The early bird
That was me this morning........up and at 'em at two snoozes past 5.30. I'd decided last night that I'd aim to leave the campground by 6.00am. Things were scheduled to kick off at the Greytown Hot Air Balloon event somewhere between 6.30 and 7.00 and I wanted to be sure I didn't miss a thing! I also wanted to buy some milk as I ran out last night so no coffee to kick start my day. Yikes!
Arrived at the playing fields where the balloonists were gathered having thier first briefing. It was chilly.........a hint of frost on the grass, though it may just have been a heavy dew......scarves, hats, gloves galore...it really did look like winter had arrived already. The sun wasn't too far off rising though, and with that, I was looking forward to a spectacular sunrise backdrop for the balloons.
Not long after the first briefing, an announcement came over the PA system......
"It doesn't look like it from the calmness down here, but up there where the balloons will be flying, the winds are currently too high for safe flying. At this stage it looks like balloons may not launch but we'll review things at 7.00am"
7.00am rolled around and then came the announcement that had everybody smiling - things had changed and it was all go........yay.
For about the next hour or so the playing fields became a hive of well-rehearsed activity - baskets were set up, balloons laid out, heat fans positioned, safety cordons constructed, balloons slowly began to inflate and every now and then a pilot would test his power - heat - source by sending loud and bright streams of flame high into the air. One by one, the balloons inflated, the baskets rolled up to their natural position, pilots hopped on board, tested communications, shared a few more laughs then silently and effortlessly began their ascents. It really was quite a spectacle to witness and once most of the dozen or more balloons (see extras) had launched I headed away to follow the flights in my van (it really did feel as though I was back at home in England following the fox hunt on wheels!) Gradually the balloons descended across the countryside and support crews gathered to collect them and pack up the balloon ready for the next adventure. I was surprised to hear that pilots can only control their up and down, they have absolutely no control whatsoever over direction and are totally at the whim of the wind which I guess is why they ended up scattered all over the show.
Onward then to a stopping place by the river to brew my morning coffee; such a contrast to be able to sit in the sun in shorts and a tee shirt after slowly peeling back the layers of clothing.......all this and it was still only a bit after 9.30!
Next stop was a place I'd read about a few years ago and was reminded of it when I picked up an advertising leaflet at the brewery a couple of days ago - Stonehenge Aoteroa (see extras). It was in interesting cross-country journey to find it but worth the effort. Maybe not quite as spectacular as I'd imagined it might be, but there's no doubting their back story is a fascinating one. I think if I were to go again I'd make sure it was at a celestially significant time......sunrise, sunset, solstice, matariki........the science behind the stones doesn't really shine through fully on a beautiful, clear blue sky day.
An afternoon nap in the van then on to find tonight's resting spot - Greytown Campground...........adjacent to the playing fields the balloons took off from this morning, so a fitting place to wind down the day at. I think I'm going to sleep very well tonight.
- Canon EOS 5D Mark III