The Travelling Trooper Rides A Balloon

Last full day in Tambourine Mountain started out awfully early. 4:15 am to be exact. Trevor and I had to be out the door by 4:30 to arrive at the meeting point on time for our hot air balloon ride.

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Folks, leave your high heeled shoes and your fireworks at home.

It was interesting to watch the hot air balloon get blown up. It somehow takes away from the romanticism of the whole experience when there’s a dude standing there like that to let all of the air blow inside. It’s like seeing how the magician does his magic tricks.

Once the balloon is big enough, they kick the basket upright and start the pyro show. The balloon continues to inflate, though.

Propelled by the movement of the basket getting turned upright, the balloon sways back and forth a few times, and it actually looks like it’s going to come down on you before it rights itself.

When the balloon is fully blown up, our group was signalled one by one to walk up to the balloon and hop into the basket.

The huge basket is divided into five sections. There are two sections on each side, and then one section down the middle. The pilot stands in the middle section with all of the tanks for the fire. He also has an iPad that tells him how and where the wind is blowing. Each section on the side holds a row of up to 5 people. There were 16 people in our group, so each section was pretty full.

Once the pilot, an experienced English chap from London, had done all of his checks, we were instructed on how to brace for the landing. You’re basically a chair. Your knees are bent and are pressed against the basket, while your back is straight against the other side of the basket. You must hold on to the rope handles that are above your knees. This is to prevent any serious injuries upon landing.

The ride was gorgeous, but I must say that, while the ride itself is very peaceful, a small part of my brain kept thinking, “We’re riding in a balloon. With fire,” and waiting for the damn thing to fall. My brain kept going back and forth between a calm and relaxed, “Aaaaahhhh…” and a terrified, “AAAAAAAAAAH! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

Obviously, we didn’t die. We landed in a farm field.

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While we were up there, though, I found it really odd that the co-pilot, who was on the side opposite from me with his son, kept spitting loogies like a bombardier and watching them as they plummeted to the ground. His son was training to become a co-pilot. (Is pilot the right word for hot air balloons?)

It wasn’t over when we landed. We actually had to help pack up the balloon. They did it in a fairly ingenious way. Once it was completely deflated and lying on the floor, they had us scoop up the balloon’s remains and carry them into the middle so that it was just one long straight line.

Then they had the men line up beside the balloon with our arms on the shoulders of the person in front of us to ensure that we were an arm’s length from each other. The women were holding the bag that holds the balloon. We had to lift and carry the balloon over and into the bag, one section at a time. As soon as we got to the front and dropped off one section, we had to run to the back and pick up the next section behind the last person in line.

Once the bag was full, they used a small crane to get it on the truck.

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Our reward for our hard work was a full breakfast buffet and a glass of champagne.

When Trevor and I got back to the Hearps residence, it was straight to bed for the both of us. We were in dire need of a nap.

We woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go on a hike with Frazer. We were hiking to Witches Waterfall.

Frazer had mentioned that this waterfall was off the beaten path. He promised that no tourists visit this beautiful site. What he failed to mention, though, was just how off the path this place was. For one thing, we had to walk through a person’s private property. And unlike in the past, when Frazer had walked through without anyone noticing, the owner happened to be out and about doing yard work when we showed up. At least, we think he was the owner. He was nice enough to let us through, but he told Frazer that next time he would have to find an alternate route to the waterfall.

Thing is, I don’t know if there is another route to get there–unless maybe it’s through somebody else’s property. Frazer only found out about this place from some friends of his brother’s, so I don’t know if he knows any other way to get there.

It didn’t matter now, though, because we got let through.

As we were getting ready to leave the house and head towards the waterfall, Frazer recommended that I put pants on for our hike through the bushes. I did as I was told, as I was quite aware of the number of deadly things that reside in Australia.

Frazer started talking a whole lot about snakes while we made our way across the field. He knew a lot about snakes. Apparently the bushes we were going to walk through could potentially be hiding snakes. I’m going to keep saying the word snakes to emphasize just how terrified I was at the prospect of crossing these potentially-snake-filled bushes. Snakes. Australian snakes. Mother****ing snakes in a mother****ing bush.

Frazer explained that in order to walk through the bushes, we had to stomp every step. This would alarm any snakes that might be nearby and scare them away, since they’re more scared of us than we are of them.

I’m glad Frazer told me to put on pants, because those were some prickly bushes we walked through! My legs started to burn and itch an alarming amount. I’d felt a similar sensation before in Byron Bay when I went for a swim during the kayaking session. The guide had told me it was like a tiny jellyfish; it was harmless. So I figured this is just how Australia rolls; everything tries to sting you as a way of welcoming you.

Besides, Frazer was wearing shorts! He didn’t even listen to his own instructions!

We made it through the bushes in one piece. Then it was just a short hike to the waterfall.

“Wow, this is a cute little waterfall,” I thought.

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But the hike kept going. The water from the waterfall we were looking at flowed down to a larger waterfall. “We’re going down there,” Frazer said, pointing to where the water fell. I didn’t see a possible way down, unless he planned on jumping.

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We leaped across to some rocks on the other side of the waterfall (Frazer, with much more grace than I), and made our way down a non-existent path to get a better view.

We were almost there now. We could see the pool where the water collects from the waterfall. But again, I didn’t see a way down. There were no stairs, there was no handrail. It was just a bunch of sharp cliff rocks. We practically slid down on our butts.

Finally, we made it. This was what we scaled down.

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In the time it took me to take off my shoes, socks, camera, etc., Frazer had not only changed and gone in the water, but he had scaled part of the waterfall!

After enjoying a nice little swim (or in my case, stand) in the water, it was time to head back to the house. Frazer had to meet a friend, and I was ready for a shower and another nap.

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By the time I awoke, it was dinner time. It was the Hearps’ weekly dinner night out. I joined them and enjoyed a delicious fish and crisp cold beer before hitting the windy roads of Tambourine Mountain one last time.

Trevor and I had a nine hour drive to Gladstone ahead of us. Gladstone was where we were to catch the ferry to Heron Island. We drove five hours and pulled over for the night.

I’m going to miss my family in the mountain.

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