- A personal balloon story by Precious Carmela Casao
"Last January, just a little over a month after our wedding, we embarked on yet another trip to Melbourne for our first honeymoon as husband and wife.
We have grown fondly of this lovely city, its picturesque architecture, lively atmosphere and of course, its warm and hospitable people. This is our third time to visit Melbourne over the past few years and each trip, we were able to partake in an activity that is unique to the city. For 2020, we decided we would go hot air ballooning.
Months before, we already contacted Global Ballooning Australia to book a slot in one of its tourist flights during our scheduled visit to Australia. I told my husband that GBA was highly recommended and the good reviews online reassured us of an experience we would remember. True enough, the kind and accommodating staff guided us over email from start to finish and made sure we were ready for the activity.
We chose the city tour over Melbourne as we thought seeing a different perspective of the bustling business district would let us appreciate it more. Frankly, it did not disappoint.
To say we were excited was an understatement. We so looked forward to this event that we were up as early as 3am the day of the flight. Despite the chilly pre-dawn wait, we were giddy to hop on board the van that would bring us with the other tourists joining the flight.
It was refreshing to see other couples from other countries, and even some locals, who were as excited as we were that early in the morning. We knew beforehand that we would be helping our pilot set-up the balloon we would be hopping into. And after a few more minutes on the road, we finally arrived at an open field where we would start our journey over the Victorian skies.
Despite the darkness, everyone was hands-on in the preparation of the balloons. Pushing the gondolas off the trailers and unravelling the fabric that would soon be filled with warm air, we all had a part to do to make this activity an unforgettable one.
Braving the early morning chill, we soon felt the welcoming warmth of the burnt propane as it expanded the air inside the envelope.
The spectacular light show between two burners lit the pre-sunrise dawn as the balloons slowly took shape and began to lift the baskets up from the ground.
As we gleefully hopped in, the cold morning breeze steadily turned warm and cozy as bursts of flames heated the air on top of our heads. With everyone on board, it was time to let go of the tethers that held us to the ground.
Freedom! This was the joyous feeling my husband and I felt as our balloon slowly lifted off. Higher and higher we glided up, lighter than the air around us. The once dark scenery now revealed shades of violet and blue as the sun slowly rose over the horizon.
The awe and magnificence of seeing the roofs of houses becoming smaller each second overcame us. We were really flying! And then suddenly, everything became quiet. The peace of being hundreds of feet above ground made us appreciate each other more. There was no fear, no worry, no regrets.
Being in the air, seeing the breathtaking views of the Melbourne skyline in the distance, made us realize our small but significant part in this world. In those few minutes that our balloon rose and dipped, my husband and I became more thankful that we have been privileged to experience such a feat of human ingenuity. The people below, oblivious to our momentary ecstasy, were missing a lot. If only, everyone could fly.
While our pilot made sure our experience would be digitally immortalized, we too made sure we would capture as much of the view with us in it.
Selfies during the sunrise, selfies with the city in the background, selfies with the flames lighting up our warm faces. These were all moments too hard to pass.
Slowly we drifted further south and soon, as the sun already lit the morning sky, we knew we had to head back down. With quick and clear instructions on how to brace ourselves inside the basket, our captain slowly brought down the balloon to an open field. A quick jolt later, and touchdown! A tree helped stop the basket from dragging on the ground and soon enough we climbed out of the gondola smiling, happy, fulfilled. “That’s one more experience to check off the bucket list,” I told my husband as we hugged and savored the moment of our triumph.
As we helped the balloon crew roll up the long fabric that lifted us up into the sky, and push the basket back onto its trailer, my husband and I got one more quick snap of the memory that was our ride.
Again, Melbourne did not fail us in delivering another epic experience. And while we only opted for the balloon ride and skipped the packaged breakfast, the morning stroll in the park that we took after receiving our ballooning certificate was more than enough to cap a truly amazing and unforgettable experience.
You can never have enough memories with the one you love. And as our first memorable experience together as husband and wife, the beauty of Melbourne will forever be etched in our minds and hearts. Thank you, Melbourne. Until we see each other again.
by Precious Carmela Casao