Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hot Air Ballooning, Northam, Awesome

Good Morning,

My girlfriend, whom I nick name Mary Q, was given a gift voucher from her Son as a birthday present. It was for two. MQ chose to invite me to accompany her, and I was thrilled. But, very apprehensive. My Mum has suffered from a fear of heights and because of that, I suppose I haven't been subjected to having any of those experiences. And, I must have unconsciously chosen not to put myself out there to try them.
Up, up and away, looking to the East, awesome!
Rainbow Drifter III
So, without thinking about it much, I suddenly found myself 4500 feet (Damien has corrected me, I thought it was metres! Still a loooong way up) above the Earth!!! I was conscious of words 'silently' swimming around my mind at the time, "OMG!, puckity puck, OMG! puckity puck! Cath don't look down! OMG! Cath, we are 4 and a half kilometers above the ground! OMG! No parachute! We are being driven by an Aero-Nut in control of a bubble of hot air! OMG!"
The words 'Enjoy Your Flight' written on the car roof, the team wave us good bye.
I did not verbalise these things, and I you wouldn't know I was thinking these things either as I was 'Miss Composure', looking like I did this kind of thing all the time. (OMG!) No one else was speaking either, all you could hear was silence, broken only the sound of the gas jet flame and the odd dog, barking in the distance, or the flock of noisy, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos that appeared to be swarming several kilometers below us.
The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo's below.
It was amazing, and I would certainly do it again. Awesome! That feeling of being gently lifted, almost floating. You could feel the occasional, cool of the morning on your cheek, the occasional warmth of the gas jet, above. I went to sleep that night feeling like I was drifting in the balloon once more. I will conjure that feeling again when I feel I need to be comforted.
Cath, pre flight, clutching the cup of tea and finding it hard to smile, nnnnervous!
MQ and I set out from home the day before, we deposited the dogs at the kennels and scurried away without looking back, I freak out leaving my dogs at those places, even though, on one level I know they are in good hands.

We drove up to York and visited some friends from the South Beach Doggie Beach that have a beautiful old house up there. It gets mighty hot there in summer and the earth is red and the bark of the gum trees seem bleached, white, from the heat. How they grow such a beautiful garden I don't know. The old house restored with pressed tin ceilings and the shed, out the back, protecting a couple of beautifully restored cars.
Loving restoration
Doggie lovin mates in York, a great shot.
From there it is only a shortish drive to Northam. The trip to either York or Northam only takes an hour and a half to two hours to get to. An, easy, after work trip for a weekend break. Arriving in Northam, MQ and I decided to do an initial reconnoitre. We didn't want to get lost in the dark, going to our early morning balloon departure. You have to be there by 5.45am! But, it is not even a 5 minute drive from the town.
Northam from the balloon.
After driving out to the aerodrome, we chuckled to ourselves at how organised we are. This gloating didn't last long when MQ realised she had forgotten her camera (OMG, I don't know how she can live with herself!) and then, I realised I had forgotten to pack the entire bottom half of my ballooning ensemb'. No warm jeans, paddock walking shoes or socks. I had even left Margs with out one bra! What a ning nong!

We found the Shamrock Hotel in the main street of Northam, and after dropping the bags in our rooms, retired to the bar to enjoy a beer, off the tap. MQ and I so impressed with the rooms, big, comfy beds, lovely. The pub has got character, as do the staff. The meals amazing. I should have taken a photo of the Guinness Pie, topped with yummy mash, it looked like a dessert and very tasty. I did take a photo of the beer (tragic)!
The bar at The Shamrock Hotel, Northam. Note the little shamrock in the timber work.
The team at Windward Balloon Adventures is headed by Damien Hays and run like a military operation. Not for one minute are you worried about your safety. These guys instill in you that they take your safety very seriously and that there will be no room for error. I am impressed, very impressed. They so deserve the awards they have received.
Damien Hays our pilot, or as he joked Aero-Nut
It is an amazing experience. I highly recommend it. I could write 'reams' about it, but at the end of the day, it's something you just have to do. Damien was our pilot, his skills amazing. After taking off a little humour was let loose and Damien teased us by having a 'tree, leaf picking' opportunity!!! Oh thanks! He reverently manoeuvres us through the different levels of the Earths atmosphere and after an hour and 20 minutes landed us back at the aerodrome (no mean feat when we started off miles away in a farmers paddock and the balloon only has the wind to steer it). Then, and no one could believe it, whilst we were still in the basket (all 17 of us), after landing, he again manoeuvres us, back up a little and then, onto the back of the trailer!
The balloon, ready for take off.
I like the aspect that they then take us to huge and delicious breakfast afterward. A glass of champagne, a buffet and,, a hot cooked breakfast. It all gave us a chance to digest our experience, and get all the 'ooh and ahhhhs' out. Thanks Damien. A job well done. Thank you Mary Q & Son for gifting this experience to me. I really appreciate it. And it will be something I will never forget. I have posted a heap of photos below. Just have to share them.
Our carriage leaving the hangar on its way to the farmers paddock, we follow behind in  a bus.
Windward Balloon Adventures
How organised is this!
Other baskets of varying sizes.
Filling the balloon with air.
Filling the balloon with gas.
This shot taken from the balloon looking at our reflection floating over the Avon River
Patterns in the Earth
Love the way the smoke is drifting along the land, the contours flattened out by height
Note the light aircraft below!
Rainbow Drifter III being deflated, how gorgeous is that!
Many hands make light work.
Ballooning logistics, see how close we landed to the tarmac.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic blog Cath! Thanks for the plug! :)

    We didn't quite get that high though. We got to 4500 feet (above sea level). Need oxygen above 10,000 feet! ;)


    Damien Hays
    Windward Balloon Adventures



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