The Tour Specialists Tour Blog
What a way to start the morning – Hot Air Ballooning on the Tablelands!
Posted on April 17, 2008 by admin
Last Friday the team at The Tour Specialists were lucky enough to experience hot air ballooning with Hot Air. Hot Air has an excellent reputation, with the largest commercial fleet of balloons, and the biggest balloons that fly in the Southern Hemisphere. I was really looking forward to the experience, and couldn’t wait to be soaring through the skies like a bird!
The day begins early. We met at the base of the Kuranda Range at 5am. The friendly staff at Hot Air informed us that early morning weather provided the optimum weather conditions for a balloon flight, and they don’t make the experience so early simply because they’re sadistic! We loaded into the large comfortable coach and began our scenic 45 minute journey West to Mareeba, located on the Atherton Tablelands (the best location in the world for ballooning, so I am told). The drive was gorgeous. The morning of our balloon flight was cool and crisp. Fog was hovering low in the forest, and our pre-dawn journey over the Kuranda Range was unforgettable. We could hear the birds awaken in the trees and begin their melodic chorus. Night began to give way to day, which cast hues of glorious pink over the native Australian bushland.
As we arrived at our launch spot (a large rural paddock amongst a locally owned mango farm) we were greeted by the amazing sight of the balloon inflation. Each Hot Air balloon is unique, and upon inflation we were thrilled to discover our balloon design – a kangaroo! As we were waiting for our balloon experience I took time to appreciate the crisp cool morning and fresh country air. Light was beginning to penetrate the dark sky, and I could feel the anticipation of the group – we were ready to hop in the balloon and experience the glorious tropical sunrise in the sky. As our balloon inflated we had plenty of time to take photos, and the Hot Air staff took a wonderful group photo of us.
We were directed to the large wicker basket and one-by-one started entering the balloon. The wicker basket was more spacious than I anticipated, and could hold up to 20 people. We enjoyed the warmth radiating off the burner flame as our friendly experienced pilot continued filling the balloon with air. Time for more photo’s and lots of laughs as we eagerly awaited the balloon to be ready for flight. In only minutes we were ready, and started our smooth ascent into the sky.
The balloon experience was magical. On the day of our balloon flight, the Atherton Tablelands was shrouded in fog, which only added to the romantic and mystical ambiance of the experience. As we began our upward journey there were moments when we were completely enveloped by fog, and then we rose above it and entered a soft powder blue sky. The fog below us looked as soft as cotton wool and as light as fluffy clouds. The tops of the forest clad mountains peaked above the fog, creating a beautiful natural contradiction. The softness of the fog and the dense forest peeping through. Simply breathtaking! Our balloon flight lasted half an hour (although hourly flights are available), and after 10 minutes in the air, the fog lifted providing us with magical views of the green patchwork farmland, forests, majestic mountains and the horizon in the distance. It was a real treat when we got to glimpse the other hot air balloon sharing the sky with us; it was just like we were part of a balloon festival!
The feeling of silently gliding through the air is difficult to describe, but nonetheless is a memorable, once in a life time experience that I will never forget. Our descent was perfect, and was probably one of my favourite parts of the whole experience. We landed in a large open field surrounded by avocado crops and cows. Once on the ground we helped the Hot Air Crew back the balloon away. It was so much fun playing packing up games, deflating the balloon and packing it away. We all lent a hand, and worked up a good appetite doing so! Back onto the bus and a quick 5 minute drive to Ringers Rest for a gourmet buffet breakfast.
Ringers Rest is an open aired Restaurant inspired by Australian working sheds. Complete with a corrugated iron roof and natural Australian timber furnishings, you get a real sense of the Australian outback. The restaurant is in the midst of natural Australian bush, with the sense that you’re absolutely a million miles from anywhere. The tradition after a successful balloon flight is to toast a glass of champagne, and Hot Air is continuing that tradition. On arrival I was given a chilled glass of bubbly champagne, which I think is a delightful way to celebrate the wonderful ballooning experience.
Breakfast was beautiful. Being vegetarian I find buffet breakfasts at time problematic, but Hot Air provided a wide variety of hot and cold foods to keep everyone happy. I enjoyed fresh toast, a sumptuous selection of tropical fruits (watermelon, rockmelon, honeydew, kiwi fruit, pineapple and grapes), fresh juices, green tea and chilled water. The carnivores in our group enjoyed bacon, sausage, scrambled egg, tomato and so many more yummy treats. We all finished our meal, fat and happy, with a freshly brewed cup of Mareeba coffee. Just perfect….
Each Hot Air balloon is fitted with an onboard camera, so we picked up our group and individual photos then hopped back onto the bus for our 45 minute return journey to Cairns. The trip back to Cairns gave me the perfect opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep. Before I knew it we were back in Cairns, with wonderful memories (and some great pictures) of my time flying through the sky with Hot Air Balloons!
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