A few months back I was lucky enough to win a competition in Australian Traveller Magazine and the prize was a Balloon Aloft voucher for a hot air balloon ride for 2 people. Balloon Aloft fly in 4 different locations in New South Wales and for various reasons we chose Camden, located south west of Sydney and where a good friend of mine lives.
We moved to Sydney in 2010 for a couple of years, returning home to Melbourne in 2012 for various reasons. We had been holding off on using the vouchers as we decided we would make a family holiday out of it as we haven’t returned to Sydney as a family since we left. We thought it would be good for the kids to go back and meet up with some of their old friends. The Australia Day long weekend provided us with an extra day as we have to be mindful of Craig’s leave balances at work if we want to go overseas later in the year.
Our flight got in about 8pm on the Friday night and we picked up the hire car that I booked through vroomvroom.com and headed straight out to Mount Annan where my friend lives. I haven’t seen Tracey since Christmas last year so she had a few beers waiting in the fridge for a catch up before bed as the balloon ride required us to be at a meeting place in Camden at 5am!
Needless to say I got a bit merry and went to bed at 12.15am! Somehow I suggested Tracey not set the alarm for us and I would set my phone alarm, not exactly sure what happened but Craig has reminded me on several occasions so far that I forgot to set the alarm. Luckily (I use this term loosely) I am the worlds worst sleeper so I woke and looked at the clock and it was 4.45am. I whacked Craig, jumped out of bed panicking, threw on yesterday’s clothes and brushed my teeth, put a hat on and left. Craig did the same, not even time to go to the loo!
Off we went, only we didn’t know how to get there, thank god for iPhones! We arrived with 2mins to spare luckily Tracey sets her clock 10mins fast, I could have kissed her! Other people even arrived after us, I could have gone to the loo! Once I stopped and took a deep breath, I realised I might also have a bit of a hangover.
Anyway on with it. We jumped in the bus and headed off to the launch zone. We all helped with setting up the balloon which is a pretty quick process. Then it was time to go. We all jumped in the basket, the pilot tells you where you need to stand so that the weight is evenly dispersed for safety reasons.
Craig and I had been hot air ballooning before over Melbourne city so we knew what to expect. This time was completely different though as low cloud hung over the valley. The pilot Kim, took us up into the clouds and I must admit I was feeling a bit uneasy when I couldn’t see the ground and the clouds seem ever ending (might have been the hangover too!). I noticed that Kim was looking up and at one stage said he wasn’t sure if he was going to get through the cloud. I was then thinking that we went going to see anything as the cloud was pretty thick. With that someone said I can see blue!
We pretty much popped up above the cloud and it felt like we were sitting on top of a heap of cotton wool balls. I think there was a gasp from everyone on the balloon, it really was a beautiful sight and so quiet and surreal just floating above the clouds. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any more beautiful the sun started to poke through the clouds, I then realised I was witnessing something truly amazing and beautiful beyond any sunrise I had ever seen.
Here’s the proof, best you see for yourself.
As you can see it was a pretty amazing experience. We got an extra half an hour as the pilot had trouble trying to find a suitable place to land. Some farmers are balloon friendly, some not so by the sounds of it! You can’t help where the balloon goes.
I loved every minute of this ride, ballooning is such a wonderful experience, feels like you are stationary and the earth is moving away from you. So quiet and being so early in the morning its crisp, clear and fresh. At the end everyone pitches in to roll up the balloon and get it back on the truck including the basket. A mini bus picks you up to take you back to the meeting point for a champagne breakfast.
Here’s the details if you are interested in going on a hot air balloon ride. You won’t be disappointed.
Company: Balloon Aloft
Where: In NSW – Camden Valley, The Hawkesbury, Hunter Valley & Mudgee
Price: $279AUD per person
Balloon Aloft also fly in Canberra and the Gold Coast although they are slightly more expensive approx. $299 per person.
Stand by for my Australia Day in Sydney post, coming soon.
Safe travels everyone.