Monday, January 14, 2008

DAY 101: Day 4 in Canberra

Mon 14th January 2008
21 km
Distance to date 6309 km (3943 miles)
hot & sunny

Got the dual carriageway into the city to myself at 0500!

I was up before 4 this morning as I rode down into the city to join up with the others taking a hot air balloon ride. I have always fancied having a go at this and this seemed a good opportunity - there are 2 companies in Canberra who do this.

8 of us met at the rather grand Hyatt Hotel and we were picked up in a Land Rover towing a trailer with the balloon on. First off we stopped in a nearby park and released a helium balloon to test the wind direction - the object being to launch the balloon upwind and drift back over the city to a suitable landing place. This done we drove a few km east to a field a little bit too near the road for my liking but hey - they know what they're doing having done this for years!

Firstly we stretched out the balloon on the ground, and it is HUGE - 35m tall when inflated. It holds 250,000 cu ft of air.

A large fan driven by a petrol motor then blows cold air in for about 20 minutes - that's me holding the bottom open so the air can get in. Once the balloon is nearly inflated the pilot lights the propane gas burners and the thing really starts to lift. Soon after there's a bit of a scramble to get into the basket (it holds 10 plus the pilot but there were only 8 passengers today. There were a few tense moments when the basket nearly tipped up and dumped us out, caused by a gusty wind, whereupon the pilot got on the phone to the weather bureau, who confirmed it was a bit too gusty to fly unfortunately. We were offered money back of rebook, and as I would be able to try again tomorrow I readily agreed to try again then. Shame, everyone was all psyched up for it, but can't be helped. Apparently it is the landing that can be dodgy in gusty conditions so maybe just as well it was abandoned.

We were taken back to the Hyatt and two ladies and I agreed to have breakfast there. This was very nice - everything you could think of to eat, and there's even a chef in the corner making customised omelettes to order. I ate my fill and then lingered for a while reading the paper, very pleasant and a reminder of what luxury living can be like for a change.

Afterwards I spent a couple of pleasant hours in the National Gallery then headed back to my hosts - feeling quite tired, through lack of sleep I think.

National Gallery Sculpture Garden

Tunnel on main road south to Lindsay and Penny's

This is how cyclists get across an exit off the dual carriageway if carrying straight on - the green is presumably to show up more clearly to exiting motorists.

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