Hot air Balloon Australia
Floating Above Cloud Nine

Floating Above Cloud Nine

A moment lived in Australia by Life…One Big Aventure, a traveler from Australia

 

Ever thought about doing a balloon flight?

Life is good!

How good is it when something you have been dreaming about for a long time, actually comes off? That is exactly what happened to me recently when I fulfilled a long-held dream to sail across the skies in a hot air balloon.

On the ‘adventure scale’, this activity is probably not rated very highly. But I have been surprised by the number of people who turn up their noses or roll their eyes at the thought of lifting off terra firma and rising above the clouds.

Not me!

A couple of years ago we celebrated Dad’s 80th birthday with a brilliant weekend at the Canowindra International Balloon Challenge, but we had left it too late to book a balloon ride. Here was my perfect opportunity to make good on that Bucket List item and give a gift to remember. After some consideration, my parents embraced the opportunity and decided to make my Christmas gift a balloon ride too! Yippee for me!

Balloon Aloft operate in Mudgee once a month. It was a very dark and very early morning in March when a group of bleary-eyed thrill-seekers assembled expectantly at Blue Wren Winery. We were a rag-tag mix of 14 locals and visitors, all in desperate need of more sleep and coffee, but at least we were united by our excitement of starting this new day with something special.

Clay and Deano, from Balloon Aloft, greeted us warmly and quickly allayed any nerves that may have been bubbling under the surface. Deano sent up a tiny, helium-filled balloon with a blinking red light suspended below to check the wind direction and speed. That little balloon, tracked through special night-vision binoculars, told us we must drive 20km east of Mudgee to be able to accurately float back across the Mudgee valley.

The day turned out to be a bus and a balloon adventure as we puttered eastwards, and turned into a farmer’s bare paddock in the early morning dark.

A unique feeling and viewpoint

It only seemed to take minutes before the balloon blossomed into life. There was a mad scramble as the group had to board quickly. Picture – arms and legs and other body parts awkwardly flung into the basket as it ebbed and bobbed centimeters above the ground.

Dad checked with Deano, “are you coming with us, too?” Deano quipped back, “not on your life, I wouldn’t be seen dead in one of those things!” As Deano stepped back and released the rope anchoring the basket, he turned and we read “Australian Balloon Team” on the back of his t-shirt, so obviously he was joking.

Within seconds, we seemed to be hundreds of meters above the ground, and the bus and cars morphed into matchboxes. I was surprised and dazzled by the speed we were moving, and the pure, blissful silence. Is this what birds experience?

The quiet enveloped us as we tried to process what we were experiencing. The cool breeze, the sensation of a delicate mist tickling our cheeks, and the perspective of being ABOVE the landscape, not in it.

We were brought back to the here and now quickly with each blast of the burner, with a roaring noise and the licks of searing heat. Such a contrast to the sounds of silence.

Clay shot us above the clouds so we could appreciate the fluffy carpet that edged the basket. It was tempting to step out and stroll towards the sunrise, but that first step would have been a doozy!

The period of stunned silence soon evaporated and we excitedly chattered away, as we pointed out fleeing kangaroos, wallaroos, and goats. A million questions later, Clay was happy to share his expertise and we were all fascinated by the technicalities of maneuvering a balloon.

The sun eventually rose through the layers of cloud, showcasing Mudgee and the patchwork valley. Such a different perspective of my hometown, I simply couldn’t drink it in fast enough as we floated westwards.

Fifty minutes later we were aiming for our landing paddock on the south-western side of Mudgee, only to overshoot it by about a kilometer. We all assumed the landing position – knees bent and hands grasping the rope handles – and then bump, bump and the basket flipped on its side! It sounds inelegant, and it was, but it was also very funny to be upright one moment and horizontal the next. All part of the morning’s excitement.

It was only during the post-balloon-ride breakfast that Mum and Dad shared that they had been a wee bit nervous about the whole balloon-ride thing.. But they were so pleased they had done it! Phew!

Is this the role of children? To talk their parents into doing weird and wonderful activities they normally wouldn’t dream of?

