The World Around Us

Hot Air Ballooning

Country: Australia by Lisette


My sister once got my mother angry when she started jumping up and down on a wooden bridge while we were walking on a lovely Sunday afternoon with the family. The wood started creaking and moving gently under my 10-year old feet. It took me a long time to cross that small bridge while my mother kept talking to me in a soft voice, urging me not to look over the railing and just to keep on walking.

When in Australia I once again realized that I don’t deal well with heights. Planes don’t freak me out; I simply transfer my confidence to the pilot and that’s it. Elevators zipping up are fine (though I prefer to stay away from glass lifts) and I can do bridges these days as long as they do not sway and are not too high. With sweaty palms I would take tiny steps forward with my eyes fixed on five metres in front of me.

My “neighbour” hot air balloon!

But here I am in Cairns, bravely deciding I should deal with this ridiculous fear and that I would ‘tackle’ the hot air balloon first in my attempts to do so. The travel agent was getting confused with my “yes, book me” to the “naah.. maybe another time” responses until I made up my mind that it was now or never. “Lucky me”, she tells me with a big smile and a relieved look in her eyes when I’m booked, “we’ll pick you up at 4am”.

Short of sleep I slip out of my dorm bed and head over to the pickup stop. Once I get there I realize this is big business, it seems half of Cairns is awake at 6am and ready to get into a wicker basket and be lifted up into the air. My palms are getting sweaty as I get closer to the front of the line up. “Do I really want to undertake this?” I wonder.

The basket is tied to the ground, people hop in and we’re told that we will be going as high as 600 metres. It’s warm in the basket, being so close to the hot air. Gently the balloonist gets us off the ground while I make sure to stare into the far distance. What a spectacular view from here!

On one side I could see the water and Cairns, surrounded by some farms; on the other side the wide Atherton Tablelands and a bit further the Great Dividing Range. I absolutely love the 360° degree view. The wind was not strong at all and when it was time to put us tourists to the ground, we are gently put to the ground.

While my crossing of the wooden bridge left me feeling I was a coward, I left the hot air balloon feeling high. I did it!! I had sweat stains all over my t-shirt, but who cares? I was up in the air, felt the wind in my face, saw more of the area than I normally would have and didn’t even tumble out of the basket. Of course there was never any real danger of falling out of the basket (which came to my chest), but fear does not reason.

But, I did it!