Second day at Byron Bay – Hot Air Ballooning with a bunch of Sky Divers

 So far you have enjoyed the last two articles about my adventurous weekend in Byron Bay, Australia. Now I would love to share my experience of day 2 which was also full of excitement and joy. In case you missed my other two posts then here is the link to the same for you my friend.

Hot Air Ballooning with 7 Sky Divers

Hot Air Ballooning with 7 Sky Divers

Alarm went off around 4:30 AM and first time in weeks I was not frustrated as I had enough sleep this time so I quickly jumped out of the bed with excitement. Today was the day I was going to experience Hot Air Ballooning. So many times I dreamt of doing it but every time I felt I should wait for some one special to do it with. But finally I decided to do it on my own after one of my friend suggested that it is an experience that you get to feel individually anyways so why wait for some one when you can do it by yourself. So here I was waiting at the gate of the hostel to get picked up around 5:15 AM. A car pulled up next to me and I confirmed that it was from the Ballooning company. After a warm welcome message from the guy driving the car, I fastened my seat belt and we headed to the location for base(the office for ballooning ). It was still dark when we arrived at the base. I could see many people getting ready in their gears for sky diving. I felt as if I was the only one in the balloon staying back and almost everyone else was going to jump. I wished I could jump with them for a moment and this thought was interrupted by one of the sky divers. She introduced herself and a formal round of introduction kick started for few minutes. These were professionals with more than few hundred and even few thousand jumps. My goodness, I almost freeze to digest this information now. I was excited and felt a bit naive to talk to these people now as whatever jargons they were using I couldn’t understand half of them. I met Thomas, the chief pilot of Byron Bay Ballooning (http://www.byronbayballooning.com.au) and signed some forms as part of the formal process. Thomas was quiet reassuring as I was a bit nervous as well excited, this being my first balloon flight.

Thomas after successful landing

Thomas after successful landing

Soon we started for Casino, place from where the balloon was supposed to fly. I was cold but super excited. I chose to sit with other sky divers in the first van to listen to some insightful information they would like to share during this one hour journey. It was a nice ride till the patrol station where the drivers stopped to fill patrol. I was told a lot of things and these people were very nice to explain me a lot of new concepts that made me look a bit puzzled. I shared rest of the way with other set of people and got to know some more people on my way to Casino. It was an overwhelming morning I must say, so much that I kind of forgot that I was here for ballooning really.

Once we arrived in Casino, the process of unloading the balloon and setting it up started. It was such a huge balloon, I guess all of them are but I was witnessing it for the first time. It was like preparing for a festival, with so many people helping in the process and some of us trying to shoot the process or take pictures of the location. As the balloon rose, it was such a mesmerising view with all the colours rising in the sky with the bright light of  the sun. Then we climbed into the balloon and Thomas started to fill the balloon with hot air and the balloon took off. It was so smooth that we didn’t feel anything but only the view started changing as we gained height. Just so that you know Thomas has been flying since the age of 22 and has also won many awards.  So if you are in Byron Bay and feel like ballooning then he is your guy. I was trying to absorb this whole experience while also taking a lot of pictures at the same time. The basket is divided in three compartments and the middle one is reserved for the pilot with some gas cylinders. We were almost 12 people, 6 in each baskets on both the sides and out of which 7 were sky divers. Soon we rose to the height of 6000 feet and it was an amazing view. It felt so light and beautiful to see the whole area at this hour of the morning. It was around 8:45 AM. The divers were all ready to jump and soon we hit the height of 9000 feet from where they were supposed to jump. It was more scary to look at them standing on the edges of the basket. And I guess I was more excited and worried than them. Some of them were doing it for the first time which I thought was very brave and increased my respect for all these divers. Soon before I realised they started jumping from the balloon. It was so fast that I didn’t even get chance to take many pictures of them jumping and soon they disappeared from the sight. We started moving towards the destination, Thomas was co-ordinating with rest of the team to make sure all the divers are safe and have been located after reaching the ground.

