Up, up and away. Catriona Rowntree has become a ballooning addict and recommends everyone gives it a try. She reckons it won't end with just one flight.
She loves the floating feeling and the bird's eye view of what's happening below. The wonderful thing about ballooning in Australia is there are endless options over cities, vineyards, the outback. It gives a totally different perspective of favourite places.
On her latest flight, Catriona got to see the Atherton Tablelands from above. Just an hour from Cairns, the weather was kind as it is for more than 300 days a year and it was more than worth setting the alarm for an early rise. Clear skies and a slight breeze are perfect for a smooth ride and take-off was just after sunrise.
Cairns is the most popular place in Australia to balloon. Every morning is like a balloon festival with the sky full of colourful balls.
Before take-off, everyone pitches in and helps get their balloon ready for inflation. During that time you learn about safety equipment, heat deflectors, the custom-designed baskets and prepare for the fun experience.
The smooth flight glides over mango, lychee and coffee plantations, cane fields, past rainforest covered mountains and sleepy wallabies and kangaroos.
Hot Air Cairns has three sizes of balloons, including Australia's largest. Some take two passengers, some 12 and some 20. The largest inflates to the size of a 10-storey building. They are colourful and proposals of marriage and wedding ceremonies aren't unusual events.
Catriona's Hot Air Cairns' pilot, Jay Schesser, told her no two flights are the same. Time of year, weather, combination of passengers it's a different adventure every time.
There are usually five balloons up at the same time, and last year they had visitors from 27 countries.
As you glide back to earth and you're thinking about the promised breakfast and traditional bubbly, don't get too excited. There's work to be done. One of the fun parts of ballooning is participating in packing it away. The pilots make a game of it and then it's time to ride to a local farm for bacon and eggs, tropical fruit and juice or sparkling wine.
Catriona suggests wearing layers of clothing, sturdy shoes, hat and sunglasses.
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