Last weekend I completed item number 11 on my personal bucket list, with a sunset balloon ride over the Yarra Valley. A valley girl born and bred it has always been something I have dreamed of doing, especially on the beautiful spring mornings heading off to work watching those majestic balloons floating above.
At my 4am alarm call, I did for a moment wonder if it would be worth all the bother – what if all I'd imagined for all these years was not all it was cracked up to be and in fact a few more hours sleep would be better! Well I can say the morning far exceeded any of my expectations and it was truly one of the best experiences of my life.
We were told to meet at the Yarra Valley café in Yarra Glen. It was still dark when we arrived in Yarra Glen and the main street was still asleep. The boys from Picture this Ballooning were inside the café with the lights on and a pot of coffee brewing – a welcome sight at 5am! After a cup of coffee and the formalities of signing all the paperwork we were loaded into the back of 2 troop carriers and were off for our big adventure.
We drove for about 10 minutes on bitumen and then headed off down a local dirt road and on to a private farm. We all got out and started to set up. Within minutes another 3 ballooning companies had arrived to set up as well. It seemed we had chanced upon one of the best mornings of the season, and this paddock was the best place to take advantage of the great weather.
The early morning start was a bit of a struggle, but out there in the crisp air in the middle of a paddock setting up the giant balloon certainly woke me up! The take-off was smoother than expected. So much so I am embarrassed to admit that I looked down at my camera for a minute or two, then looked up to realise I had missed the take-off and we were already a good 10 metres of the ground!
Our pilot Marlon from Picture this Ballooning was fantastic, he was a real character and a wealth of information. He varied our flight between being up quite high, to down at treetop level just above the Yarra River.
One of the things that amazed me with both the take off and the flight was the local cattle. They were not bothered at all by the noise of the balloons, which can be really loud at time. They were lucky to even look up. Marlon explained that they are so used to the balloons being overhead all the time that it is no big deal for them. It does get a bit tricky when they get 'out of town' cows and horse in the paddocks though as they can be quite spooked.
The views were absolutely spectacular, seeing all the way from the Mountains of Marysville, right down to Port Phillip bay. Also the experience of seeing the other hot air balloons in the air was amazing as well, it almost gave depth to the view that we were looking at – making it all that more real.
After over an hour in the air, we landed very smoothly in a paddock within the farm belonging to the Yarra Valley Dairy. After a fun filled team effort of packing up the balloon, we all jumped back in the 4wds and headed to Yarra Glen for a well-earned breakfast and glass of sparkling wine!
Whilst waiting for our breakfast to arrive we had a lovely time in the courtyard where Marlon explained the significance of the Champagne & Hot Air Ballooning experience…. You'll have to go ballooning to find out about that though! Breakfast was delicious and the sparkling wine went down nicely.
After an amazing start to our day we headed off home with huge grins on our faces. This was not just a 'tick' for the bucket list, but an experience that lived up and far exceeded expectations!!