Thomas started to prepare us for landing and soon we were descending fast, not that you can feel it other than the height displayed on the system. We landed on a  farm with more than 50  bulls all staring at us in not so welcoming mood. Thomas waited for rest of the team to come to this location and get the permission from the farm owner before getting us all climb out of the balloon. Once the team was here, the bulls started heading towards their vans and soon we were out of this adventurous and risky zone. And next thing I remember, we were all rolling the balloon and packing everything back in the vehicle to head back. I was still floating in the sky in my thoughts though as it is a last longing experience and it takes some time to get back to reality I can say. Thomas stopped in a nice cafe on the way and bought lunch for all of us as part of the package. I chose Spanish Omelette and you know what, it was the best breakfast ever after such a beautiful start of the day. What else can you ask from life I thought with a smile. The day is yet not over my friend and I still have to share my experience of the monthly market, beach and one of the most beautiful town/village in the area before I finish my story. So keep an eye for another post after this 🙂 Till then have a wonderful day my friend.

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What do you do in the plane? Is travelling by air easy?

Did you say sleep? But not always right and if you travel very frequently then you would know what I mean. Who loves the window seat. I do but only when its a short flight. If it’s a couple sitting next to me then I prefer to take a aisle seat to make sure I don’t have to knock to go to washroom or a stroll in a long flight. People love the window seat from where you can see the view when plane is landing and taking off. But do you ever think the use of it when its a night flight. I see so many people booking the seats mindlessly as if they are going to watch a movie in a theater and the choice of seats are always fixed – center back. I have learned this lesson long back when people on long flight like to sleep and to go to pee you have to keep trying to wake them up in most polite way and then once again if they fall asleep till you come back. So what’s your preference for seat when you fly?

I like to keep a book handy in case I get a cheap deal with flights and then they would not have any movies to play without buying each one of them. Also I like to keep my camera handy as you get free view from the sky, like a helicopter tour in case you are sitting away from the wings. If movies are free and good quality then I don’t mind watching a few and keep myself updated. But then you would also want to get some sleep in a long flight, whereas people get a bit anxious in a short flight as its too much hassle for an hour or so flight to check in and then looking for checked in baggage. I travel light with only a carry on backpack which people stare for long when I get in the queue. And quiet a few times I have to either throw stuff (I do have spare things in case I don’t get time to check the weight in advance) or wear some more clothes. I do not prefer to let my backpack get out of my sight as it otherwise can turn into a loss of property which in turn might ruin my short trip anyways. And for few days we don’t need much anyways so carry on is a good way to save money and travel easy with no worry.

Do write about what you like to do when you fly. I would love to hear all about it.

Regards,

Kavita

Going to Singapore, end up in Bangkok – Holidays turned into Adventure

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It was a sunny and beautiful day. I had packed everything I need. I was sure that I am going to enjoy this well deserved break as I reached Sydney airport. I was so excited to go to Singapore for the first time for 5 days. I was flying with this airline also for the first time. All arrangements were done – accommodation booked, sightseeing pass was booked and I had all the required documents with me. This time nothing is going to be wrong – no delays in reaching airport (as I missed the plane few months ago when I was going to Brisbane due to relying upon the public transport), no paper missing and all is good. Now it’s time for holidays. Hurrah!!

But I didn’t know that there is a surprise waiting for me. I handed over my passport to the person behind the checking counter. She looks at the passport and looked at me quizzically. Now what could go wrong I thought? She told me madam you cannot fly. What she said, I repeated to myself. She sensed my confusion and answered without any delay that I haven’t got the appropriate visa to go to Singapore. But a friend of mine informed me that we can get visa on arrival.  I told her about the same but she then informed me that I hold an Indian passport hence I should first apply for visa and she can postpone my flight. I was not sure how is that going to work as I have got leaves for 3 days and 2 days over the weekend and no way was I going to get visa before that. I had to leave the counter any ways to decide what to do now.

There was a moment when I wanted to let the tears trickle down my cheeks thinking here goes my holidays and I should not be preparing for my own travel now onward  But then a voice came into my head and said – You are not giving up. You are going to fly today to Singapore. I instantly ran to check internet in the airport to see if there is a way I can get some help in this situation. I called the embassy but they said it will take at least 4-7 days process and that too in Canberra not like I could drive to some office in Sydney for immediate assistance. And I couldn’t postpone my holidays due to the deadlines I had to meet at work in next couple of weeks. But I was determined to get out of the country and have a well deserved break after working almost 4 weekends in a row.

I went back to the checking counter and asked if they have any alternative in my situation. They didn’t want to take risk of flying me to Singapore just in case I can’t get visa in Singapore so they gave me an option if I fly out of Singapore and go to some other country then I can get transit visa in Singapore maximum of 3 days. She asked me if I want to go to India from Singapore. It sounded like a joke as I wasn’t sure whether she was familiar with the geographical distance from Singapore to India and that too when I had only 5 days of leaves. It was like having a holiday in the air, touchdown India and come back to Sydney. Although I didn’t express my amusement to her, but I knew I am never going to forget her suggestion.

