He’s conquered the rugged peaks of Argentina as a mountaineer and ski instructor, he’s zipped through the streets of London as a motorcycle courier, but these days, he floats calmly and silently 3,000 feet above Melbourne in a wicker basket, waiting for the first beams of orange light to peek over the Dandenong Ranges.
“I never get tired of seeing that,” says Nick Brau, Chief Pilot at Melbourne’s Global Ballooning. “It must be something inherent in us – that first breath of life.”
Watching the city come to life at dawn is what makes the 3am starts worthwhile for Nick, who wearily admits that he’s really more of a “night owl”. Ascending before sunrise is essential to avoid strong winds, which in summer, means that Nick sets his alarm for the “ridiculous” time of 2.30am. “I wish I could go to bed early!” says Nick. Unfortunately, bringing up two children makes turning in before sundown impossible, so he copes by sneaking in a few hours of sleep after the flight.
Bleary-eyed as he is on the solitary drive into the city, by the time Nick meets passengers he’s usually feeling fresh and motivated. “It’s a complete contrast to the people who are still partying on the street,” says Nick, chuckling. “We’re fresh and active when those people are in a bit of a pathetic state.”
Before he takes off, Nick eschews Maccas or 7-Eleven coffee, preferring to wait until he’s back on solid ground (“there’s no opportunity to use the bathroom once you’re in the air!”). Besides, for this adventurous soul, being part of Melbourne’s morning ritual from above is far more invigorating than any caffeine fix.
“When we take off 20 minutes before sunrise, it can be almost absolutely dark,” he explains. “The lights begin to come on in the high-rise buildings as the first office workers arrive. Then, we’re encountering rush hour from the air. Dogs barking, the sound of the rumble of the tyres against the tarmac: you hear all the sounds from below.”
|Venue name:||Global Ballooning hot air balloon flights|
173-175 Swan St
|Opening hours:||Flight times vary|