This traveler has a blog: Life…One Big Adventure

credit photo: Life…One Big Adventure
Kornati croatian paradise
10 moments you could live in Croatia

Kornati croatian paradise

Summarising Croatia in a top 10 moments is not easy as the country has too much to offer and is very diverse in many ways. Croatia is an ex-Yugoslavian republic located in the Balkans in Eastern Europe. The coastline faces more than a thousand islands, while its heart is filled with green forests, rocky mountains, deep canyons and clean rivers.  This article is dedicated to highlighting what the common traveller would probably miss, too busy at finding the must do activities which are often not the ones you should go for. 

1. Touch the pure water in Rastoke

Rastoke waterfalls

Rastoke

When the words “Croatia” and “Waterfalls” are part of the same sentence, what first comes to mind is the “Plitvice NP” and then “Krka”. But most of you might never have heard of Rastoke. This wonderful play of nature has been made possible as the Slunjčica river runs into the Korana river over a series of travertine barriers creating a chain of waterfalls, rapids, pools and cascades. About 300 years ago this place was chosen as a settlement for water-milling. The harmony between man and nature can still be found here. In case you are visiting in the summer don’t hesitate to relax in the natural pools of the Korana river before it meets with the Slunjčica which is colder. Just ask the locals where you can swim and go.

2. Discover Zagreb

Zagreb

Zagreb

The Croatian capital city is a great getaway for a weekend. It is mostly known for its Christmas market in winter but not only. Cool things are happening all year round. Strolling in the old town for example or tasting the vibrant nightlife. It is not rare to find great parties in Medika (the cultural centre, known for its street art and its alternative music scene) as well as the Vintage Industrial Bar for concerts. Another good place to go out is Pločnik Klub where you can try some of the best craft beers including the John Lemon from Visibaba Pivo. Next to the city, the Sljeme mountain offers many trails for the ones who like combining both city and nature. And of course, there is more to discover…

3. Go Kayaking in the Kornati Islands

Kornati Islands

Kornati Islands

A kayaking journey in the Kornati Islands NP is for sure a highlight of a trip to Croatia! It is easily accessible from Sali located on Dugi otok (the long island) which has daily connections by boat from Zadar. Before embarking on this physical challenge, make sure the weather conditions are good and get some food and water supplies. Once done, you are now ready to start paddling towards Levrnaka, a paradisiac sandy beach with blue lagoon colours. It takes about 4hrs to get there. This beach is the absolute reward but not the only one. After the bath, it is highly recommended to walk up the hill to witness one of the most breathtaking landscape you will ever see, especially when the sun is about to blend with the horizon. You can camp next to the beach as it is one of the few spots where you are allowed to set your tent in the Kornati NP.

Extra tip: A good option, if you’re not into kayaking, is to rent a little boat with a skipper at the local tourist agency in Sali. By this you can tailor your trip rather than be on a crowded tourist boat, that doesn’t stop in Levrnaka. If you are more than 2 people, it will cost you even less…(about 100 euro in total) the captain goes fishing while you take your time and brings you back to Sali after the sunset.

4. Do rock climbing in Paklenica National Park

Zadar Paklenica Rock climbing

Paklenica National Park

Another great place to spend a day is the Paklenica NP, located on the southern slopes of the Velebit mountain, not far from Zadar. Known as one of the top European rock climbing areas, Paklenica is a place of outstanding natural beauty! In total there are 590 routes on good quality limestone rock, of which the majority are bolted. If you fancy rock climbing, this is a must while being in Croatia. For the others, many other activities can be found here – from hiking trails to mountains biking or going on a cave exploration, Paklenica will for sure delight you with its diversity and stunning vistas.

Extra tip: There are 2 canyons where on a hot day (every day during summer) you can take a dip in one of the many natural pools, so make sure you bring your swimming suit.

5. Try Rakija and meet with the locals

Rakija shots

Rakjia

In the Balkans, there is no way you will escape a toast with some locals with their famous alcoholic drink called Rakija. If you don’t, that simply means you’re clearly not willing to blend into the Balkan culture! Rakija is a generic term associated with strong fruit brandies. In Croatia, it is mostly designated as the one made out of grapes. But you can also find some common other flavours like the Šljivovica (plum), Travarica (herbal) or Medica (honey) among many others.

