Tuesday, 29 March 2011

March 10th - Hot Air Ballooning in Cairns

This is the second time I am writing this blog post. I somehow managed not to save the previous version. I hope I can remember what I wrote.flavour

Ok, so today we went hot air ballooning. It was a very early start. Very. This is what time we woke up this morning:
3:30 am!

The bus driver came to pick us up at 4:05. He was a very cheerful German fellow called Gunta who had an accent that reminded me of Herr Lipp from the league of gentleman (he looked nothing like him though, thank god!).

The road on the way was quite winding ad it went up through the mountains. It reminded me a lot of Iroha Zaka in Nikko. As we got closer, we stopped for a quick toilet break and then we went onto the balloon site, which we were told was going to fly today. There was a lot of rain yesterday and  flood warnings on the TV, so we were a bit concerned. But, like I said, the weather seemed clear enough to allow us to fly.

Gunta seemed to know where the site was (of the 60 or so spots available), and so the driver took us into a field down a long dirt track. It was pitch black in the field with only the car headlights showing us where the track was. As there had been a lot of rain in the night, sections of the track were flooded, and with no way to tell how deep the large puddles were, the diver questioned Gunta as to whether we really were on the right track. Gunta reassured the driver telling him this was definitely the site he was told, and so we continued cautiously along the precarious path. My camera decided to run out of batteries, so I couldn't get any photos, but let me tell you, every puddle we went through, I thought we were gonna get stuck.

After traveling down the path for a few minutes we soon saw a massive orange globe glowing in front of us. It was the balloon, and it was huge! As soon as we arrived, Gunta jumped out the car and grabbed a rope, trying to tame the massive beast as it was blown around by the wind. Absolutely manic, and in my opinion the whole 'getting to the balloon' experience was almost better than the flight itself.
We took it in turn to get on the balloon, and of the 20 or so people that actually got in the carriage, it dawned on me that I was the only white guy, and only person that understood English there (remember what I said about the large amount of japanese tourists earlier?). Very strange indeed.

After a lot of flame and extreme noise, the balloon was finally ready to go, and so the pilot (a south African named Johan) told us to hold on as the balloon lifted gracefully off the ground. I managed to get a few pictures out of my camera, but the majority of shots were taken from my iPhone. We were lucky to see a few wile kangaroo jumping around in the bushes and at one point, the pilot told us that there was a good photo opportunity coming up where the balloon was reflected in a marsh below:
We came down with only a few bounces off the ground, and finally stopped. At this point, the pilot looked over to the SUV with trailer that came to collect the balloon, but it had gotten bogged down in the field that we were in (a very wet cattle field), and so he asked if a few of us in the carriage would help him grab a few ropes and tame the deflating balloon. I of course volunteered, but none of the other people in the carriage knew what he was saying, so I let the others know what was going on, and if any of them would help. A young lad said he would, and so we jumped out of the balloon and started to make our way around to the back, when the SUV that was stuck suddenly got free and the help crew arrived. It appeared that we had just jumped into the wet field and messed our shoes up for nothing. I felt pretty bad for asking the young Japanese lad to jump into the field with me, but I was just following orders...

It didn't really matter that my feet had gotten wet though, because soon after the crew arrived, hey had us all helping out to load the balloon into a massive blue bag anyway. I got pretty muddy as I tried my best to help out. Then, I found a frog amongst the wet grass and, as you might expect, proceeded in introducing him to Chigu. Hehe. She wasn't keen on meeting the frog though, and I got a telling off. :(

Once we had packed up the balloon we were off for breakfast. It was pretty good. A buffet stye affair At a farmers ranch not too far from where we landed. I had two slices of beans on toast, some salad, rice, potato salad, and some bacon! It was delicious. We were also served champagne, which I had two glasses of. The breakfast counter was also catered to the Japanese tourists with Japanese rice and miso soup on the menu.
After we finished breakfast we headed back to Cairns, where me and Chigu proceeded to sleep until lunchtime. Upon awaking, we had our traditional cheese and crisps sandwich lunch set and then headed out to the local shopping centre to do some shopping of the window variety :(.

In the evening Chigu decided that she didn't want to eat sandwiches anymore, so we splashed out on some pasta salad (reduced of course), a luxury cob and a pear each! Woop Woop! At this rate  We'll be going to restaurants next!!
After bought them, we bummed into the teacher I used to work with again! We had a long chat and got a few photos too. When we get back to japan, I'm going to email her and set up a date for us all to meet up and have a meal.
We ate our gorgeous meal by the sea, and them went for a walk about, finally heading to Mövenpick for our only real treat of the day: a delicious ice cream! Today we had pistachio nut flavour, which was awesome! Upon finishing our ice cream, we asked the two shop staff to have their picture taken with Turkey Ranger, to which of course they obliged. He's becoming quite the popular fellow!






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