Up, up and awayyyyy!

Trip Start Aug 22, 2009
Trip End Sep 06, 2009

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Sunday, August 30, 2009

Up at the most unholy hour of 3am (bleurgh) for our 3.55am pickup to go hot air ballooning. Incredibly thick fog on the Mareeba road.  Incredibly glad we didn't opt to drive ourselves in this pea soup!  Both had a nanna nap on the way to Mareeba.  Much better than watching cars and trucks suddenly appear out of the fog towards us and careen past.

Feeling very wise and smug at the first launch site in our jeans and jumpers as we watched those in shorts and tee-shirts freezing their buts off!  Yes, at 5am it is cold people, even in QLD!  After overhearing an exchange between two of the ground staff…   "Did you lock the trap door?"   “Oh shit”   … the first flights took off just as the sun was starting to peek through the clouds.  The balloons looked amazing floating off through the fog into the dawn sky. 

Although the balloons appear to be floating very slowly the actual pace is deceptively fast and soon we were bouncing along in the minivan down gravel roads and across paddocks chasing them down.  When boarding the basket it is a very delicate balance to keep the balloon on the ground, so one person climbs in first then one person climbs out and so it goes.

We rose quickly above the last wisps of mist and fields of orderly avocado and fruit trees.  Our pilot would test the wind direction and speed by spitting over the edge and watching the descent.  Very classy.  Jeff discovered that balding noggins and balloon gas burners don’t mix very well and was getting fried every time the pilot fired them up.  Having hair has many, many advantages!

Coming in to land (in a cow paddock) we all assumed the brace position ready for a bumpy touchdown.  Sure enough we whacked down, dragged slightly and then tipped over.  With some rather fat tourists above us we were fervently hoping that the woven cane divider in the basket would not pick this moment to fail!

After crawling out of the basket there were packing up “games” to play, all the time avoiding the “steaming divots”, cranky cows and mad swooping plovers.  You wouldn’t think packing up a balloon in a paddock full of cow poop would be fun but it was.  The guys running the operations were real jokers and everyone had a great time participating.

Next we were taken to “The Shed” for our eagerly anticipated champagne breakfast.   Bacon, eggs, sausages, toast, hash browns, fruit, yoghurt, champagne of course, tea, coffee and weird fishy rice dishes for the Japanese tourists.  Great spread.

Eventually dropped back at Thala around 11.15am after taking the scenic route via Palm Cove for other drop offs. 

After a little rest we headed back into Port Douglas to check out their Sunday markets at the beach.  These were a lot bigger and better than the Mossman markets with lots of unique hand made items and much less imported kak.  Tried cane juice with lime.  Sweet and tangy and very refreshing in the humidity.

There was an aboriginal man busking at the markets, standing out in the sun with four layers on and his worldly possession trussed together at this feet.  He was sing / talking his way through classic bush ballads, poems and stories that we would start to recognise and then he’d crack up in the middle of it.  Maybe the heat… maybe the booze!  Either way he was fun to watch and was making a killing!  He scared the crap out of one lady who wasn’t paying attention when he fell down right next to her as part of his act though!  Ha ha ha

Drove up to the scenic lookout with a view over 4 mile beach.  Lots, and lots and LOTS of people on the beach here.  It is a beautiful beach but swimming there would be like having a country house in Dunsborough.  Why bother if you are all on top of each other?  Great view though and we had fun taking pictures of the early moon through a flowering red tree.

Back to Thala and finally went to look at the private resort beach.  There were a few less people here than on 4 mile beach… as in me, Jeff, the bar tender and about 4 others.  Enjoyed some cocktails at Herbie’s Shack while chatting to the budgie smuggler wearing flotsam carver at the bar.  Jeff had fun scampering around the rocks taking evening photos of the waves while I sedately stayed on the beach sitting on the fine white sand.

Up for 17 hours at this point and feeling it.  Back to the room for an early night.
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