Sliding along hundreds of metres above the earth is one of the best ways to start the day on the Atherton Tablelands.
It’s an early start and probably a strong coffee to prep for hot air ballooning. But the reward for getting up in the dark is a smooth ride over riveting scenery: most days a cloudless sky makes for a picture-perfect sunrise over the mountains.
The Atherton Tablelands is known as the ballooning capital of the world because of its regular good weather.
Two companies operate from launch sites near Mareeba.
There’s something magical about gliding along with the silence only perforated by the roar of the burner to take the balloon higher.
Balloon pilots search for air currents to move the balloon in any direction. While GPS is employed to find the best available landing sites, the traditional spitometre is still used to see which way the wind is blowing.
The fundamentals of ballooning are fascinating but it’s the waking world laid out beneath that takes one’s breath away.
The landscape around Mareeba is ideal for the ride, a patchwork of agriculture and horticulture, abundant wildlife and as the balloon passes over the town itself, people who seem unconcerned by being watched from above as they water the garden or fetch the paper in their pjs.
Hot air balloons can accommodate up to 20 passengers and there’s lots of room in the wicker baskets. Passengers can choose between half and one-hour flights.
Part of the excitement of the trip is the landing. After a drill in the air to prepare for the bump it’s a smooth return to terrra firma. Helping pack up the metres and metres of nylon bag adds to the fun.
Hot air ballooning was the first form of flight for mankind. A trip across the Atherton Tablelands drifting on the wind is proof it’s still the best.
To book a hot air ballooning adventure visit: