There is nothing more majestic than experiencing a kaleidoscope of colour on the horizon watching the sunrise from a hot air balloon. Personally, I can’t think of a more invigorating way to begin my day.
If you have ever been in a hot air balloon you will appreciate the peaceful floating experience that is associated with ballooning. So, you will understand my personal intrigue when I heard of a Hot Air Balloon Competition. Unlike many sports a hot air balloon competition is not about speed but more about the methodological skill of the pilot and in some instances just sheer luck. This intrigue together with my passion of hot air balloons lead me to join a group of young pilots and crew from Global Ballooning Australia known as The Flying Lemmings, to venture to a small country town of NSW for the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge.
With 17 pilots from around the world our 5 pilots from Global represented nearly a third of all the competitors. And what made this even more significant is that 4 of the 5 are all junior pilots whom have qualified for the junior world championships in Poland in August this year. So, while we may be a group of second generation upcoming youngsters we are certainly stamping our mark on the world circuit. Additionally, I was lucky enough to work with a fabulous group of young ladies’ lead by our 19-year-old female pilot Mia. We were the only and to our knowledge the first ever all female team, now known as the “The Lady Lemmings”. For a small family owned and operated business here in Melbourne Global Ballooning is certainly becoming an internationally recognised brand.
If competing in a competition isn’t nerve racking enough competing amongst some of the world’s best balloonists alongside the current world champion is terrifying especially when its your first competition. However, the Flying Lemmings did a marvellous job in ranking 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th & 14th.
While the pilots navigate the sky, us crew are strategically navigating access roads, farm houses, gates and cattle just to name a few. Nicknamed the chases, we set off from the launch site and chase the balloons as they drift into the sunrise. Along the way we release pi balls, (small balloons) and track their direction relaying important information on wind speeds and steering to our pilots in the sky. Once the pilot has chosen a landing site race to greet them as they land. The local landowners of Canowindra were exceptionally welcoming of us to their properties. Over the week we made many new friends and fostered lasting relationships not only with other balloonists but with the locals of this small community.
For many of our team members ballooning is in their family, blood or like me a passionate hobby, what made this adventure extra special was the sheer volume of spectators from young and old whom braved the early mornings to come and join us. Seeing the excitement and joy in the children’s faces as we inflated the balloons was priceless. Just being around the balloons was exciting for these families, and we took much delight in ensuring they were involved as much as possible. While there is a large safety element, especially around the inflation of the balloons, we were not shy from inviting the kids to join us in the deflation. A massive balloon full of air is like a giant pillow, and to have the children assist us in getting the air out was just one small way of giving them a first-hand experience, which they loved!
If you have ever considered ballooning or are looking for a unique and memorable gift, then I personally invite you to come fly with us here at Global Ballooning Australia. Each balloon flight is as unique as the day and the balloon you fly in, and you will have a memorable adventure that is incomparable to any other experience.
For more information on The Canowindra International Balloon Challenge please visit http://www.canowindrachallenge.org.au/
by Julia West