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If you’ve lived in the Hunter Valley for as long as I have (all of my 28 years) or you’ve only been here for a little while, you would have seen the hot air balloons float along the skyline just after sunrise. You’ve probably wondered what it would be like to float amongst the clouds. Well now I know and it is SPECTACULAR.

Beyond Ballooning is a family business that has been operating in the Hunter Valley for 12 years.

Nathan Allan is Beyond Ballooning’s Chief Pilot. The company has seven balloons ranging from two passengers up to 24 and fly every day at sunrise.

Since the hot air balloons are spotted up in the clouds at sunrise, it’s an early start. My boyfriend Morgan and I checked in at Rydges Resort at 4:15am and were directed to our allocated pilot. We had Chief Pilot Nathan.

Nathan gave us a safety briefing including what to do when we came in to land – the part I was worried about!

After that we jumped on mini buses and headed out to find the perfect spot for take-off. We ended up out the back of the Adina Vineyard.

When the balloons are inflated they stand six storeys high but inflating them was easier than I thought. The balloon is unfolded and tied to the basket, then two huge industrial fans blow air into the balloon to inflate it.

Once there’s enough cold air, hot air is blown in and the balloon rises and the basket sits upright. That’s when we all climbed in and got ready for take-off.

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It was incredible. Nathan said we would barely feel the basket leave the ground, and he was right. All of a sudden we were floating above the mist and the vineyards watching the sunrise. We floated along quite low before reaching about 3,000 ft. It was so peaceful.

There were five balloons in our fleet that morning including a smaller balloon that was for a marriage proposal. One of the Beyond Ballooning staff was on the ground with a sign that said ‘Will you Marry Me?’ and held it up just as the balloon with the soon to be engaged couple in it came overhead. How beautiful – even Morgan admitted it was incredibly romantic.

We floated along for about an hour before it was time to make our landing in a paddock. Nathan taught all of us the brace position which we had to get into before we landed.

The landing was much smoother than I expected, a couple of bumps into the ground and then we were down, just like that. There was absolutely nothing to worry about.

We all hopped out of the balloon and helped pack it up and let me tell you, we earned our breakfast back at the Rydges.

Breakfast was delicious. A buffet breakfast with a glass of champagne after a hot air balloon flight – what could be better.

No matter how many times Nathan flies over the Hunter Valley, he said it never gets old and over his 15 years of flying, being a pilot has taken him to some incredible heights.

“The Hunter Valley is the oldest commercial balloon location in Australia. Ballooning started here more than 40 years ago and it’s a combination of good flying weather patterns and amazing scenery.

“I have flown in Canada and Africa and there’s still a few other places on my bucket list.

“It’s always challenging, always different.

“My favourite thing is flying everyone for the first time and seeing their reactions – it’s good fun!”

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