With the recent Commonwealth games being held in the Gold Coast City, Australia, a lot of you might have got glimpses of their beautiful beaches & coastline. They are no doubt, absolutely enthralling and I will be sharing a few of my adventures along the same. However, what completely took me by surprise, was the Gold Coast Hinterland – a little away from the coast, tucked amidst green mountains. I can’t say that I was able to see it all, but I got a good Bird’s eye view as I floated over it, in a Hot Air Balloon. And that, my friends, is what I will start this Gold Coast series with.
I always wanted to float in a Hot Air Balloon. Not the small journeys that you get in almost every country – but over a span of land. Most of us have this as a childhood fantasy, especially after seeing those cartoons of flying along with the birds and possibly, one of them pecking in. 😉 Well minus the last part, every bit of the other fantasy came true. (not that I wanted the bird to peck it 😉). What made the adventure even more enthralling were the sights of the Hinterland – unbelievable, magical and totally out of the world! Stay with me as I shall share it all and I bet at the end of it, you will agree that Hot Air Balloon Ride is the thing to do in Gold Coast.
About the Gold Coast Hinterland
The Dictionary meaning of Hinterland will pretty much tell you that this is the land beyond the coast of a place. The Gold Coast Hinterland was a surprise for me. Contrasting the lovely beaches of the city, were the green mountains and plateaus – filled with rainforests, vineyards and tons of rivers and waterfalls. The area also comprises of various national parks like the Springbrook national park and the Lamington National park – some of which are a part of the UNESCO Sites. From a traveler’s perspective, this place is amazing for various activities – starting with photography to wine tasting to hiking and more.
Time was short and I could visit only a few of the places that the Hinterland offered. However, I did get a good glimpse of the gems of this Hinterland – thanks to the Hot Air Balloon Ride.
Wake up call for the Hot Air Balloon
“See you in the lobby at 4 am. Remember to bundle up” Parting words of the gang the night before. With that as the target, I set my alarm for 3:15 am and quickly retired for the day. Excited as I was, it just took the first sound of the alarm to have me up and eager to go. Bundled up in 3 layers at 4 am sharp, all of us boarded our Hot Air Transfer at QT Hotel in Gold Coast. The skipper in charge picked up several others along the way and soon, introduced us to the concept of Hot Air Ballooning. Here are some things that though obvious, were explained by him –
- Hot Air Ballooning was all about drifting with the winds. Hence, depending on the wind direction, our launch site for the day was to be fixed. The skipper was awaiting the call from his launch team on the place for the day.
- A safe sport, he assured us, it just required us to follow some procedures – all explained in the video that he played along the way.
- At the time of landing, all we had to do is hold the handles and kneel against the basket.
- The launch sites and landing would be on private properties and specific permissions were taken for the same. Hence, it was imperative that we, during our experience, respected that and avoided any further inconvenience to the kind owners.
With that and a smile, he turned on the video and begun driving towards the Gold Coast Hinterland. Somewhere along the way, he got a call from his team on the launch site for the day and soon, we were there.
At the Launch Site of the Hot Air Balloon
I don’t know if it was the bright glow of the fire inflating the Hot Air Balloon or the actual crack of dawn – but the launch site looked eerie with its midnight blue backdrop and just that tinge of light. Every bleary eye on the bus cleared at the sight of the two baskets – each one as tall as a 10 storied building. Our skipper separated us into two groups and one by one, we hopped onto the basket as instructed.
Our Pilot introduced himself with a few jokes on how this was his first time – albeit for that day and made us practice our landing positions a few times. He said that at the most there would be a few bumps and maybe the basket would overturn to one side, but there was nothing to worry as that was all normal. 😉
Up, Up and Away in the Hot Air Balloon
It was nice and pleasant in the basket for the fire kept warming us up. Our pilot kept controlling the fire and the flow of hot air to get the Hot Air Balloon up and slowly and steadily we rose. It honestly, did not even feel as if we were up there for the rise was just so smooth. The only thing that made us realize that we were rising was how tiny everything suddenly looked from up there. Dawn was at its edge and in that partial light, though dark, the green pastures, and the rivers just looked mystifying.
However, as we rose further on and the light broke through, there was a splash of colors around us. The Queensland Hinterland shone to welcome us to a different side of Gold Coast City.
