Stories from the Great Southern Road Trip: A Hot Air Balloon Ride

Soaring gracefully above the verdant countryside dangling under the colourful orb of a hot air balloon with a light breeze ruffling your hair. Perhaps looking forward to a champagne breakfast when you return to terra firma. Sounds magic!

Photo Credit: Hot Air Balloon Tasmania

I wonder how many people have that experience on their bucket list? It was on my 60 for 60 list and on my recent Great Southern Road Trip it was marked off with a big tick! DONE! DUSTED and I survived!

A balloon ride is one of those things that feels tantalizingly, but acceptably risky. Up there with bungy jumping and parachuting. Catastrophic consequences if the very unlikely mishap actually ever occurs. In Australia, these types of  industries are highly regulated and frequently audited. The risk is there, but it’s in the same order of magnitude as being taken by a shark at my home beach. Close to zero but not zero. Miniscule but not impossible. Compared to driving a car it is extremely safe! 

So those butterflies in my stomach are just nervous anticipation of the fun ahead. Right? Right! The image of the balloon plummeting to the ground in a ball of burning, melting nylon with 16 screaming passengers in the basket is an over dramatisation from an over active imagination! Right?  

Photo Credit: Ground Crew Hot Air Balloon Tasmania

The pilot (John) and his team are experienced and have an excellent track record. They give us a thorough safety briefing. John shows us the brace position in case we have to make a “fast” landing or the basket tips over. 

Hold the handles tight, back against the basket side and bend the knees a little bit. Just a little bit, like you’re skiing.

The wind is perfect, the weather is as good as it will get and the location is captivating. 

Standing here in a paddock by the side of the Bass Highway just outside of Launceston, I feel a teeny-tiny bit uneasy. Just a little bit.  Despite the fact that I understand the physics of flight and my own mental safety assessment rules out a crash, I am still feeling anxious. My self talk is in hyperdrive! It will be fine! And no you don’t need to go to the toilet again that’s just nerves!

Thankfully, as the balloon is unfurled and fills with hot air, the anxious feeling flips to excitement. This is going to be good!

The balloon glides silently through the whispering air at an altitude between 1000 and 2000 feet (300 – 600 m). The pilot has clearance up to 3000 ft but says there is no point because you’re too high up to see the view clearly.

The silence is punctuated frequently by the roaring gas burners used to keep the air hot and the balloon aloft. The skillful deployment of various vents allows the pilot to turn the balloon. 

The view is undoubtedly spectacular although in these days of drone cameras, it may not be as unique as it once was. It’s now common for us to see a bird’s eye view. Seeing it with your own eyes, and having a ‘live’ view has got to be a superior experience. 

As anticipated we are treated to the  patchwork of green and brown fields, lego size buildings and tiny little cars on the roads. The glorious skyscape is an added bonus. No pink, but a glittering patch of rays breaking through the patchy cloud. The reaction of the creatures below is a surprise. The horses skitter away, the sheep head for cover and the cows go on munching the grass. A large eagle gets out of the way and roosts in another tree. Dogs bark and people wave. Since this is the usual launch area for Hot Air Balloon Tasmania, folks around here must be used to the brightly coloured balloon floating overhead. 

The landing site is a minute by minute proposition and (obviously) determined largely by the wind. We drift over the site the pilot was hoping to land at and end up in a fallow field a few blocks over. The basket stays upright and we all climb out.

The farmer who owns the plot has come out in his tractor to watch and is quite excited we chose to land in his paddock! He said he’d seen the balloon lots of times, and was hoping one day, it would touch down on his patch. 

We spend the next half hour helping to deflate, then fold up the balloon before returning to the muster site at Entally Lodge for a hearty breakfast. No champagne but excellent coffee. I take out my phone open my list and tick the check box! I’ve completed a little more than half of the things on my 60 for 60 list. I might not meet the deadline but I’ll have a good time trying!

Beautiful table at Entally Lodge.

____________________

My balloon experience was with Hot Air Balloons Tasmania. It’s a family affair and runs out of Launceston in Tasmania’s north. The pilot and crew were very proficient and excellent hosts. We met at Entally Lodge which was about 20 minutes drive from Launceston but I understand you can arrange to be picked up from the city centre if you prefer. We then transferred to their transport to be taken to the launch site near Carrick another 10 km down the road. In the days leading up to my flight I was sent texts to confirm that the launch was able to go ahead, the muster location and time. There is a maximum group size of 16 people. While in the air, John will take a few photos using a camera suspended on a rig attached to the balloon.

For this flight we were asked to be on site at 6:30 AM but it can be earlier depending on the weather forecast. The flight itself was about 50 minutes. We returned to Entally House for breakfast and I was back on the road a little after 10 AM. The photos were in my email by 2 pm that same day. 

All in all a 5 star experience!

60 for 60

I like to have challenges and goals in my life. Not crazy big scary ones but challenges that contribute to my physical and mental wellbeing. Things like no (added) sugar for a month, no alcohol for 100 days.

Past challenges have included:

200 new experiences: In 2010, I worked out it was 200 days till my 50th birthday. I was in a bit of a slump and decided to set myself a 200-day challenge. My daily goal was to do something new every day. I wrote a (now private) blog about my progress. The “new” things didn’t need to be big and could be as simple as trying a new recipe. Regardless, some days it was still a struggle, but it took me from a low ebb to riding the crest of a happiness wave as I toured France. You can read a bit more about this challenge here.

I am standing on the top deck of the Eiffel Tower
Celebrating my 50th at the top of the Eiffel Tower

No new things: From June 2017 – July 2018 (the Australian financial year) I challenged myself to buy no new things. There were rules and provisos if essential items wore out or broke down. I wrote about that in this blog post.