I checked the available options with them as they could fly me to Japan, Bangkok and few other places. Suddenly I decided to fly to Bangkok and asked them to book the same. I lost money on the return ticket from Singapore to Sydney and paid extra money for the flight from Singapore to Bangkok but the money didn’t matter now as I need to do this. Although in the first place I made this plan because of the available deal on flights. So it was getting funnier when I was paying even more than regular price of flights. But somehow I had to make a choice between the holidays somewhere nice or back to work behind my desk. So I chose the holidays. I checked in with the new itinerary and a new destination – Bangkok. I always wanted to go to Thailand but not in this manner. I had dreamed to go there for at least 2 weeks and enjoy and now I was going to be there for 2 days.

But no worries I am on the plane and its going to be awesome I told myself. Although the story doesn’t end here. There was more to come. I had booked a flight to Bangkok but not from Bangkok to Sydney yet which means I can go to Singapore but not Bangkok without having a return ticket. I thought that I can manage as I will book that online. And I am good at finding good deals anyways. So here I come, Singapore – city of beautiful buildings I felt. I loved the idea of going to Singapore as I have always admired the well planned cities not that I don’t like the old cities. I felt a sense of triumph after landing in Singapore as I had passed the first hurdle – flying to Singapore. And now I had to deal with another one – Flying to Bangkok. But that can wait as I have 3 days here and I don’t want to muddle that. I was given strict warning in the Airport saying that I should not be staying in Singapore for more than 3 days. I was alright I thought, no big deal. But I was not aware of what’s there in store for me still.

I checked-in in my place and explained that I have to leave in 3 days and not 5 so asked them to charge me only for 3 days. With a little bit of discussion and explaining my situation that got settled. Now it was time for dinner – It was late in the evening so I went out and had a quiet dinner and came back to check internet in my place with a strong feeling that I will book the tickets for Bangkok now. I searched various options and the price first blew my mind as I was paying fortune to go there for two days. Still I muster some courage to book it, now what’s that – A message saying that a security code is being sent to my mobile to confirm the ticket. Bugger, I haven’t activated international roaming on my phone. I never do when I travel so that I have some quiet holidays without any interruption from the people I know. I never had to book anything from other countries either so I never found out the options to do that otherwise I could call my bank and deactivate the phone security for some time. Now I felt that I was in soup. It was 2 AM already and I had to visit many places next day. I checked Facebook  no one from my inner friend circle was online who could help me with the ticket. I had no choice but sleep.

Next day I told myself to forget about the ticket and focus on visiting the places I have got the pass for. I started my day very enthusiastically and cover 3 places in a day with my excellent management. I know the other matter doesn’t show much of that but things happen and there is first for everything. So any ways I was back in my place all tired. I chose internet over food and got some fruits that I could binge upon while trying to book the tickets again. I saw one of my friends online today. I felt it’s my lucky day. My friend was working in Europe at that time. I felt a bit embarrassed but came to the point very quickly and asked him to book my ticket explaining my situation. He was so nice that without much fuss he started booking the same. I gave all my details but then he pinged me on Facebook chat back that the payment page is leading him to another page saying that the site can’t be trusted. Now it was new. He tried couple of time but the same message and I didn’t want to trouble him anymore. Now I had one more day and it was too late. I send an email to another friend of mine explaining the situation and went to bed thinking about the next day.

I woke up bit uneasy thinking about the ticket and checked my email first thing in the morning. A reply from my friend was waiting for me giving me few options with flight he could book for me. A sense of relief flooded me. I quickly replied to him and started for another day’s adventure more carefree today as I was going for the forest adventure that was going to tire me physically. I had an amazing day even the rain in the evening didn’t touch my excitement and I did the night safari in the zoo. I came back and saw that the ticket was waiting for me. I could fly on time to Bangkok now. I utilized the last day in Singapore to explore a toy museum which was nice as it brought back the memories from my childhood. Although it was another adventure to go to Bangkok without much preparation but I loved my holidays and saw more things than I could imagine in 5 days. It was tiring but full of adventure I would say. Thanks for reading this. I am looking forward to my next holidays now.