We were super lucky to be given hot air ballooning gift vouchers for Christmas 2013. Nothing like leaving it til the week before they expire to book in & do it. Seriously though, we'd planned to do this for a friends 40th around 4 years ago, but the weather was inclement at the time & the flight didn't go ahead, but we couldn't re-book because she was returning to Hong Kong where she was living. We did try to arrange the flight with the same friends as she's now residing back here, but we just couldn't make the dates work with everyone! So we went & had our own adventure the morning of the 31st of December to close out the year in style!
It was a very early morning start having to be in the city ready for a 4.30am departure (our alarm went off at 3.40am YIKES!!). We met our pilot & piled into our allocated 4WD for the short drive to Albert Park where we were able to help set up the balloon & watch it inflate (above). The glow from the burner made the surrounds glow red (below)!
The process took around 30 minutes, then we climbed into our basket & were up & away!! There were 8 of us plus our pilot. The views over the bay (St Kilda) & across the city were spectacular!!
See the MCG below (left) AMI Park to the right & the tennis centre precinct to the bottom of the photo. I am told that Melbourne is one of the only cities in the world where you can float right over the city.
The best of the daft selfies we took. Sorry for the odd expressions! I checked my camera the night before & we had 1/2 battery so didn't bother to charge it. Of course it went flat before we even took off so I was taking the shots in the air nervously on my phone. Thankfully I didn't drop it!!
The flight lasted about an hour & we saw a beautiful sunrise. Our pilot Tim said the conditions were absolutely perfect proved by the fact that he was taking photo's too.
It was very quiet up in the air except when the burner came on periodically. That was quite warm too - hence the hats - we were advised to wear them to protect our heads from the heat.
Eventually we made it to & over the Eastern Freeway to our landing spot at Yarra Bend Park & very smoothly touched down.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this experience providing the weather was good! Although they don't fly in bad conditions, I could imagine with a little more wind & cooler air temperatures the experience may not be as gentle.
We helped pack up the balloon (optional) but we had fun "rolling" the balloon back up & then drove back to the city for a champagne breakfast at the Hilton to complete the experience. Nothing like champagne at 7am!!! Plumbing boy refrained & stuck to coffee not being a consumer of bubbles at the best of times, but hey, I thought it was a good way to finish 2013.