Hot air ballooning has always been the number one thing on my bucket list since I was about 18.
So when I was approaching my 30th birthday late last year, I wanted to do something big to celebrate it. So it was only appropriate that I finally tick this item off my list.
The next question was: where to go to experience this wonderful adventure.
Living in the Southern Highlands, Camden would be the closest venue for us but what we would have seen (large farms and paddocks full of cattle) is what we see on a daily basis, so I wanted something different.
Next option was the Hunter Valley, I’d imagine the view would be amazing, seeing all the vineyards below.
I did my research, found the best deal with Hunter Valley Ballooning and booked it in for my actual birthday. While I was at it, I booked in one night at the Hunter Valley Resort because there was no way we were driving 2 or so hours just for the balloon ride. So we made the weekend out of it.
Mind you, I booked this adventure in June and my birthday was not until December. So I had a lot of waiting to do, but as the years are going past so fast, the day was upon us before we knew it.
We drove down on a very hot and very windy day, which made me very nervous. I kept thinking it was going to be cancelled for sure if this wind didn’t stop.
The night before the balloon ride we are told to ring the company to find out if the ride is still going ahead, so with so much anxiety built up within me that day, I dial the number.
To my relief (and surprise) it was still going ahead! I was so happy we hadn’t driven all that way for nothing and my birthday celebrations weren’t ruined.
Obviously I didn’t get much sleep that night with all the nerves and excitement running through me.
I was up before the alarm went off at 3:30am, ready and waiting at the door by 4am.
We drove the short 5 minute drive to the meeting place and the adventure begun!
There were three groups that morning, which meant 3 balloons. Each group got driven to the take off location in a small bus, where we helped the organisers assemble the balloon.
It was time to get into the balloon. Now it’s not as easy as you might think. You probably think you just step into the basket, right? Well, no actually. You do have to get into the basket, but you have to climb into it and you have to do so while it’s already lifting off the ground – so you have to be quick!
Let’s just say I made a few people laugh that morning when it was my turn to get in and leave it at that.
Hubby and I were so busy taking photo’s, that the next thing we knew we were already up in the air!
It is such a quiet ride (apart from when they turn the gas on to fill the balloon up to make it go higher), that you forget where you are. You are just floating. Up in the sky.
There were a few times you’d get a little condensation on you when the balloon goes through the cloud, thats how high they get! But the captain brings it back down below the cloud, otherwise you can’t see anything but fog.
The ride lasts for about an hour. Ours went for just over an hour by the time they found a suitable place to land.
We ended up in someone’s paddock next to a bunch of cows. But it made it all the more fun.
Then it was pack up time. It’s a very hands-on experience, as they ask you to help pack up the balloon with them. It’s that big and heavy, that they need all the help they can get!
Half an hour or so later, we were done packing up and the bus took us back to a vineyard for a champaign breakfast – yum!
It was definitely an experience I will always remember and will always be glad that I had left it for a milestone birthday. It made it just that little bit more special.
So I would definitely recommend giving it a go – at least once in your life. I probably wouldn’t do it again, just for the fact that there are lots of other things to still try.