It’s no big secret – I’m terrified of heights. I hate the feeling of looking over the edge of any lookout, cliffside, tower or rooftop. I’m always the guy that’s quite happy keeping a couple of metres away from the side, and rather content hugging the wall while others marvel giddily at how incredibly high up they are.
So for that reason alone, I was a little anxious about the idea of travelling to Queensland’s Gold Coast to see the southeast of the Sunshine State from a higher perspective. Don’t get me wrong – I love Queensland. I’m a seeker of the sunshine, and a huge fan of beautiful beaches, but activities that involve me climbing above the ground, where my feet aren’t planted on a firm earth surface freak me out, quite significantly. And so, with anxious trepidation and some steady breathing, I board my plane, “up” to the Gold Coast.
Hot Air Ballooning
My foray into my day of heights involved a rather early start, leaving our accommodation in Gold Coast at 5:30am to travel out to the hinterland to see the sun rise from a hot air balloon. My knowledge of hot air balloons is pretty limited – I had no idea how high they went up, how fast they move, and what the sensation of floating through the air was like, so there was a certain degree of curiosity there, and I was somewhat eager to let my sense of adventure overtake, albeit for a short time, my fear of heights.
We arrive at a large open field, and the crew at Balloon Aloft Gold Coast unpack their balloon and set themselves up for our take off. It’s quite a sight against the darkness of dawn – an open, grassy field with a large basket and colourful balloon lit up by the hot flames. A group of ten climbs into the basket and we’re soon lifting up slowly into the air.
This is potentially the scariest part of the actual experience, lifting up and leaving the ground beneath you. But, once I accept the fact that there’s no going back (for a while, at least!), I’m taken in by the totally foreign sensation of floating gently through the air. You see, what’s so unusual is the movement of the actual hot air balloon. Being carried by the wind results in very minimal movement of the actual basket – you hardly feel like you’re moving at all. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was literally watching clouds pass by, I wouldn’t believe that we were actually moving at such a pace.
Speaking of clouds, physically climbing 6,500ft and floating straight through the middle of clouds is an incredible experience. Surrounded by fluffy balls of cotton, seeing them move all around you is fascinating enough – but then add in the spectacular view of the morning sun rising through them.