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100 things to do before you die: scenic flights and ballooning

Thursday, August 24, 2006

7. Yarra Valley, Victoria Victoria's oldest vineyard region, the Yarra Valley, is just 50 kilometres east of Melbourne. Colourful balloons float over corridors of vines in the early morning as the rising sun lights the mountains. Part of the fun is setting up and packing away the balloon. After the flight, everyone heads to Fergusson's Winery for a traditional celebratory breakfast.

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8. Loire Valley, France The birthplace of ballooning, the Loire Valley has always been the playground of royalty and nobility. Its scenery is picture-perfect and its food and wine beyond comparison. A typical flight is around 3½ hours and you could land in the grounds of a chateau, a pretty field or even someone's garden. Then you enjoy wine, coffee and croissants.

9. Cappadocia, Turkey In central Turkey you fly over ancient caves where Christians hid from Roman persecution. People still live here and there is even a hotel built into the caves. The unusual geographical formations, thought to be more than 10 million years old, came about when several volcanoes erupted. Thousands of years of wind, rain, snow and sand erosion have worn the stone into conical shapes which look like fairy chimneys. Floating in a balloon is the best way to appreciate this very different part of the world. They fly so low you can actually pick apricots from the trees!

10. Queenstown, New Zealand Something a little faster — and noisier — is a helicopter flight over some of New Zealand's most spectacular scenery. Take in Mount Spectacular, Arthurs Point and land on snow-covered Mount Larkins. See the Rees and Dart Rivers winding through the countryside and Harry Potter's Middle Earth. The return flight goes over the old goldmining region of Skippers Canyon and, time permitting, includes a stop at the Pipeline Bungy.

11. Niagara Falls, Canada Straddling Canada and the US, the powerful Niagara Falls attracts 14 million visitors a year. Around a trillion litres of water crash over the falls every hour and if you don't mind wearing a little of it, a Maid of the Mist tour is fun. There is also a White Water Walk and at night the falls are illuminated.

Helicopter flights follow the Niagara River, over the Whirlpool Rapids and Rainbow Bridge. You fly amongst rainbows, following the curve of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and Skylon Tower. There are headsets with commentary to tell you exactly what you are seeing.

12. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland Possibly Australia's most loved and visited natural wonder, the Reef can be explored below, on and above. Marvel at the beauty in a Bell 47 Kawasaki KH-4 on a 10-minute buzz or a half-day picnic tour. Doors can be removed to give you the best views and unobstructed photographs.

13. The Kimberley, Western Australia Another of Australia's rare beauties, the Kimberley is vast and rugged, so a flight makes it easy to take it all in. See the most spectacular and deserted coastline in the world, secluded beaches, patches of rainforest, mangrove estuaries, steep cliffs, hidden reefs and over a thousand islands.

For further information:

7. Global Ballooning Ph: (03) 9428 57(03) Fax: (03) 9428 8473

8. France Montgolfières Balloon Company Ph: 0011 33 1 4700 6644 Fax: 0011 33 1 4700 6555

9. Exotic Destinations Ph: (03) 9886 4955 Fax: (03) 9886 3644

10. Heliworks Ph: 0011 64 3 441 4011 Fax: 0011 64 3 441 4012

11. Niagara Helicopters Ph: 0011 1 905 357 5672 Fax: 0011 1 905 374 2856

12. Aviation Tourism Australia Ph: (07) 4946 8249 Fax: (07) 4946 8280

13. Broome Aviation Pty Ltd Ph: (08) 9192 1369 Fax: (08) 9192 2476

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