I travelled to Canberra with trepidation. The last time I visited to watch the balloons they couldn’t fly, the weather was not paying attention, it was windy in the upper atmosphere. Our Balloon Aloft tour was part of the Ballooning Spectacular during the Enlighten Festival in February/March.
When I phoned at 4.45am to check-in, I was excited to be informed that all was going ahead as scheduled. We were to be at the launch area at 5.45am. However, Canberra was fog bound,
It was to be an early morning rise. First we had to check in to ensure that the balloons were flying. Great joy, the weather was kind to us. The spectators were waiting and the take off was to be in front of the Old Parliament House, however, because of cloud and safety concerns, the commercial balloons were to take off at Coppins Crossing, to the west of the city. So we climbed into buses and headed west out past Yarralumla and eventually after launching test balloons, our guides started to unpack and inflate our balloons.
Firing up ready for take-off. As our pilot pumps air into the burning gas the balloon fills with hot-air. We have about 8 in our basket and gently we lift off. Finally as the sun was rising and we ascend into the morning light, over the horizon rising over the hills the private, smaller balloons are floating toward us. They are backlight by the dawn and the sight was surreal, the feeling of watching them float amazing.
I was lost in time and space, I guess we were up in the air for an hour we travelled by Black Mountain and the Telstra tower, which were immersed in fog, over Yarralumla and Government House, the Molonglo River. Being at the mercy of the air currents we eventually found ourselves landing in the middle of a fairway at Federal Golf Course.
We touch down on Federal Golf Course, watched by the kangaroos and early morning golfers. The balloon needs to be laid out and rolled up and then literally squashed into the basket for transport back to the depot.
The second morning, I rose early again, phoned the information number and was delighted that the balloons were flying again, this time their takeoff was to be from the lawns in front of Old Parliament House. So, I along with hundreds of spectators watched as the smaller balloons, unpacked, setup and proceeded to fill their balloons with hot air from burning gas bottles. One by one they slowly rose into the morning sky, with all the spectators with their heads, phones and cameras looking skyward.
Mr Nudie was a favourite with the crowd