A former employer of mine had a company branded balloon which flew over cities in Australia. As a ‘thank you’ from our boss, she once arranged for a colleague and I to go on a balloon flight over Melbourne.
Up at the crack of dawn and racing around the deserted streets in the 4WD at 4.30am (balloon in the trailer), the pilot and support crew were busily reading weather and wind information and finally decided on a park near the city as our take off point. The balloon was swiftly inflated and before you could say “I have a morbid fear of heights” we were being hoisted into a basket not much bigger than my washing basket.
As it was a specialty shaped balloon the basket was really, really small – just enough room for the pilot and 2 passengers. We took off so quickly trying to take advantage of the very light breeze. We ascended rapidly and flew right over the MCG a few minutes later, and it was then that my knees started to go weak thinking about how high the light towers were and that I was probably twice the height of those.
We drifted towards the city centre and ascended further to avoid flying into the sky scrapers. Up and over the 80+ floor buildings we went and it was such an amazing/terrifying view to look down on the early morning city coming to life. The pilot, sensing my sheer terror at casually drifting above the city skyline in a washing basket, reassured me by telling me to just look at the horizon and I’ll be fine….! It was great to look out and see all the early morning flights in landing patterns coming into Tullamarine.
A little while later we landed in a park somewhere north of the city, near the zoo I think, and I exhaled for what seemed like the first time in an hour. Thinking back I have no idea what I was thinking going in a balloon with such a terrible fear of heights – but I am so glad I did, it’s such an incredible experience. If you ever get the chance to, go. For the thrillseekers definitely go in a smaller basket!