In my absence, the Christmas decorations have been put up at the local shops and ... SJP is the covergirl for the December 2011 issue of InStyle.
After being served all my meals for the last 4 days, it was a bit of a novel experience going to Coles to buy ingredients to make my own meals. There was also that first shower in my own bathroom. As much as I love soaking in the bath at a hotel and using all the fancy toiletries that are provided, nothing beats my own slightly scratchy towels and a light coat of sorbolene at the end of a long day. It says and makes me feel like I'm home.
It really only was this morning that I celebrated returning a hire car to the airport in perfect condition and with a full tank of petrol. It was the first time I'd hired a car for a road trip and I had a quiet Coke Zero to celebrate my success. Everything was so easy and convenient at Tullmarine. I just drove the car in, unpacked and wheeled my luggage across the road to check in for the flight home. As luck would have it, Mr Joyce and the unions are still sharing an uneasy truce and the flight was merely delayed due to 'the cleaning crew running late' rather than being cancelled.
|We were blessed with freshly cut grass in the paddock where we were to ascend from. In the background are other groups preparing their hot air balloons. You have to see the pictures of all the groups in the air later in this post.|
And it was only at 4.30 this morning that Mr SSG and I were up before the birds for a hot air balloon ride over the Yarra Valley with Go Wild Ballooning . My photos are really blurry but I did want to include them with this post because the whole experience was so amazingly fun and unique. I know it's a touristy thing to do but I am so glad that we took the chance to do this.
|We arrived with a 4WD and a truck holding a basket and a large blue bag. How was it all going to come together?|
|See that toe hold in the wall of the basket? That's how people get in for the ride.|
|Gas burners and a fan. That's how the magic is created.|
|Inside our fully inflated '350' size balloon, the largest size Go Wild fly with.|
Physics was never my favourite subject at school but this morning, watching its principles in action left my in awe of science and how beautifully it can be applied to real life.
The hot air that causes the balloon to rise comes from these propane burners.
It's quite a blast when the burners are first fired up to create that pillow of warm air that causes the balloon to rise. We had to hold the balloon as the air first got warmed up and it was like being next to a dragon's burst of flames (or at least how I'd imagine Puff the Magic Dragon would behave). I even got lifted up off the ground for a bit. Very gratifying after a weekend of very good food.
|Semi inflated balloon on the right. You can see why it took so long to fill and why an average sized person can get easily blown off the ground as this happens.|
Everyone in the group helped get our balloon in the air and that's what made it so fun.
Initally, the basket was carried off the truck using the loops to the left of the picture above.
Then we climbed into the padded basket to provide the weight to keep the balloon down on the ground at the beginning of our flight. A large basket fits 16 or so adults and it was a very comfortable standing room only ride too.
As dawn broke, the other balloons also came to life. This is wine country and champagne has such a long association with hot air balloons so it is no surprise to see some of the major houses of the region represented on the balloons. Remind me to tell you about our bubbly tasting at Chandon. There are photos and they are pretty.
And we're up in the air! In the nicest possible way. It was like being in a movie scene. We climbed into the sky so gently. It wasn't frightening at all.
From a distance, the patchwork precision of the farm land and vineyards were visible in all their glory.
It was such a different perspective from both driving through the region or flying over it in an airplane.
The peace and gentle bobbing along with the wind was very comforting and my sleep deprivation worthwhile. The ride really did wake me up and in a nice gentle way rather than as a rude shock.
All too soon, our basket bobbed closer to the ground. Dots on the expanses of green became more defined and in focus. After we hit the ground, it was all hands on the basket as we manipulated the weight of ourselves against the weight of the air in the balloon.
The men jumped out and started pulling the balloon downwards.
The air slowly escaped and the task got a little easier as it did so.
Finally our buoyant ride collapsed to the ground over the prepared tarpaulins.
Then the rest of us pitched in to roll up the balloon to fit back into its case.
First there was the rolling.
And then there was the lifting and coiling into its case. We paused every once in a while to shake the bag down to ensure the whole balloon fit back inside.
It worked! Our teamwork paid off.
Our balloon was hauled into the truck and we drove back to our hotel for a well deserved full breakfast and optional glass of champagne (for those of us who hadn't been drinking it for the preceding 3 days straight, it has been that kind of mini break).
And on that note, I shall leave you for the night. I am taking myself to bed in readiness for a full day back in the real world.
Looking forward to sharing more of the photos and memories with you over the next little while.