Hot Air Ballooning over Hunter Valley

I'd love to share my recent and first experience in the Hunter Valley. Seen as I have recently been living in Sydney, I had always heard of the Hunter Valley region and how beautiful it is but never had visited the area. Provided Mike and I had worked in wineries for years, moreso him than myself, we are both aware and hold some knowledge on the entire process of winemaking and all that is related form weighing the trucks upon receiving the grapes to  testing its carbon levels in lab and labelling/marketing the actual wine bottles themselves. In other words, visiting wineries, wine tasting is not exactly on our priority list or even an interesting activity for us to be doing seen as we've been so involved working in the actual wineries that it feels as though we've been there and done that type thing. For that reason alone I was personally never thriving to visit the area seen as I kept hearing it was mainly about wine tastings and all things wine related. 

Fast-forward to Mike's birthday coming up and I was really wanting to plan something special for him. I didn't have the opportunity to plan for something very special for his on the last couple of birthdays and a part of me felt so guilty for that even until today. So I knew I had to plan for something that little more special to make due for the last birthdays as well. I had been told by a friend of mine of redballoon.com.au and what it represents. I had never heard of this website before let alone used it. I began browsing the website to find anything which could be interesting to offer as a birthday event for Michael. I fell on this experience voucher which was to Hot Air Balloon over the Hunter Valley for Two with Balloon Aloft. I immediately thought how genial of a gift this could be to offer to him but then it's price also crossed my mind and sort of paused the entire idea. I was then searching for a different experience voucher from redballoon.com.au but there really was nothing else on offer that was relatively close by to Sydney which we could both enjoy. After putting some thought into whether or not I should go with the Hot Air Ballooning experience, I decided to go for it. It was on the pricey side but I figured it was worth it as a way to compensate for the last couple of birthdays which we did not get a chance to do anything extra special and also we had never really experienced anything quite like this before together and I knew he would absolutely love it. The voucher included an À la carte breakfast for two with Champagne upon landing after the Hot Air Ballooning ride of approximately 1 hour. After I had paid for my voucher online I quickly became excited at planning for this trip. I realised that this meant we would need to drive up to the Hunter Valley from Sydney on the morning of Saturday for 5am! 5am was the meeting time as the Hot Air Ballooning was during sunrise. This meant we would have to drive up on the same day around 2.30am, which was not exactly appealing me at the time. I then thought why not book a hotel for the both of us for the Friday and Saturday evening near Pokolbin, Hunter Valley and this way we would be much closer and have far less travel to do in the middle of the night on the Friday. Also, we could make an entire weekend of visiting and discovering the Hunter Valley region and the finer experiences it has to offer. Mind you all this while I had to keep quiet and be extra subtle as every time I've tried to plan a secret occasion for Mike in the past, he would somehow always end up guessing it right. I knew I had to be extra secretive this time around if I really wanted to pull this one off. So, we ended up driving up to the Hunter on the Friday evening which by the way was really not an as long of a drive as I was expecting it to be. We woke up at around 4am on Saturday to drive up to the meeting location at 5am or so. As we pulled up to the location, there were signs showing off the parking area for the "Hot Air Ballooning" experience with added pictures.  I'm thinking to myself  "Great, and this is where it will all be clear to Michael what we came here for!" Of course, at this point he realised what was happening and what I had been hiding from him for the last few days as we were pulling up to park the car so I could not manage to keep it an entire secret at that point, but that's okay as I knew it was inevitable and bound to happen with such an organised and planned activity. Mind you I was quite pleased with myself to have managed that far into the surprise in keeping it a secret as he usually guesses the surprise way ahead of time. Plus, I could not have possibly kept it a secret for much longer than this as just after parking we had to sign up with relevant staff members to then pick out our breakfast and get ready to drive to the site where we would be flying. It was all happening so quickly. He was quite surprised to say the least and was so excited to be Hot Air Ballooning. We first were gathered altogether with the rest of the group of people who were going to be flying with us in our basket. We had to pick out from the five options which breakfast menu we preferred as the chefs would be preparing the food while we were flying. After this and signing our life away, literally!, we then separated into our respective flying groups and had a quick huddle on all things safety and what to expect when flying. After this, we hopped in our shuttle bus to meet at the takeoff site which was another 30 minutes away from meeting point. The professionals tested the wind direction and best site location and off we started to fill-in the hot air balloons with air. This was for the both of us a first experience and definitely one we would do again and recommend to anyone. From start to finish it was such a pleasant, unforgettable experience and the staff were absolutely great, truly.

The flight itself was such a beautiful and memorable experience I could never forget. It was also so calming, and this is not something I expected. But there is something about begin high up in the sky, watching the sun rise and just breathing in the coolest, purest air and feeling completely still in that dead silence. Birds were flying far lower than we were and so we were like in that dead altitude where it's too high for the birds to fly yet to low to be reaching the clouds and yet we were slowly drifting and moving along in the sky. The experience almost felt spiritual in a strange and unexpected way. If you do not know this already, I as many others share a spiritual journey in that I constantly read, learn, listen to all things which feed my soul and truly make me feel whole and become a better version of myself. I enjoy these things and as I said, this flight felt a little spiritual to me in different ways. However this is not the focus of this post and so I'll spare you all from what could be a very lengthy and change of direction for this article. Having said this, if you do happen to have any great reads on all things spiritual, do share :) Upon returning to the meeting location after our incredible flight, we gathered at the Peterson House for our Champagne breakfast. We were welcomed by a glass of freshly squeezed OJ and Champagne each. Then, we were prompted to the tables where we would have our breakfasts. I must say that the staff were such great company; Humorous, polite and kind always with a smile. The food was absolutely amazing and I did not expect that level of quality. Again, absolute experience overall at an amazing venue and I would go back for a Champagne breakfast any day.  

During our weekend, we also visited the popular Hunter Valley Gardens which was fun but we didn't even think of the fact that it would be totally dried up with zero buds let alone flowers seen as we were in the dead of winter. So that was a bit of a joke on us..Hahah So if you do plan on visiting, do go during the Spring or Summer ideally. I enjoyed the Alice in Wonderland themed area of the Gardens on the other hand and all those cute stories I was read to while growing up.

You can watch my vlog I've just posted on my Youtube channel on the entire weekend in the Hunter Valley. We really enjoyed ourselves as we ventured to all sorts of salami, olive and cheese farms to enjoy their produce and support locals farmers with their product offerings. We also visited a gin distillery, had some great sightseeing instances while driving amongst the vineyards and even spotted many kangaroos on and off land. We also visited the chocolate factory of the area which was neat, reminded me of the Licorice & Chocolate Factory in Junee NSW for those of you who have been. So all in all, we had a wonderful weekend! Oh and the local food.. fantastic! We had a wonderful lunch at Enzo's on the Saturday afternoon which you can also watch on my vlog and get to see what we ordered and ate.

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Hope you enjoyed this blog although lengthy and not about fashion or music, it's nice to change things up every now and then and indulge in the finer things life has to offer. 

Link to redballoon.com.au where you may book your next fabulous adventure. You may sort by location and experience type from the dropdown menus available. 

Thanks for reading, as per the usual :)

PS. You may also watch my vlog here or simply check out the FILM section of this website.

CCX