By Mario Ng
When heading over to Yarra Valley, one must simply do something different and exciting. What better way to do it than through a hot air balloon flight!
We did some research and decided upon Picture This Ballooning after reading many good reviews about them online. It was fuss-free and efficient, with everything from payment to important information done online and through email.
A few days before the flight, an email was sent to us, giving us all the important information to prepare, including the dress code and the equipment (selfie sticks, tripods, etc) that should not be brought to the flight. We were also informed that we needed to check their website the evening before the flight to see if it will go ahead. Because of the nature of this activity, where the weather determines if the flight will go ahead, everyone has to check, as unfavourable weather will force the pilot to cancel the flight. It is not uncommon for flights to be cancelled, such is the power of the weather. Having checked the previous evening, we saw that the day before our flight’s flight was cancelled due to bad weather. And so, we began to feel a little worried. Alas, there was nothing Picture This Ballooning could do anyway, since safety is the top priority.
Hot Air Ballooning with Picture This Ballooning
Evening came and we promptly checked the website. No bad news, but not necessarily good as well. It turned out the weather may yet change, and so the pilot wanted to confirm again the next morning, at 4.45am! Not too bad we suppose, since the meeting time would be at 5.45am. We retired for the night and prayed that the weather will turn out fine.
4.45am! We dutifully woke up and dialled the number given to us on the weather to see if the flight will go ahead. Yay! The flight is given the green light! Up we got and washed up, as we prepared for the adventure of a lifetime!
By the time we arrived at the meeting area at 5.45am, the crew, consisting of pilot Viktor and crewman Marco, were already there waiting for us. They meant it when they said to “arrive by 5.45am”! We were given a short briefing of that day’s activity, before we boarded their truck and headed towards the take-off point.
Along the way, we had to stop at a point first, as Viktor and Marco used a balloon to test the weather conditions for that area, to determine the best spot to take off from. After that was done and Viktor determined the exact take off place, we went back into the truck and headed towards our destination. By this time, first light has arrived, and it made our time easier as we got off the truck, with Viktor and Marco starting to set up the hot air balloon.
Helping to set up the hot air balloon before our flight
As Macro went about setting up the hot air balloon, we were given a short explanation on how the hot air balloon works, and what to do when it was ready for boarding. We were clear on what to do and we simply cannot wait! Better, we were then told that we will be able to volunteer setting up the hot air balloon together with them afterwards. What fun! We were also informed on the areas we cannot step into while they set up the hot air balloon, in case of any sudden movements from the balloon that would cause us to injure ourselves. While some of us were content snapping pictures at this point, a couple of the adventurous ones eagerly volunteered to help in readying the balloon. A huge fan was placed at the entrance of the balloon to blow air into the balloon, and we were tasked with holding the balloon up to assist the air entering the balloon more quickly. Very soon, the balloon got bigger and bigger. Before long, Viktor removed the fan, and started up the burner, proceeding to heat up the cold air in the balloon. Standing near to the burner, we could feel the heat from the intense flame. Yet, we continued standing there marvelling at the giant flame. The balloon began to float up rapidly, such is the ability of hot air.
We were now instructed to enter the basket, and off we went in efficiently. The flame is still going strong, and we were given the opportunity to snap some pictures, including of ourselves by the wonderful Marco.
Looking at the animals roam about as we started to float above them
Ever so gracefully and gently, we took off from the ground. It was wonderful and so smooth. We slowly rose up and began to see over Yarra Valley. Up came our cameras and the snapping continued for some time. I got reminded to stop snapping and start enjoying the moment instead. This is a timely reminder as one can get too engrossed taking pictures for memories’ sake but forget to enjoy the moment instead. I put down my camera, and simply admired the scenery of everything around us. It was picture perfect. By this time, the cows were starting to graze, while the kangaroos were hopping about over the greens.
It was quite a cloudy day, but we were really content with such a view. It was lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed the view. At the point, Viktor informed us that we were going to fly above the weather, to be among the clouds and above them. All right, we thought. Shortly, we were amongst clouds as we reached out to try to grab some clouds. At this point, we could not see anything, yet still felt safe and secure in the extremely stable hot air balloon. It was not like how one usually feels as a plane flies through clouds. This was peaceful and calm.
Looking at our reflection among the clouds
Floating above the clouds, we could see nothing but the hills in the horizon, as well as the river of clouds. We were speechless. It was such an amazing and beautiful view. At this point, Viktor expertly manoeuvred the hot air balloon towards the East, so we would all be looking at that direction.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the sunrise.”
