From Tasmania 3700 kms (2300 mls) to the tropical north of Australia.
Part 6 of 6.
Hot air Ballooning over the Atherton Tablelands. The Atherton Tablelands region is an extensive highlands area rising above the Tropical North Queensland coastal strip.
The controls on hot air balloons are pretty simple. To go up, the pilot opens the propane valve to send gas to the burner which fires the flame up into the envelope. The more gas he releases the faster the balloon rises.
To go down, there is a circle of fabric cut out at the top of the balloon and controlled by a long cord which runs thru the envelope to the pilot. He can pull the cord which opens the valve and the hot air escapes.
The pilot can move the balloon horizontally by changing the vertical position because the wind blows in different directions at different altitudes. To move in a certain direction, the pilot has to go up or down to the appropriate level and ride with the wind.
I shared 1/8th of the balloon basket with 2 little Japanese girls. Maximum of 3 people per basket portion and the pilot (a New Zealander) in the middle. The other passengers were all Japanese and American people, me being the only Australian.
Balloons need cool stable calm winds to operate effectively and the hours following sunrise are the most suitable before the heat of the day. As hot air balloons are the only form of flight which moves with the wind, the weather is most important. The pilot cannot directly steer but chooses heights carefully to utilise wind currents to sail towards the closest, most appropriate landing site.
The burner used propane gas to heat up the air in the envelope to move the balloon off the ground and into the air and the pilot kept the burner firing at regular intervals throughout the flight which kept the balloon stable. The 'firing' period almost blasted out my eardrums.
Lovely views from the balloon basket.
Peanuts are a traditional, long established crop for the Tablelands.
Crops of avocado, banana, basil, cashews, coffee, custard apples, limes and grapefruit, watermelon and tea.
The deep green on the right are crops of avocado.
The balloon is now about the maximum height of around 4000 feet.
The pond based aquaculture farm below right, where Redclaw (native to Queensland) crayfish are grown.
This is a closer view of the Redclaw crayfish farm and you may also see the flock of white sulphur-crested cockatoos below in the middle of this pic.
Sun rays shooting down from the cloud canopy in the distance with the mountain backdrop. Awesome sight in the early morning.
Travelling at around 15 mph and landing at 12 mph. The landing was very bumpy and we had to bend down and hang on pretty tight, but the basket still tipped over. The basket didn't drag when we tipped tho', everything stopped dead, and then the basket just went for a burton.
I was hanging on for dear life up in the (pictured) top right-hand corner of the basket. I was quite happy to let the 2 little girls out first as their screams were not doing me any favours; after which it was quite easy to extract myself and drop safely to terra firma.
I could see no point in making an effort to assist in packing up the balloon, so I watched from my seat in the paddock.
This adventure is now ticked off my Bucket List. Something I have wanted to do for about 30 years.
A couple of snippets before I close -
My Cairns accommodation: 80% Chinese, 10% Indian, 1% Torres Strait aboriginals, 4% New Zealanders, 5% American and Canadians. I found 1 Australian worker and the rest were Kiwis, Indians, and a couple from the Torres Strait.
On most tours, the same thing, but on the hot air balloon trip the people were predominately Japanese and American. At the Cairns markets in the city, most were Australian, Kiwis, and people from India.
On the first part of the Skyrail there were two Australian women; an amazing diversity of tourists and so interesting talking to people from other countries.
I truly hope you have enjoyed the 6 parts of my trip to tropical northern Queensland, Australia and I thank everyone for looking and appreciate your comments and also a thank you for all the feedback on my Sparkpage, Sparkmail, and private email.