Extra tip: Don’t buy it in supermarkets, there are many local producers that will be more than happy to sell their homemade elixir everywhere in Croatia as this country has a deep tradition in Rakija making.

6. Cycle along the Sava River

Cycling Sava river

Cycling Sava

From Zagreb, the Sava river makes its way East through the Slavonia region, making it as a natural border with Bosnia and Hercegovina. Cycling along the Sava river is like using a time travel machine back into the past. Little village roads make the ride very enjoyable. Along the way you’ll be able to see many, typical for this region, 100 years old wooden houses. It is a unique experience in this preserved nature with sceneries that are nothing like the rest of the country. Tourism infrastructures are almost non-existent and it definitely adds to the authentic charm of Slavonia. Getting closer to the Serbian border, you can clearly witness the tumultuous past left from the war as many buildings are still marked with some bullet impacts. The Sava river is also a great environment to observe birds in their natural habitat.

Extra tip: You could easily spend several days cycling next to the Sava or even cut to meet with the Danube in Vukovar and visit the lovely town of Ilok, which is famous for viniculture since Roman times.

7. Witness a Kolo dance

Kolo dance Salvonia

Kolo Dance in Jakovo

Kolo is the circle dance that you would see normally at weddings, social, cultural and religious ceremonies. It is performed amongst groups of people, having their hands around each other’s waists. This cultural heritage is transferred from generation to generation. The dance is accompanied by traditional instrumental music. National costumes, or folk dresses, vary from region to region in style, design, colours, material, shape and form.

8. Blend in the Goulash Disko Festival

Vis Island Goulash Disko Festival

Goulash Disko Festival

Located on the paradise island of Vis, (a 3hrs ferry trip from Split), this independent music festival will with no doubt conquer your heart. Goulash Disko has seen light for the first time in 2013, through the years it became one of the best human size festivals in the world. There you can find a global and colourful music mix, from Gypsy Punk to Electro, Reggae and Balkan all perfectly blended together. This 5 days celebration takes place in September. It is exclusively financed by crowdfunding and can welcome around 1000 lucky people. And that’s not it, the location is just insanely beautiful as the site is facing a crystal clear water cove that also offers the best sunsets. Check out their video here

Extra tip: There is a blue cave on the Biševo island which is easily accessible by boat from the lovely fishermen village of Komiža next to the festival site.

9. Enjoy the Fjaka Dalmatian lifestyle

Fjaka Dalmatian

Fjaka Dalmatian lifestyle

Fjaka is the Dalmatian lifestyle, which is more or less seen as being relaxed and taking things that come up in an easy way. They tend to have a different concept of time. Basically, it is almost like the time does not exist. This is a psychophysical state of mind when there is an aspiration for being lazy and it might be seen as the ultimate luxury. They would go fishing, have a coffee, take a dip in the nearby cove, grill some fish and seafood among having some shots of rakija and that would make it a perfect day. It actually sounds like a perfect day!

10. Drop the anchor where ever you want

Sailing Dalmatia

Sailing in crystal waters

Sailing around the stunning Croatian islands in the summer is a unique experience which provides a great feeling of freedom. Going from an island to another, finding the best spots to go swimming and snorkelling, discovering the underwater world is a must and the 1000 Croatian islands are the best playground for it. It is also a great way to discover the ancient cities built hundred years ago. Like Korčula for example, the native city of Marco Polo or even the lost island of Lastovo, that remained unspoilt and where the time as stopped. So, if you ever felt like a Pirate, this is for you.

And you? Did you ever experience the Croatian beauties?

 

 

Thanks to Julien Duval photography for providing pictures for number 2 and 8.

 

 

fun story iceland
How long is 24 hours?