The most amazing sun rise in Yarra Valley
It was the most breath-taking view we have ever seen in our life. Floating at some 3,000 feet above ground, in an hot air balloon, breathing in the freshest air one can think of, and looking at the glorious sun gently rise from behind the mountains. This has got to be on everyone’s bucket list, and we promptly ticked this off ours.
Up came our cameras and we started snapping away again. This time, I remembered to enjoy the moment, and we put them down after a short while, just to take in the amazing sight.
Viktor slowly brought us down again, and we began to float above the farms and greenery. The animals are up by now, and they are moving about and hopping away. In fact, we came down quite close to them, although not quite close enough to touch them! We could see farms for miles ahead, and also saw well-known spots in Yarra Valley, including the Yarra Glen Racecourse. We enjoyed the sights and tried to look out for other well-known spots around the region, and admired the cute cows and kangaroos from high up.
The sun trying to peek through the clouds above Yarra Valley
We were then brought up higher, and Viktor took us to the clouds again. The amazing feeling of floating amongst clouds returned. Because of the sun’s position, it created a shadow against the clouds below, with a halo of rainbow colours surrounding the tiny shadow. It simply looked incredible! We were given some time to snap more pictures and admire the view.
Throughout the journey, there was also a camera hanging just outside the balloon, and at periodic moments, Viktor would tell us to look at the camera and smile! We were able to capture the perfect sunrise picture from this camera. Wonderful! Time really flies and by this time, it was almost time to land. Viktor began looking for a suitable landing spot to land the hot air balloon. Depending on the wind direction, the hot air balloon may land at a different spot than previously planned. As such, Marco, who was on the ground, was constantly in communication with Viktor, who informed him where we were likely to land.
Yarra Valley from 1,000 feet above
After finding a good spot to land, Viktor reminded us on the safety precautions to take, including the fact that cameras should be tucked in, mobile phones kept, legs bent, and hands gripped tightly against the bars in the basket. Down we came on the field, and sliding across for a short distance, before Viktor stopped the hot air balloon altogether.
We waited until Marco came to our landing spot, before beginning the process to leave the basket. Once it was safe to do so, Viktor told us to get down from the hot air balloon. At this point, because the balloon was still largely inflated, the others still could not get off the balloon, or it might just float away again, such is the power of heated air in the balloon. We shifted the balloon to a safe position, Viktor gave the all-clear, and the rest alighted from the basket.
The fun time begins! We volunteered to pack up the balloon again, and Marco taught us the way to do it. Wrapping up the balloon, we packed up the balloon in a short time. All of us then helped to throw the balloon into a huge bag. While Viktor and Marco dismantled the rest of the equipment from the hot air balloon, we took the opportunity to view the sights from where we were. Farmland all around us, we were definitely in someone’s farm. Whose? We have no idea though. Shortly after, a hot air balloon landed just behind us, in another farm. While a few others continued in the air, floating away a couple of thousand feet above us.
Touched down safely and efficiently on a farm
Now, we were requested to grab the basket and shift it onto the truck. While it was quite heavy, Viktor and Marco did it with little fuss. It was up onto the truck in no time, and the entire process was completed!
We were then brought to another highlight of our morning: champagne breakfast! Heading back to Yarra Valley lodge, we would enjoy breakfast together with everyone! It was enjoyable, as we chatted together while having a buffet spread of breakfast, including the favourite scrambled eggs, bacon, baked beans, and sausages. Of course, different pastries are also available, and your type of coffee is ready to be served! Along with them, is the champagne. During breakfast, Viktor shared with us interesting anecdotes about hot air ballooning, including the story of how champagne came to be an important part of breakfast after an hot air balloon flight! We completely enjoyed the sharing by Viktor and was totally entertained by him!
Saying goodbye to Picture This Ballooning after such an enjoyable trip
With breakfast completed, it was time to say goodbye to the wonderful crew of Viktor and Marco. It was truly a delightful experience that morning, and the fact that it was piloted by the expert Viktor, made it better. For sure, if you ever have an opportunity to take an hot air balloon flight in Yarra Valley, do it with Viktor and Marco, with Picture This Ballooning!
Information on Picture This Ballooning: https://www.picturethisballooning.com.au/
The clouds above Yarra Valley clears up after our hot air balloon flight with Picture This Ballooning
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