It’s just after 6am when a mob of kangaroos bound away from the Floating Images Hot Air Balloon Flights take-off site as the first light of dawn touches the sky.
The balloon and basket are unloaded from the truck, large fans inflate the sturdy yellow and black balloon then the burners are turned on and we are ready to go.
Owner-pilot Graeme Day learned to fly in Annecy in France and has been soaring above Ipswich for 20 years.
After a safety briefing, we climb into the basket and the balloon rises gracefully into the sky.
In the distance, Brisbane’s high rise pierce the sky and rolling hills are crowned by the sun’s orange glow. It is so smooth that it seems impossible we are flying.
It doesn’t take long before the balloon leaves the colourful roofs of Ipswich behind and farmland forms a patchwork on the ground below.
Slowly the sun rises above the highest mountains and bathes the landscape in a warm glow. It is amazing how much you can see when you’re soaring above the landscape.
From the sky you get an entirely different perspective on the unique rural beauty of Australia.
Graeme makes piloting a hot air balloon seem easy but it is trickier than it looks. The only way to steer is to climb or descend into winds going in different directions.
Hot air makes the balloon go up and cooling air makes it slowly descend. A skilled pilot is able to light the burners at the right interval and duration to keep the balloon slowly drifting up and down at the altitude required to catch the most ideal winds.
Once the initial excitement from the take-off is over and we get used to the gentle movement of the balloon, it is as if everyone has agreed to be quiet for a few minutes.
Conversation stops and we enjoy the beauty of our surroundings in silence, taking in the sweeping scenery unfolding around us.
In the distance, we spot the support vehicle following along behind, ready to meet the balloon when we land.
After flying over farms, creeks, and bush for an hour it is almost time to come back to earth and the balloon begins to descend.
Graeme ensures we are all in the correct landing position, holding on to the handles inside the basket with our feet firmly on the floor, and gently brings the balloon down in a field.
Our arrival is heralded by a kookaburra chorus and a cheery farmer on a quad bike who has escorted the support vehicle to our landing spot.