When my alarm went off at 3:30 in the morning, I considered "calling in sick." At that moment, I thought nothing in the world could be worth the loss of almost an entire night's sleep.
Instead, I dialed a number and found out weather conditions were expected to be good enough for a ride over Melbourne, one of the only cities on earth that allows hot air balloons to traverse its airspace.
We met in darkness at the Hilton on the Park and departed to Royal Park, where we watched, and sometimes helped, as our crew expertly inflated hot air balloons while the earliest glimpses of sunrise began to highlight the city skyline. Then it was time to board our balloons and ascend.
For an hour, we drifted up and over the city, following the wind and watching sunlight color the buildings. My spirit was so high our balloon couldn't have reached it. Never have I enjoyed an experience as much as I did floating in a hot air balloon over Melbourne! Our journey ended in a park not far from the courts where the Australian Open takes place, which we had just seen from the air.
Not only was the experience worth getting up early for, it was worth every penny. Followed by a champagne brunch back at the Hilton, the experience was one which will be almost impossible to beat.
When you go, dress in layers. The heat from the burners can be intense, but it's also cold before departure in the morning. And if you see Barry or Dave, tell them I say hello.