Hunter Valley - 1997

Brian has always wanted to go up for a balloon flight. During the early years of their marriage Lynn said, "That's fine but don't expect me to come with you. There's no way you're getting me into one of those things".

Time passed and then around 1997 an opportunity arose for a flight out of Singleton in the Hunter Valley where we were staying with Lynn's sister and brother in law at Port Stephens. With the benefit of a balloon advertisement, group bravado and a few bottles of wine we all said, "Let's do it !!" and a booking was made. We rose at about 3.00am on the appointed morning and had been driving for 45 minutes towards the launch location when a phone call informed us the flight had been cancelled due to high winds. What a disappointment.

Barossa Valley - 2012

In late 2011 we were faced with the expiry of a significant number of frequent flyer points we'd earned with Etihad Airways. With just 24 hours before expiry we made a snap decision to use them up by "buying" two balloon flights in the Barossa Valley and a rather nice tennis racquet for Lynn. The flights had to be used no later than December 2012 and as the Barossa Valley is a long, long way from Nambucca Heads we planned a three week vacation around our balloon flights. In other words we spent three or four thousand so we could use an award which had an all up value of about $850. Go figure !

A freezing dawn morning in South Australia's Barossa Valley as the support crew give us the thumbs up and we give them one back just for good measure. Our long delayed balloon adventure is about to begin.

 

Altitude one and a bit metres and I believe we're actually on our way! The support crew guys take our picture so they can prove to the Supreme Court that things were going perfectly normal at around 10 seconds into the flight.

 

I'm very tempted to crap on a bird..... I've waited years for an opportunity to do that !

 

As Jackie Gleeson would say (who remembers HIM?) "And awaaaaay we go".

 

Quick, grab the road atlas..... which of these six roads is ours? Whichever one you blow down I guess. Hang on, doesn't one of these roads go to the Great Southern Ocean and  thence onto Antarctica?

 

Seven happy little Vegemites face $5,000 worth of suspended Nikon SLR camera

 

Hey, don't look now but our chase vehicle is about to pass us! It was amazing how cleverly they kept us in view as they navigated along lots of obscure little country roads. They intermittently kept in contact with our skipper via VHF radio when necessary.

 

Every so often we'd silently pass over a mob of kangaroos or a flock of wild ducks. They'd be totally oblivious to our close presence until our skipper hit the flame thrower with an almighty roar scattering the wildlife in all directions. Sorry but it's better than crashing.

 

Smile for the camera and pretend you're not scared. Actually I'm only scared we'll freeze to death or veer off course and miss the promised champagne breakfast.

 

We're actually being pushed along by a 40 km breeze but we can't feel it because we're doing round about 40 km ourselves. Several intended landings had to be abandoned due to crops, power lines barbed wire fences and the fact the balloon's direction is at the whim of the wind. Before we know it our one hour flight has lasted for one hour and twenty minutes which is a stroke of luck and we are approaching Adelaide International Airport which is a stroke of something else. Hey there's a big paddock of mown hay so let's drop her down here.

 

Hey Lynn.... I said  call for an ambulance, not a school bus for heavens sake !

 

This looks like a pretty good landing location. Looking good.....

 

Looking good, looking good, looking good..... man this thing's really moving!

 

Aaaagh! What are we doing here at the bottom of the basket with three ruptured lumbar disks? We expecting a feather soft landing but that was REALLY hard. We saw no mention of THIS in the brochure!!!!

 

At least we're in the top layer and didn't get speared through the back of the head by tufts of stick-like hay stubble. Brian's not making any wisecracks.... better check whether he's conscious! On a serious note we doff our hats to the chase crew. Not only were they able to follow our 40 kph speedster, they also managed to pinpoint the actual paddock, find a suitable gate and arrive by our side in time to take this shot. Nice going boys!

 

"I enjoyed every minute except the last 1 seconds". Anyhow, where's our breakfast?

 

Have we REALLY got to put all that rag into that itty bitty canvas bag? No kidding?

 

OK, that's good, let's go! How far is it to the restaurant and champagne brekkie?