There is something humbling about floating more than one kilometre above the earth. The world stretches out, shifting endlessly as the colours of dawn throw new light on the horizon. Captive (and captivated) in a basket, there is simply the moment.  The sound of silence is interrupted only by the occasional blast of the furnace as it opens to send hot air into the balloon and lift you further away from the world as you know it. Without fanfare, the basket has soundlessly departed from the ground and you find yourself peering out at a 360-degree view of the Yarra Valley that is postcard picture perfect in every direction.

Suddenly the 3am alarm doesn’t matter as you realise that this – this glorious vista at dawn on a cool Tuesday morning – is all that matters. This is once in a lifetime, once in a moment even. You take a breath and marvel that you are one of ten lucky people together in basket watching the beginning of a new day up close. There is reverence, an unspeakable softness.

For today’s flight we have headed from our meeting place at Balgownie Estate north towards Glenburn. It’s still dark and our strange little convoy of troupees towing wicker baskets seems strangely out of place. At the launch site, after a safety briefing and checks, we help the crew get the basket ready and hold the massive balloon (nothing prepares you for how big this silky piece of fabric is – or how much you will be relying on it 100% very soon!) while it is filled with air from a massive fan that is then heated to create lift.  By 6am, we are one of three hot air balloons ascending into the Yarra Valley skies on a journey of softly panning circles, following the updrifts in a southerly direction. Every burst of the furnace bathes us in golden light and transforms the balloons into giant lanterns. It’s beyond beautiful.

 

The skyfilled night gives way to a pink and gold sunrise and our one-hour flight seems to take hours. From the safety of our basket we wander the skies, across forests of ancient trees, open paddocks and farmhouses, neverending vineyards and townships. If you’re a local, there are recognisable landmarks that you feel you can almost reach out and touch. If you are a visitor, you have a perfect vantage point from which to plan where to next! From this elevation you see absolutely why the Yarra Valley is a valley – the ring of mountainous terrain embraces a valley that is always green – a lush food bowl and source of water and life, and everything we enjoy the most in life.

As the sun bursts over the fringe of mountains, the mists hovering over the dams and valleys start to lift and the city skyline is revealed (we can even see a tiny balloon hovering above the CBD).  It’s meltingly gorgeous. I am caught between capturing everything I can on my camera versus taking it all in first hand without the distractions of tech. It seems impossible to take a bad photo at this angle!

This floating experience is serene and atmospheric, and something so much more than I expected. To see this part of the world in its pristine nature, so much of it untouched and wild, gave me a renewed sense of what we need to love and protect in our environment and gave me a fresh insight into how we all share this land.

Charting a path across the Yarra River (Birrarung) and billabongs of Yering, Tiff points out local wineries and landmarks, boxing kangaroos and his local primary school.

We land in a paddock in across from Yering Estate, the resident cows barely raising a head to greet us.  After ‘all-hands-on-deck’ to pack up the mighty deflated balloon, we return to Balgownie Estate for a cooked buffet breakfast and a much anticipated coffee!

Kiff, our captain, has been flying balloons since 1987. He has just returned from a world ballooning event in Slovenia with his son where people could land on ‘a flag in the middle of a paddock’ he says, so precise were their navigation skills.   I’m certain Kiff would hold his own in such company. I sense he knows instinctively what his digital navigation tools are going to show before he’s even looked at them. “It’s all about invection – the meeting of cool air and warmer air bands,” he explains. “But it’s also something felt,” he continues, “a five senses experience.”

“When you are up here you have a different perspective. It’s a joy to be able to see beyond your own confines. To experience the world like this, it opens you up. You can’t not be affected,” he says. “Everyone should know this feeling.”

With my new perspective, I completely agree.

Disclosure: Lindy Schneider was a guest of Global Ballooning, for Yarra Ranges Tourism, on Tuesday 29 October 2019. She has lived and worked in the Yarra Valley for almost 20 years and has an even deeper appreciation for the region having now experienced it ‘from above’.

Want a Life Writing tip to get you started with writing a piece of your own history? Life Writing is a style of writing that draws out your unique story and preserves it for you or whoever you choose to share it with. It’s a wonderful way to honour your life and anyone, regardless of their writing skills, can start today.

Read my guest blog Bring Your Story to Life here.

If you would like to know more about this course or wish to enrol call Simone on 5967 1776 or email simonewhitehead@cire.org.au. Life Writing with Lindy Schneider commences Tuesday 15th May at 6.30pm to 9.00pm (4 sessions).

Held at Cire in Yarra Junction.

You can listen to my radio interview on YVFM (1.5.18) here.

Brochure with more details on this course is below.

Warburton has made some new friends this week.

In the Twilight of a spring evening a caravan of film equipment trundled into town and set up camp.

We are the ‘location’ for an independent Australian film called “Surviving Georgia”, directed by Sandra Sciberras and Kate Whitbread. I believe the synopsis goes a little like this…

“Surviving Georgia is a heart warming romantic comedy about family and finding your own identity in the world. Heidi and Rose must find love but in doing so, must first reconcile with their feisty gambling alcoholic mother.”

At least that is what Shane’s website says. Shane who you ask? None other than Shane Jacobson (alias Kenny) who mentions on his Twitter page that he is “moving to Warburton for a few weeks!” but is yet to be spotted inspecting any of our local toilet establishments.

Other cast members like Pia Miranda, to my knowledge, have not bought fish and chips at our local milk bar. Spencer McLaren , Holly Valance and Anthony Woodcock, also maintain similar low profiles.

But a spot of celebrity watching is not really the point. Instead it’s been a fascinating insight into the machinations of film production and two things stand out for me when watching a hard days toil :

1. It takes a lot of people standing around to make a film, and

2. They mostly wear black.

One of the crew shares with me a nugget of ‘film’ wisdom. “It takes Art, Chance and Chaos” he says, as yet another retake is called.

In a small town its hard not to notice the production, even thought its all very low key and respectfully managed for us residents. I could not go anywhere at the start of the week without having to pass (or stop and wait for a scene to conclude) by a house that was being used just around the corner.

For Monday, a casting call has gone out for us locals to be extras in a wedding scene at the local Golf club. Sure it’s just standing around in the background, but if you’ve never been in a film, here’s a big chance to apparently get your name in the credits.

A  friends’ shop, Earth Bazaar, is also being used as a location. So taken were the location scouts with its charm, that apparently there were script changes to accommodate it “as is.”

It means a lot for a little town to be acknowledged by a big industry. Whilst Warburton has been poised as the next big thing for years, if not decades, it still manages to elude the grand tourist status of its neighbours like Healesville. But that’s OK, us residents are very comfortable with its secret beauty and undiscovered potential.

Apparently you will never see the “Welcome to Warburton “ sign or know that the town is the location for the shoot, unless of course you are one of those people who sit in a cinema until the credits stop rolling, or you recognise the odd iconic location.

I am reminded of a similar feeling TV film called ‘Little Oberon’ which starred Sigrid Thornton and Tasma Walton, shot in and around Marysville in 2005. Although perhaps long since forgotten, this film stands as a celluloid memorial to the township that no longer exists. And that is the intrinsic value of film. It provides us all with a moment, a memory that steps in when our own cerebral filing system fails us.

Scheduled for release in 2010, one thing is for certain, that when ‘Surviving Georgia’ has its opening night, the town and community of Warburton will be there in all its glory.