Saturday, 23 August 2008

Birthday fun: Part Two - at 12,000 feet

After the gig we drove back to Queenstown (Amy kindly abstained from drinking) and flopped into bed at around 2am. At 6.30am I was rudely awoken by Amy turning on the lights and jumping on me as she threw balloons all over the room. "Get up! Get dressed! We're going" she said.

"Wha...what!? It's still dark. What time is it? Where are we going?" I groggily replied.

"Just get dressed!" she said with an excited grin on her face. "And wear something warm". I panicked. She'd booked something but I didn't know what. With it's reputation for extreme activities, a surprise like this in Queenstown could mean one of two things: bungy jumping or sky diving, neither of which I fancied.

Wrapped in warm clothes, Amy bundled me into a minibus after telling the driver and all the other passengers that they were not allowed to talk about what we were about to do. We drove out of town towards the airport and my stomach felt like it had puking butterflies in it. "Oh no, not this" I thought. I was convinced that she was about to throw me out of an airplane.

Finally we arrived at a field where there seemed to be a big parachute lying on the floor. Confused about where the plane was, I discovered that to my relief, Amy hadn't planned to send me hurtling towards the ground, but rather, we were about to ride in a hot air balloon.

Hugh, our balloon pilot, welcomed us and we watched as he filled the massive balloon with air with the aid of some very noisy fans. He invited us to climb into the large wicker basket and before we could even wonder how it would fly, we had launched into the crisp morning air. We ascended above the mountains to over 12,000 ft (which Hugh admitted was probably the highest he'd ever been in a balloon) and in silence we all looked over the cloudless scene before us. Snow-capped mountains stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see, peppered with lakes.

We threw some paper airplanes from the balloon as Hugh pointed out the sights below us and in the distance. I'll let these pictures tell the rest of the story from up there.

We had a very gentle landing in a field with two curious horses (who tried to eat the balloon as it was packed away). After a champagne breakfast, Hugh lined us up and by blessing our foreheads with champagne announced that we were now 'balloonatics".

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