Things to do
Day in the life of a hot air balloon pilot
While Ipswich sleeps and the sun has yet to show itself, Graeme Day is firing up in Ipswich’s Limestone Park. This is no ordinary way to start the day – filling a giant balloon with hot air so as to cast free from the land and sail into the skies.
But it’s how many a morning has unfolded for Graeme in the 16 years he and his wife, Ruth, have been operating Floating Images Hot Air Balloon Flights over the Ipswich region just to the west of Brisbane.
Graeme picks his travellers up well before sun-up from the Metro Hotel in the Ipswich CBD. Some might have stayed the night here, others will have driven out from Brisbane specifically for this adventure.
After driving to Limestone Park this day, a helper following in another vehicle, Graeme inflates the balloon as his passengers watch and chat in anticipation. They climb into the basket as the sun’s first rays creep over the horizon.
Between bursts from the gas burners, there is birdsong and silence. A car pulls over to the side of the park and a couple of people get out to watch and wave as the balloon silently surrenders skyward. It’s a magical ascent. The vast park reduces to a patch in the landscape and the whole city comes into view. Familiar landmarks such as St Mary’s Church and the reservoirs on Denmark Hill are dainty miniatures from up here.
And that sunrise – the whole reason for our early start – along with the absence of pesky thermals at this hour – is a sight to behold as distant mountains come into view.
We drift and marvel at the landscape, the trees, the brilliant smudges of bougainvillea or jacaranda, and the landmarks that Graeme points out. And all too soon – but in fact after around an hour of floating – we begin our descent, over a cow paddock marked by a serpentine waterway.
Graeme’s off-sider from the park earlier has miraculously arrived at the same destination and we all help to deflate this great balloon that has transported us into the countryside, before heading back to the Metro for breakfast.
And while the rest of Ipswich yawns and plans commutes and school runs, Graeme heads home to his family, another float down in the life of this unique Ipswich business which celebrates 16 years on December 1, 2017.
Graeme became enamoured with hot air ballooning while living in France and began his balloon-piloting career there. He and Ruth had their first Floating Images customers on December 1 just a few weeks before they welcomed twins Kaitlyn and Matthew, who’ll be 16 in January. They’re already learning their dad’s trade, both recently gaining their student pilot licenses.
Floating Images is the closest hot air ballooning experience to Brisbane and offers various packages using two different sized balloons.