Freelance writer who enjoys staying active, social and making the most of what Perth has to offer.
Published May 31st 2011
Have you ever watched the sun rise from 2,000 feet above the ground with fresh air in your face as you peacefully drift across WA's colourful landscape? Hot Air Ballooning may not be something you have previously considered trying, but there is something amazing about the speed and height at which you travel, yet there is no noise from engines so it is a very peaceful and calm experience. Plus in the Avon Valley, there are some breath-taking sights to be seen from such great heights. Located just out of Perth (about 90 minutes by car), Northam is an ideal place to give Ballooning a try. I have to warn you it's an early start so you may choose to stay overnight in Northam or nearby in York, but it is well worth getting up a bit earlier for.
After a pre-flight briefing at the shop, we head onto the bus which takes us to the middle of a paddock just out of town. The land-owners in surrounding areas have kindly agreed to let the balloon companies take-off and land on their property. It's pretty cold but we are quickly put to work unrolling the huge balloon which is much bigger and heavier than I expected. Once the balloon is partly filled with hot air from the burners, quite an impressive display, we climb into the basket and get ready for our ascent.
The sun is just poking up over the trees on the horizon as we get up into the air and I notice we are joined by a few other balloons in the distance. From above you can admire the patterns of the windrows in the crops below and the conga-lines of sheep as they head out for their morning graze.
After about an hour in the air, we start our descent. Although the pilot is able to guide the balloon by adding more hot air, the craft cannot be steered as such so they land in a new place every time. It is amusing to watch our bus below navigate around the properties, trying to estimate our landing location. As we approach the ground and the tops of the wheat crop tumble along the bottom of the basket you actually realise just how fast we have been traveling.
The morning's adventure is topped off with a gourmet champagne breakfast to share stories with the others on your flight.
I won't get into the technical side of things, but hot air ballooning is best done in the cooler weather so April to November are the general months of operation.
There are two main companies to choose from in Northam; Avon Valley Ballooning and Windward Balloon Adventures. Both companies are comparable in price and are accredited tourism businesses so you are in safe hands who ever you choose. Prices are considerably lower midweek so it is worth taking a day off work to enjoy this experience. This is a great gift idea or a way to celebrate a special occasion with friends and family. Children should be aged six and above to fully enjoy hot air ballooning.