Billowing balls of silk & flying picnic baskets!
It’s 3am and my alarm is going off. I hit snooze, as I know there’s a back up set for 3.05am - just in case! Within minutes I’m up and making my first espresso and checking that I’ve got my camera, sunnies & a light jumper in case it’s breezy up there. Two more shots of coffee and I’m excitedly racing out the door.
Who would have known, that just a short drive from the Gold Coast beaches, there were lush green pastures and grazing cows! It’s that magical blue hour, just before dawn, when the sky is a deep indigo blue with a hint of rose pink along the horizon, right where the sun is threatening to rise and break this twilight glow..
Not far away is the biggest ball of billowing silk I’ve ever seen, lying on it’s side, semi-inflated. It’s the brightest of pinks and I discover this is due to the partnership with the McGrath Foundation with a donation being made from every balloon ride sold. There’s also a giant picnic basket strapped to it’s bottom and it’s into this that Murray and the team from Go Ballooning escort us. Can’t say I’m feeling much like a ham sandwich at the moment - more like a bottle of soda water ready to explode after the three espressos I had earlier this morning.
Image Credit: Brigid Avery, Where's Brigid
Soon the engines fire on and flames are shooting up, filling the inside the balloon with hot air as this giant strawberry inflates above us. We get chatting. There’s quite a mixed bag in the basket with me...a loved up honeymoon couple, quite unaware of the rest of us...a sales team from a local brewing company, being rewarded for exceeding their targets last year...three international students, quite grateful for ‘coviding’ on the Gold Coast rather than back in their home country...and a lovely woman from Brisbane, who’s head of human resources for an event company, it’s nice to see one of the unsung heroes of the corporate world being recognised as well.
The wind isn’t noticeable, in fact it’s serenely calm up at 1500ft. The balloon flaps occasionally in the breeze and the engines fire up intermittently as we need to rise up every now and again. It’s not long before the pastel colored sky is changing and the bright orange orb of the sun is climbing up over the horizon. So many shades of orange and red now fill the skyline and the skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise are perfectly silhouetted in front.
Image Credit: Brigid Avery, Where's Brigid
What’s so amazing to see, and what I’m sure many visitors to the Gold Coast don’t realise, is that this strip of highrises, along the Southport to Broadbeach coastline, are literally just that - a narrow strip. In behind you have over 500kms of navigable waterways, canals and rivers. This is actually nine times more than in the city of Venice. Then looking out to the west, you have the beautiful hinterland and Hinze Dam...quite literally the beach to the bush in under an hour.
The descent isn’t noticeable and soon we’re skimming over tree tops and heading for our landing spot in the middle of a field of cows. They are completely oblivious to our imminent arrival, which isn’t exactly graceful, but a lot smoother than I’d expected. We all clamber out and I’m glad I wore closed in shoes as the thick green grass is still wet from the damp night air. Ash and the big comfy minivan are there waiting for us, but we’re not heading off just yet. The balloon has reclined over onto it’s side and is still mostly inflated, so there’s one last photo opportunity up inside - it’s like being inside a rose quartz cave!
Tummies are rumbling, so off to the Sheraton we head for a gourmet breakfast. The whole morning has been quite surreal, but it wasn’t just the fact of hot air ballooning over the Gold Coast that was amazing, it was the total experience with Go Ballooning. Murray and his team were so friendly and enthusiastic. It wasn’t just about the activity, but about ensuring everyone had an unforgettable experience and headed home with a lasting memory.
Image Credit: Go Ballooning
If a trip to the Gold Coast is in your future, whether for a personal holiday or part of a corporate team incentive, then this is one experience that is an absolute must do. My only advice though, is to set that back up alarm - just in case!
Guest Writer | Brigid Avery - founder & lead advisor, Wild World Travel
@wheresbrigid @goballooning @destinationgoldcoast @visitqueensland https://linktr.ee/mcgrathfoundation
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