How long is 24 hours

A moment lived in Iceland by SiDash Travels, a traveling couple from the United Kingdom.
When travelling, one day can pass too quickly. After anticipating something for so long, time often comes and goes faster than we’d like.
Unfortunately, travel has its dark periods too, and sometimes a mere 24 hours can feel nearly endless.
We experienced both sides of travel’s time-bending phenomena during our recent trip to Iceland.
On one particular morning, the snow was coating the streets, and we could hear a storm whistling through the windows.
We bundled up and scarfed down a warm breakfast, eagerly looking forward to our day at the Blue Lagoon.
It was the last day of our holiday, and we were going to spend it being pampered at the world’s most famous thermal pool.

On our way to the hot pools!

Our flight was early the next day, so we decided to save some money by not booking a hotel room for the next night. We’d just catch a few hours of sleep at the airport before it was time to board.
If the universe occasionally foreshadows trials ahead, maybe this was a sign: As we gathered our belongings, Kristin somehow managed to throw her phone across the room.
We swear it happened in slow motion, but we couldn’t move to stop it – and the phone soared right out our 3rd story window.
To say we are a bit addicted to our phones and social media is an understatement. We are bloggers, after all. Kristin was in a panic but the phone had survived by landing in a soft pile of snow. On with the day.
On our bus ride to the lagoon, we couldn’t believe our luck. The views were absolutely stunning covered in snow. We knew the lagoon was going to be cozy and surreal with this storm on our side.
Sure enough, it was heaven. We sank into the outdoor thermal pools, glasses of white wine in hand, and enjoyed many hours of relaxation as the snow fell lightly around us.
Before we knew it, the day had passed and the lagoon was closing. Warm and happy, we went back to the changing rooms to prepare for the next leg of our journey.
Here’s where everything turned.

The unexpected…

We still had an open tab with the bar for our wine, so I started digging in my bag for my wallet.
Gone!
All of my money, bank cards… All gone. I suddenly remembered putting my wallet in the bus seat’s pocket. It’s weird how we react in these moments. I was mostly consumed with grief that I had lost something I’d owned since I was 16 years old.
Kristin’s concerns were more practical. First, that we couldn’t pay our bar tab. Second, that we couldn’t pay for our transportation to the airport. Third, that we’d just lost a huge amount of cash that we absolutely had to have for our next few weeks in England. Finally, that the last bus to Reykjavik was leaving in 20 minutes. We had very limited time to find solutions to all these problems.
We will always be thankful for the customer service at the Blue Lagoon for handling our situation with such compassion. They covered our bill for us, tracked down the bus where we’d left the wallet, and helped us make arrangements to pick the wallet up once we were back in Reykjavik.
We were saved, but stress levels were understandably high.
What was the last thing we wanted at this point? A night without a bed. But that’s exactly what was waiting for us.
Especially when that plan also fell to pieces.
By the time we were back in the city, wallet in hand, there were no more buses to the airport until morning.
Instead of spending our homeless night in a relatively comfy airport (with cushioned seats and a working heater), we slept in a cold, uncomfortable, drafty bus station.

We settled in for a long wait in the middle of a fierce blizzard – had we really been thankful for this weather just a few hours before?
When we finally arrived at the airport, our muscles were screaming, our faces were sore from the cold, and we hadn’t slept a wink.
We were a little overexcited to finally be in a warm building, but that euphoria was short lived.
Because remember that blizzard? Of course, it had delayed our flight.

Worse and worse

It delayed our flight for SIX HOURS.
The delay was so long that we missed the bus we had nonrefundable tickets for in London.
And by the time we finally reached that beautiful, coveted, blessing of a bed in Northern England, we had been awake for 36 hours straight.
In the morning, we reflected on the day before.
And we concluded that we genuinely love the adventures that make up our travelling lives. The world can throw any disaster at us, and we’ll still want to explore its every nook and cranny. We are addicted to the thrill of mixed emotions, and we’re fascinated by how much you can really experience in just one day.

The result? A great memory!

Here’s the truth: the best parts of travelling are those moments when you think ‘WHY?’
You won’t remember many details from seeing the famous Blue Lagoon; you’ll remember every slow second of the night you slept in a bus station during an arctic Icelandic blizzard. They create your most hilarious stories and you will laugh about them for years to come

This traveler has a blog: SiDash Travels

credit photo: SiDash Travels