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Cairns (hot air ballooning) - Gove - Darwin

This is an old journal, from our trip around the world in 2002, taken from the diary I wrote at the time. Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they are scans of prints taken with a compact camera and images from the scrap book I made afterwards.


View Around the World for our Silver Wedding 2002 on Grete Howard's travel map.

I never sleep very well when I know I have to get up early; it’s the worry of oversleeping. We have a pick-up time of 04:25 this morning, but we do begin to think there has been some mix-up when nobody turns up by 04:45. We are just about to crawl back into bed when he finally arrives, apparently another couple didn’t wake up on time and he had to wait for them. Eventually he gave up, decided to call for us and then go back for the other couple. I’m afraid I would have just left them behind if they didn’t show up within half an hour of being called. It’s just as well I don’t run this outfit!

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The journey to the launch site takes over an hour, and the balloons (there are five of them) are already inflated by the time we arrive. They are just waiting for us, and as soon as we climb on board the basket, they’re off.

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The basket is the largest I’ve ever seen, and already looks completely full, but we do find some space and clamber in. There are 16 people in the basket including Sven, the pilot, a grumpy Yankee, a nice English couple and a chatty Japanese young lad.

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Pilot Sven with Miles

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Grumpy American to the left of me

From the balloon we spot a kangaroo running across the bush and many birds just waking up and taking off. We fly mainly across farmland, at heights of up to 1400 ft, and there isn’t a great deal to see below.

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David is absolutely delighted to find that his video is in full working order again this morning.

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It’s a nice sunny day, and all too soon we come in to land at a local airstrip. The basket drags for some distance before coming to a halt in the long dry grass. We all join in to deflate the balloon and pack it into its bag before continuing to the rest rooms for cleaning up. It’s surprising how dirty you get rolling up a balloon.

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The breakfast is astounding, by far the best breakfast we’ve ever had following a balloon flight. With so many people to feed, it’s served in the Tjapukai Visitors’ Centre, and it’s a buffet: egg, crispy bacon, tomatoes, sausages, the best fried potatoes ever, every tropical fruit imaginable, bread, a selection of Japanese dishes, fruit juices and of course champagne. After the presentation of certificates, we head back into town.

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One of the reasons we booked this particular apartment here in Cairns was to be able to wash all our clothes. Along the way, things have been rinsed out or sent to the laundry in the hotels, but now we have a chance to make sure everything is washed properly. We put a load in last night when we went to bed and again this morning before going out, and we still have more dirties to go in while we go shopping.

The receptionist gives us a lift to a huge shopping mall, not unlike Cribbs Causeway. She urges me to seek medical assistance for my cough, as she feels convinced I have bronchitis. The mall has a well-stocked chemist where I can get some cough mixture; I will try that first and reassess the situation when I get to Darwin. We are also able to stock up on Immodium, something that we both need at the moment. In the Post Office we find post cards, stamps and a cute little toy kangaroo in a sleeping bag. My mum collects soft toys so she’ll love the kangaroo; and the sleeping bag would fit Miles perfectly! None of the electronic shops in the mall have a cleaning tape for David’s video, so he’ll just have to carry on praying that it continues to work properly.

With such a magnificent apartment, we don’t feel we want to go out to eat lunch, so we buy a few ingredients in the supermarket for a light meal of pastrami rolls. After devouring the rolls, washing and ironing, we check out the Hotmail Account at a nearby Internet café, before catching up on much-needed sleep. The flight is late afternoon and we have paid extra to keep the apartment until departure time, so there is no need to rush and we enjoy the facilities of the complex.

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At check in we sail straight through, we seem to have been lucky at all the airports so far. The flight to Darwin stops off at a small mining town called Gove. With a population of a mere 3000, it does appear to be the back of beyond – a real Australian Outback town. I am fading fast with the heat, my chest infection and the tummy upset and can’t wait to get to an air-conditioned hotel. We have to de-plane at Gove and the unpretentious airport ‘lounge’ doesn’t offer much comfort. I feel a trifle better after a sugary drink, and sleep for the remainder of the journey to Darwin, where a limousine whisks us the 15 minutes to the hotel. What a difference to last night’s arrival welcome in Cairns. The Mirambeena Resort has a 24-hour reception, a bar that’s open and people milling about. I like Darwin already!

Posted by Grete Howard 05:45 Archived in Australia

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