Capsule Wardrobe: I am currently trying to do a version of Project 333 (you can read about Project 333 here). I put together a capsule of around 40 items to wear to work for a period of 10 weeks. I have managed better than I thought I would and to date have not worn every piece I selected. I intend to do it again for another ten weeks from October to December.

Run faster: Another current goal is to cut my time for a 10 km run to below 55 minutes. My best time so far is 57:05. I hope to fulfill that goal before then end of November.

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Ta -da 10 km in 57:05 August 2018

Not satisfied with one challenge I am toying with the idea of a 60 before 60 challenge[1]. I’ll be 60 in 2021 and that’s about 32 months away. I am working on a list of 60 things to do before I turn 60. Unfortunately,  I don’t have access to unlimited time or money, so not all the “things” can cost money or involve travel. Each “thing” cannot be an epic adventure! I did think about putting winning the lottery on the list but that’s not a SMART goal or a smart idea!

Here’s my list so far – in no particular order of priority. It’s not sequential and I don’t have to do a particular number of tasks per month. Some activities could be bundled. So for instance I have included sell some of my photos and have a photographic exhibition. This could very well happen at the same time.  I am giving myself till the end of November to tweak it. After that I will print the ideas out on nice cards and move them from a to-do pile to a done pile.

  1. Make a will
  2. Pay extra off my current mortgage
  3. Sell some of my writing
  4. Earn at least $5000 through Old Chook Enterprises
  5. Sell some of my photos
  6. Hit at least 1000 followers on WordPress (help me out here guys!!)
  7. Hit at least 500 followers on Instagram (help needed here too!!) @robynlang3
  8. At least one overseas trip (Choose from Iceland or Scotland)
  9. Go on a another cruise (6 – 10 days)
  10. Learn enough Italian to have a short conversation
  11. Make a 15-minute documentary that gets some success (define success!)
  12. Finish the Buttons story (a sci-fi themed novella I am writing 4 our of 9 chapters done)
  13. Write a screenplay
  14. Finish the Anca story (another short story/novel idea. I published chapter 1 here
  15. Finish the family history story about Sarah Anne Usher
  16. Publish a blog post every week
  17. See an active volcano (I could do this in Iceland)
  18. Go more than 6 months without alcohol
  19. Do a woodworking course
  20. Meet someone very famous.
  21. Go to Broome, Western Australia.
  22. Spend the weekend in Melbourne for my birthday again (I went in 2013)

    Photo 18-05-13 13 30 28
    Melbourne’s Skyline from Brighton.
  23. Use frequent flyer points to upgrade an entire international flight to business class.
  24. Photograph the Milky Way
  25. Buy A Dymo Labeller ( I have ALWAYS wanted one!)
  26. Visit two of the four extremities of Australia (i.e. the most northern, southern or western points of mainland Australia. I have already been to Byron Bay the most eastern point so one down one to go)
  27. Paint the interior of my home
  28. Get new carpet/floor covering
  29. Set up a saving fund for my grandson
  30. Re-read and do the steps in the Side Hustle Book.
  31. Have a photographic exhibition which people actually come to!
  32. Go six months without added sugar
  33. Tidy my garage
  34. Road trip to Broken Hill, NSW
  35. Get a new job
  36. Fly in a hot air balloon
  37. Write up the interview I did with Tracey and sue about the Bibbulmun Track
  38. Go on a really long walk like the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia 
  39. Visit at least 15 more light houses in Australia. (I like lighthouses and want to see as many Australian ones as I can – there are more than 2000 so it might be a stretch to see them all!)

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    The Little Lighthouse – Wollongong
  40. Day in the life photography series for at least 4 people – follow 4 people in different occupations and photograph their day
  41. Do an extraordinary man series. An environmental portrait project.
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    I’d like to do more photography like this – environmental portraits.
  42. Make a soufflé
  43. Set up a worm farm
  44. Donate blood
  45. Do a big >2500 piece jigsaw puzzle
  46. Sell all my 2019 calendars (help me out here too!!)
  47. Publish a 2020 calendar
  48. Do another year of no new things in 2020.
  49. Stop dying my hair and embrace the grey!
  50. Get my first paid article published.
  51. Try being an AirBnB host
  52. Finish a short course in food photography
  53. Publish a cookbook of family favourites with my own photography

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    Dabbling in food photography
  54. Do a short online graphics design course
  55. Do some more light painting (October 2018)
  56. Pitch an article to a real magazine/publication (see point 49)
  57. Do an interview on radio/TV about something to do with Old Chook Enterprises
  58. Create a passwords spreadsheet
  59. Get a new phone
  60. Modify the design and remake the running belt you made. A lycra belt to wear while running that holds my phone/keys and tissues etc. I have already made one but it needs some modifications.
  61. Write a children’s picture book
  62. Win a writing competition
  63. Win a photography competition
  64. Enter some photos in the Royal Easter Show (a big fair in Sydney, Australia)
  65. Go on a writing retreat.
  66. Do another cheese making course
  67. Design some fabric to make some cushions for my home
  68. Have a 60th birthday celebration

There are more than 60 I know. I’d really like a list of around 80 so I can pick and choose based on time and budgetary issues. I also need to decide if I can add and subtract things from the list. What happens if I come up with a really good idea? I think I may have to have a one in – one out rule.

You never know, perhaps I will win the lottery and then all the other bucket list travel destinations can be added for one massive around the world extravaganza!

[1] This is based on Gretchen Rubin’s 18 for 2018 idea. See Her Happiness podcast.cropped-p1430465-612.jpg

On further reflection, I  think I have  exceeded my actual disposable income by about 400% with this list, it’s good to be ambitious but….. 🙂

 

PS: I usually post on Fridays but I am experimenting with Tuesdays to see if it makes a difference to my stats.