With overseas travel largely off the cards right now, that doesn't mean you have to miss out on amazing experiences. In fact, Canberra has some of the best adventures just waiting to be uncovered right here on our doorstep. If you like your experiences to be mostly serene spiced with a little dash of thrill, a hot air balloon flight is the perfect choice and Balloon Aloft Canberra can turn the dream into reality.
If you decide to fly, the first (and probably most terrifying) aspect of ballooning is dragging yourself out of bed in time to be at the 5:30am check in. Amazingly, I did this knowing that none of Canberra's cafes would be open yet. Fortunately, the pre-dawn chill of Canberra in autumn belted me in the face like a freight train so I was wide awake the second I stepped outside.
When I arrived at the Hyatt Hotel, I was greeted by the Balloon Aloft crew, possibly the most enthusiastic bunch of people I've ever met . They provided a safety briefing and explained that this was designed to be not just a flight but the entire ballooning experience so if you're a hands-on person, you can get involved in some of the set up and pack up activities to see how a balloon inflates, launches and gets packed back away. And if you are injured or unable to take part, there's no pressure - you can be as involved as much or as little as you like.
After a short bus ride to the launch site, the balloons and baskets were laid out. The balloons took around twenty minutes to inflate using both fans and hot air and it was great to see and be part of getting a hot air balloon inflated and ready to launch. Then it was time to get into the basket and if you've heard there's no elegant or graceful way to do this, I'm living proof that is true but it was all part of the fun!
After the minus 2 degree temperatures and frosty grass, the basket felt cosy and warm with the heat from the flame taking the edge off the icy morning. Before long, we were up, up and away on our Balloon Aloft adventure. The lift off was barely noticeable but suddenly, we were soaring over the towering poplars and looking down over the city shrouded in its cloak of mist and early morning sunlight. The constant beat of a dragon boat drum was the soundtrack to the morning with the occasional blast of gas into the balloon but other than that, the city sprawled silently below us.
To see the traffic and movement of everyone else's day to day unfolding while my 'balloon buddies' and I drifted on the breeze was surreal - if you've ever wanted to ponder the meaning of life, I'd say a hot air balloon basket at 3000ft is a good place to start.
Sunrise over Canberra view from a hot air balloon is pure magic
Balloons over Canberra can fly to around 3000ft and to see earth from a new (and let's be honest, pretty darned spectacular) perspective was one of the best experiences I've had in a long time. The landmarks of Canberra were vying for attention as the sun gently painted them in burnt orange before lighting them up. The trees were just beginning to show their autumn hues with pops of russet, ochre and claret dotting the landscape. And beyond it all, the distant mountains reached for the sky that we were floating about in.
Time seemed to both stand still and move incredibly fast and I was a little disappointed when we lowered and eventually glided back to earth where our pilot, Kim, stuck the landing perfectly. We were invited to take a walk inside the balloon ( which made me think of how Jonah might have felt being swallowed by a whale). We were invited to help with the pack up which is like the stuff of nightmares if you're a camper - think of stuffing sleeping bags or tents back into their packaging then multiply the degree of difficulty by a lot and that gives you a clue about what this experience will play out but when it's a hot air balloon and there is a lakeside glass of bubbly waiting at the end, it's fun and really worth getting involved in.
As the last of the balloon was fairly unceremoniously stuffed into its trailer, we all said a big 'cheers' before being taken back to the Hyatt. The ground crew and pilots still had the level of enthusiasm that the day began with and if you fly with Kim, I'd highly recommend asking to hear his 'worst landing' story on the bus ride back.
I'd highly recommend taking the 'holiday here' approach and taking advantage of the opportunity to get a bird's eye view of our city. It's an experience that will live up to and more than likely surpass every expectation you have. If you've ever thought about it, remember the sky's the limit and there's no better time than now.
Great descriptive article Heidi. Having experienced two balloon flights I can recommend the experience. It is the nearest thing to the legendary magic carpet, as you just float along with the wind, so there is no wind in the face experience. Just pure magic,