Gold Coast Hinterland on a Hot Air Balloon
What we witnessed from up there was just unbelievable. The Golden glow of sun reflected on the Misty Morning of the Hinterland, turning all that it touched to Gold. The dark shadows of the trees added the highlights to this landscape. The entire low cloudy mist cover felt as it were an ornate curtain drawn over the beauty below it.
Over the parts where this curtain was drawn partially, you could well spot the blue lakes and rivers that had the cloud cover rising from it as if it were smoke. The scenes were just so surreal.
Somewhere along those green and golden pastures, we saw kangaroos hopping. Horses and Cattle seemed to have started their day by meandering down their homes. All this might seem normal but when you watch from up there in the sky, it is just ethereal. I suppose this is how God looks down on us mortal beings.
Touch Down or Tumble Down
It was almost an hour since we were high up over those Hinterlands – at almost 4000 feet. Our launch site was no longer visible and the landscapes had changed several times over. Our Pilot finally announced that we had to take our positions for landing. The Hot Air Balloon had slowly descended and it was time for that tumble down. Except that there was none.
Our Pilot made that landing so soft and precise that one bump and we were safely back on the ground – upright! The balloon slowly deflated and fell over to a side and one by one, we climbed out of the basket.
It was time for the balloon folding game where all of us helped deflate and squeeze the balloon onto a straight line so that the Pilot and the rest of the staff could fold it away. Once done, we all got onto the Balloon trailer and made our way back to our bus that had followed us all the way on the ground.
Breakfast at Canungra Vineyards
Now that the adrenaline high had subsided, the rumble of the tummy became even more pronounced. Luckily, we reached the O’Reilly vineyards at Canungra in half an hour for some Bubbly breakfast. What – is that a spelling error? Bubbly Breakfast?
Well, as the story goes, the first Hot Air Balloon flight by the Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier landed them in Vineyards and they celebrated their flight with a bottle of Champagne. Since then, it is a tradition that every successful Hot Air Balloon Flight is celebrated with a glass of Champagne. And yes, that is what we were greeted with when we entered the Vineyards. That my friends is what is called the Bubbly Breakfast!
Never in my life I had started the day with Champagne but then, never had I ever started the day with such amazing sights. Given that, I gave in to the Bubbly and celebrated the start of this day. Of course, I did have the other yummy part of the huge breakfast spread as well.
With food tucked in, I explored the rest of the vineyard to find a cute dog who insisted on belly rubs by rolling on my feet, some cute but strange sounding Alpacas (the first that I had ever seen) and tons of colorful birds. The stream side had a Platypus living in it but well, I could not spot it. Another hour slid by and we regretfully had to bundle back in to return to Gold Coast City.
It has been at least two weeks since I did this but I just cannot get over the beauty of what I saw. The Gold Coast Hinterland was just perfect and yes, the Hot Air Balloon was the perfect vehicle to discover it in a short time. Be it the landscapes that you are treated to or the ride itself – an experience on the Hot Air Balloon is definitely one of the key things to do when in Gold Coast, Australia.
- Gold Coast city is well connected to the rest of the World by Air. There are plenty of flights like Flyscoot that get you directly to Gold Coast from key cities like Singapore and Bangalore.
- Gold Coast city is an hour’s drive from Brisbane in Australia.
- I highly recommend Hot Air for this Hot Air Ballooning experience in Gold Coast. The company is well reputed and has done numerous flights over Queensland.
- Hot Air charges are as indicated on their website. This includes a breakfast at the O’Reilly vineyards. It also, takes care of your transfer from the hotel in Gold Coast City to the launch site and back.
- Dress in layers when heading for the Hot Air Balloon experience as it is pretty cold in the morning. Once you are in the Hot Air Balloon, you might feel warmer owing to the fire.
- As long as you listen to the instructions of your skipper and pilot, this is a fairly safe sport. It is great for kids and adults of all ages
- You are likely to be in the air for at least 30 minutes. Hence, you need to be prepared for the same.
- Cameras and phones are allowed on the Hot Air Balloon. However, keep them strapped to yourself as an extra precaution.
- Hot Air takes a photo or two of you when you are on it. You can get those at a minimal cost through their website. A small certificate is given to you at the end of the flight along with a passcode to help you access those pictures.
- The breakfast spread at O’Reilly has plenty of Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian options. If you have any other special dietary requirements, you need to let Hot Air know in advance.