A few weeks ago V. and I went on a hot air balloon ride over Brisbane for her birthday. Will spent the night before at our friends' house (where he enjoyed himself!) so that we could get to the balloon meeting point at 5:45 a.m. It was the first time Will had slept away from both of us, so that was a bit of an event itself.
Anyway, we met up with the staff of Balloons over Brisbane in a park in West End. We then piled into one of two vans, each pulling a trailer with a balloon basket and the balloon itself. There are several places in the metro area where balloons can launch, with the particular location determined by the weather conditions that day. We ended up driving to a vacant lot in one of the western suburbs. Interestingly, a competing balloon company was there as well. It took about 20 minutes for the crews to unpack the trailers and inflate the balloons with large fans. Once the balloons were nearly full (and still lying on their sides), the crew then heated the air with large gas burners. In a matter of minutes we were climbing into the basket and we had lift off.
We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful morning to go up in a balloon. Except during those moments when we had to climb higher by turning on the burners, it was extremely quiet. We could hear all the sounds of each neighborhood as we flew overhead at less than 1000 feet (and usually around 500 feet). Every dog who happened to see us would start barking, which would set off a cacophony of barking throughout the neighborhood. Our captain told us that all that barking was the biggest complaint they received at his business. We continued to peacefully drift westward, and slightly south, for the next hour, watching the city slowly wake up on a Saturday morning.
The landing was especially exciting. It took about 20 minutes of low flying before our captain finally found a small park where we could land that was also in our flightpath. In the meantime we flew so low that we brushed the tops of trees. People on the ground could hear us coming because of the gas burners, so they would be waiting out on their verandas as flew over their rooftops and found them in their pajamas eating breakfast. Everyone waved, and children chased after us on their bikes. The ground crew that had been chasing us all along managed to run out of the van to grab us just as we came down. When we finally landed with a big thump, several people in the surrounding neighborhood came out to meet us. It took another 20 minutes to deflate the balloon and pack it back into the trailer. We then headed back to the West End for a champagne breakfast. What a great way to start the day! More pictures of this trip can be found here.