning
Where: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia.
How much: from $279 per person
Need to know: Daren from Wine Country Ballooning was the owner and pilot of our morning flight, meeting point is at the Mecure at about 4.45am, all flights have no more the Ten passengers on board so it is quiet intimate, wear warm layered cloths and enclosed shoes, make sure you take your camera!!, breakfast is extra but they have a special deal going with the Mecure so it is worth it.
Have you ever been in a Hot air balloon?
If not is it on your bucket list?