Sport

A world above

ETHEREAL: Unlike any other aircraft, balloons travel with the wind, so there is no friction, no breeze, no sense of movement and no sound.
ETHEREAL: Unlike any other aircraft, balloons travel with the wind, so there is no friction, no breeze, no sense of movement and no sound.

IT'S ABOUT 4.50am and a dozen of us gather in the frosty pre-dawn dark beside Tyagarah airstrip as Australian ballooning champion Thomas Dattler releases a small test balloon.

The fact he and his crew took out the national titles last year - and will travel to Michigan, US, to contest the world titles this year - is small comfort as the blinking red LED light disappears into the dark at about 1000 feet.

"It's going north-east so we won't be launching from here," he says.

"We'd be out at sea in no time - not so good without a steering wheel," he adds with a slight grin.

We pack into two troop carriers, one pulling all the equipment, and head inland.

From a dark lookout at the corner of Coolamon Scenic Dr and the Pacific Hwy, Thomas releases a second test balloon, which is immediately swept down into Byron Bay and out to sea.

The 12 of us pile nervously back into the troopies and head west as the excitement builds and the crew continue discussing launch options on the two-way.

As a local, I've often looked upon extreme-sport activities for bullet-proof backpackers with a little disdain, but this is different, very different. And from the moment we launch from a misty paddock somewhere near Bexhill, you know it.

The silence is surreal, the landscape - lit low from the sunrise - is just sublime, and the stillness is exquisite. This is not only reflected back to me in the faces of my 11 co-passengers, but that of our veteran pilot too, as he tells us we are scooting along at about 10 knots.

It may just be another day at the office for Thomas, but you know this man loves his job. His grin is infectious.

Unlike any other aircraft, balloons travel with the wind, so there is no friction, no breeze, no sense of movement and no sound. I wouldn't be laying it on too thick to call this experience ethereal - at 2000 feet the atmosphere sparkles, the horizon curves and stars still shine above us.

We gawk speechlessly as Thomas reveals more tricks, dropping altitude quickly to pick up a different wind direction (identified by squirting hair conditioner out the basket) and the chance to touch the tree tops near Nashua.

Filing photos and badly-thumbed commentary direct to The Northern Star's Facebook page, I resist the urge to photograph Hollywood nice-guy Simon Baker's hinterland spread as we float majestically overhead. I feel above such things today.

Only the sound of the burners break the quiet, lifting us over the next ridge, on track for a soft landing in another paddock, just outside of Bangalow.

Steadied by a pretty good champagne breakfast, I reluctantly return to work like a kid leaving Dreamworld for the first time, transported in every sense. The tourists may lap it up, but every local should do this at least once.

Ballooning

Where: Byron Bay Ballooning, 1 Old Brunswick Rd, Tyagarah (beside Tyagarah Airfield near Byron Bay)

When: 60 to 90 mins before sunrise

How much: $325 per passenger, includes champagne breakfast

How long: One hour flight, allow four hours for everything else

What to wear: Comfortable protective clothes (season appropriate) and closed shoes

Topics:  tyagarah airfield



Foodies' scavenger hunt: are you up for it?

IF YOU want to give your tastebuds the flavour sensations of a lifetime, here is the ultimate foodie’s scavenger hunt through Brisbane.

5 minutes with Israel Folau on footy, life and love

Israel Folau and Silver Fern netballer Maria Tutaia announced their engagement last last year.

WE CAUGHT up with football star and Brisbane ex-pat Israel Folau.

10 reasons to head to South Bank this summer

Head to the only inner-city beach in Australia!

South Bank has a ridiculous amount of fun things to do.

Five mammoth events you need in your life

No Caption

BRISBANE isn’t known for doing things by halves…

How to make your child's every dream come true...

Take a dip at South Bank in the inner-city beach.

‘I DON’T want to do fun things, Mum and Dad’… said no child ever!

How to do Eat Street the right way

Know where to start and where to end to avoid a huge food coma before you get to experience all the goodies!

EVERY Friday and Saturday night, Hamilton comes alive.

You can do WHAT in Brisbane?!

Talk about arriving in style! Take your pub crawl to the next level with a helicopter!

BET you didn't know you could do these things in Brisbane...

Girls "rescued” from locked bedroom in Warwick

Warwick fire truck

Firies on scene to release girls from locked bedroom

Horse on the loose in Warwick back with owner

Police are on scene

Horse back with owner after Warwick police receive call

LifeFlight makes 76 lifesaving missions across Downs

RACQ CareFlight Rescue's Toowoomba-based helicopter attends a car accident near Warwick in February, 2016.

Every second counts when saving lives, says LifeFlight boss

Local Partners

Rockies owners consider banning visitors

visitors who vandalise and trash The Rockies waterhole have owners considering banning all users.


T20 might be batters game but no one told bowlers

Steven Lyons bats at Slade Park as WBAS chase the 166 scored by Summers.

Bowlers go well as tight battle on for final spots

Action hots up with semis this morning in carnival cricket

Dale's XI will play Dutch's Rudders at noon on Queens Pary Synthetic today.

The draw for final day of Warwick cricket carnival

No prep is about the dragway surface not the cars

Royden Hardcastle will compete in his 1928 Dodge Senior 6 in the No Prep Kaos meeting at Warwick Dragway this Saturday.

Historic day on Saturday for Warwick Dragway

Jennifer Aniston wants to return to TV

Jennifer Aniston is desperate to make a return to TV

Madonna hopes for election unity

Madonna hopes Donald Trump's election will "bring people together"

JK Rowling rules out Cursed Child trilogy

JK Rowling has ruled out a 'Cursed Child' movie trilogy

Buckley's chance in psychological thriller

James McAvoy and Betty Buckley in a scene from the movie Split.

Broadway veteran back on big screen with James McAvoy

Daniel MacPherson: acting’s a bit like channel surfing

Australian actor Daniel MacPherson in a scene from the American TV series APB.

THE Aussie export talks about making his mark in the US.

Shopping isn't fun if you can see dead people

Lisa Marie Woodham will be giving readings in Gladstone until Saturday January 21.

Shopping isn't fun if you can see dead people

By the water's edge

Secure your seachange

HOT PROPERTY: Money to spend on land, buildings

File picture.

Sale, leasing of industrial real estate picks up in Mackay

Why tree-changers want to buy in the Southern Downs

Core Logic property statistics reveal the region's median house price for the Downs dropped 1.5% to $241,250 the September quarter.

Region's median house price drops 1.5% to $241,250

Collapsed Coast company could owe up to $5 million

Staff, ATO, landlords among those out of pocket.

Ipswich block of dirt sells for $582 a square metre

JUST SOLD: A property on the Brookwater golf course sold for a record-breaking $612,000.

Property smashed 2007 record by close to $100,000

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!