It’s funny how people believe that you have to travel vast distances from home before you find something worthwhile or different. When something rather special is just down the road.
The Hawkesbury is on such place. A mere 60km from Sydney’s Harbour bridge the region extends from Palm Beach through the Blue Mountains. So get everyone in the car we’re going for a day trip and explore what this area has to offer.
Lets start at Mooney Mooney bridge on the M1 heading north to Newcastle. But on this adventure your best to travel up the Pacific Hwy to get there. A pleasant windy road popular with motor cyclists. It’s well worth dropping in at the Road Warriors Cafe where the bikers stop for some good food and coffee and a perve at the bikes.
From here continue up to Peats Ridge where you can stop at Glenworth Valley and do a whole bunch of outdoor activities but today we want to drive Mangrove Mountain through Spencer along the northerns side of the Hawkesbury to St Albans for lunch. Good food and beer to be had at this old English style pub but you may find the staff a bit well, Fawlty Towers.
From there we continue to loop around to Wisemans Ferry. If you liked views along the drive so far you will love this stretch of road. If you fancy yourself as driver you will love it even more. And at the end of it you get to ride on a ferry.
Once off the ferry the pub is worth a visit particularly on a weekend when they have music playing. But don’t drink too much because the best of the drive is ahead of you. Where you came off the ferry turn right and follow the River Rd through Lower Portland to the Sackville ferry to Windsor. If your not enjoying yourself by now and are not blown away by the views check that you have a heart beat.
The drive so far would have taken a relaxing 4- 5 hours so it’s wirth taking some time to stretch the legs around the historical Townships or Windsor and Richmond. There are still a few old historical places standing from the old days but it really is the natural features of this area that stand out.
From here it is less than a hour back to Sydney CBD but for those wanting more why not stay the night and enjoy some of the activities the area has to offer.
Hot air ballooning is just one of them. This area is something special viewed from the air. More English than Australian some say with the blend of river, mountain, farms, forest and countryside that makes it unique. But if flying isn’t your thing here are some other things to try;
Southern Cross Kayaking
Indy 800 Kart Track
Farm Gate Trail
Tobruk Sheep Station
Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens
Australian Pioneer Village
Balloon Aloft over Hawkesbury & Hunter Valley
‘Who would want to be a weather forecaster? Better still, Who’d be a balloonist that relies on the Weather Forecaster?
I think everybody accepts that it’s a combination of years of study; on the job experience and some educated guesswork that goes into making up a weather forecast. But with the web and instant access to weather forecasts, suddenly every man and his dog now has a second job, as a weather forecaster. And it sometimes makes a balloon pilot’s life a misery.
For the last 28 years about 2 hours prior to our meet time I have raised my sleepy head off the pillow and gone through the same procedure to check if the forecast is correct. Because with the weather you just never know. Mostly its the timing of weather events that the forecasters get wrong and a few hours either way can make the difference in whether we fly or not.
Aside from a quick chat to the Aviation Meteorologist a look at the radar and wind meters, it’s the walk outside the door of my house which tells me the most. Most days the decision is easy. If it’s wet or windy cancel and go back to bed. But it’s the marginal days that the years of knowledge a good pilot has built up tells him if it’s good, safe ballooning conditions.
This is where the problem of everyone’s second job as a forecaster becomes a problem. Having calls from disappointed passengers who have decided that the weather was suitable for flying can make my job very difficult.
But the reality is that there isn’t much we can do about it. Balloons like all aircraft types have performance limitations. Too much wind which makes it impossible to inflate the balloon or land safely is usually the main reason we cancel. After that it’s rain and fog. With rain comes unstable conditions and with fog there is no view to take in.
Now the whole idea of taking a flight in a hot air balloon is to try something new and adventurous, have some fun doing it, and above all do it safely. Take off in the wrong conditions and the chances of enjoying the flight and going home safely aren’t good.
Cloud 9 Balloon Flights has over 30 years ballooning experience and your Pilot, John Allen has a faultless safety record. 4500 flights, 30,000 passengers flown. No crashes, Injuries. With this record why wouldn’t you trust his decision. So it’s ok to be disappointed just don’t take it out on us. We just want you to have the best experience and remember it for all the good reasons.
Fly Cloud 9 Balloon Flights, fly safely.
Twenty years ago Cloud 9 Balloon Flights flew its very first flight as a registered hot air balloon company. We met at Camden Airport, took off in our first balloon VH- XDF from Narrellan and landed at Mt Hunter, it was 14th February 1994 so we had 6 lovebirds on board, a couple of successful engagements and a beautiful morning. Pilot and crew (John & I) were truly on “Cloud 9.”
Previous to that John had spent 8 years flying between Australia and the UK, flying mainly advertising sport balloons, but also larger balloons for fare paying passengers, which was starting to become extremely popular in the 80’s, particularly in Australia.
But we didn’t last long flying in Camden as Greater Sydney looked more exciting and gave us great views of the entire Sydney basin. The Hunter Valley flights we offered gave passengers a choice of city and countryside flights, not to mention an opportunity to sample and buy some wine on the way home!
We flew from Paramatta Park for 15 years over Greater Sydney occasionally drifting into the beautiful Hawkesbury Valley, which gave us a sense of what was to become when all the green areas over Greater Sydney made hot air ballooning too difficult for commercial operations.
You never know exactly where you’re going in a balloon, who you’re going to meet and what will happen during the journey, but it will be different every flight. That’s why the journey is so much fun, it’s a blast which is why we’re still flying balloons.
Here’s to life’s adventures.
John & Clare