Ballooning in Melbourne
This morning I travelled up, up and away in a hot-air balloon over Melbourne. I received the ride as a gift and it was the the fifth attempt following numerous weather-related cancellations.
The ride was booked with Global Ballooning who admittedly were a bit of a nuisance with administration. After we booked and paid online, they demanded that we email a photograph with our credit card and driver’s licence to “ensure that the credit card wasn’t stolen”. Obviously, I wasn’t going to agree to that for a host of fairly obvious security-related reasons. After considerable discussion back-and-forth, they agreed to drop this absurd request and common sense prevailed.
Anyway, with that unpleasantness sorted-out and a promising morning forecast, I was up at 4:30am today in time to meet my tour group at the Pullman Hotel in East Melbourne at 5:30am. After a brief intro, we boarded a small bus and travelled to Kevin Bartlett Reserve (behind my alma mater Burnley College of Horticulture) to set-up.
It was fascinating to see how the hot air balloons were launched. I’d never really put any thought into how it is done. In essence, a couple of people hold the sides of the hot-air balloon whilst a large fan pumps air inside. Once it’s suitably inflated, gas is ignited and a “flame thrower”-style blast of flames is projected inside until the balloon is light enough to rise. It takes about 20 minutes.
The basket was smaller than I expected but it was comfortable. Taking off was initially slow but after dodging trees, light poles and mobile phone towers, we were off.
The ride lasted for about three-quarters of an hour and travelled north-east from Burnley over Richmond, Collingwood, Fitzroy, Princes Hill, Brunswick, Brunswick West, Pascoe Vale, Strathmore and down into Essendon Airport.
The views were magnificent and our pilot Clement was an excellent guide. The original plan had been to land in Royal Park but the weather was favourable enough to head further north to Essendon Airport.
Landing was an interesting process and I wondered how the pilot would be able to “steer” our craft into the right spot but somehow it happened and we landed safely. The landing was much smoother than I’d anticipated.
The packing-up was the slowest part but also the most participatory. I actually really enjoyed this part of the experience, more than I’d expected.
Floating over Melbourne in a hot-air balloon was a wonderful experience. I’m so glad I did it.