AT reader Mark Phelps goes against the laws of nature by getting up before dawn to drift across the Yarra Valley in a hot-air balloon. It’s 3am, my alarm is urging me out of my comfortable bed and I only have myself to blame. I wearily get my act together and realise I’m about to do something I’ve wanted to do for many years. I pack my warm jacket and grab a quick snack to give me energy for my early morning drive to the Yarra Valley. I arrive at Rochford Wines and it’s still very dark, but I’m not alone. A few other weary people were also jarred out of sleep to be here.  

Soon we’re all travelling along the misty morning roads to our launch destination the oval at Dixons Creek.  The grass is wet and it’s cold as we unload the trailer.  I’m about to board a balloon for flight over the Yarra Valley!
 
It’s not long before the balloon is fully inflated with air and ready to take flight.  I pile into the basket along with everyone else, and it’s not long before we are ascending above the oval, over nearby trees, and into the morning sky. As it gradually begins to brighten we can see the vineyards below us more clearly.  
 
Apart from the occasional burst of flame and heat from the burners, it is surprisingly quiet as the balloon travels from one end of the Yarra Valley to the other.  Soon enough the glory of the first glimpse of the sun takes everyone’s breath away. I enjoy spotting some iconic wineries below us, such as De Bortoli, Fergusson, Mandala, Yering Station, Domaine Chandon, as well as the stately Chateau Yering.  The townships of Yarra Glen and Healesville and the far off Dandenongs come into view, and I can see Melbourne CBD in the distance. Down below, cows from Yarra Valley Dairy go about their early morning ritual which leads to the production of amazing cheeses.  
 
Eventually, it’s time for us to come back down to earth. Our expert pilot guides us to a safe landing in a nearby paddock, but rather than landing in the wet grass, Brian amazingly lands our balloon directly into the back of a trailer. Outstanding! 
 
We all pitch in to help pack up the balloon, then it’s back to Rochfords for the traditional champagne toast.  
 
It was such a great experience that when my two brothers from interstate come to visit less than a month later I book us all in for another Global Ballooning flight over the Yarra Valley. The experience is surprisingly different, as the wind direction takes us to other parts of the valley. The end result is the same however: three very happy passengers. 
 
My older brother, a pilot for the Royal Flying Doctor Service describes the experience as: “Awesome, very relaxing, fantastic views and so quiet compared to a plane!” The birds really do have the best view of the Valley.
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