Having met our pilot we headed off to the launch site, stopping on the way to let off a small helium balloon to confirm the wind direction.
We made our way to the part of the river known as Yarra Bend which was to be our take off site and began to prepare the balloons. As the sun came up, the balloon itself rose and we jumped into the basket (which was pretty crowded with 10 people in it) to begin our glide over the city.
After about 50 minutes in the air our pilot brought us down gracefully into Albert Park. This was quite a success given that the same pilot made the news last year for dragging the same balloon we were in through the bay after overshooting the park and trying to land on the beach.
After landing and helping to pack up the balloon it was back in the bus to the Sofitel for a breakfast buffet accompanied by a glass of champagne. All in all an experience well worth the early start, a fantastic view of the city and a very peaceful way to see it.
And all finished by 9.30 in the morning meaning we still had a full day ahead of us.
Being the first to arrive we had to find our allocated plots which wasn't the easiest exercise given that at that point of the peninsula on side of the road is effectively non-stop camp site for about 10kms. We also got our fair share of campers envy when driving past all of the well established camper-caravan-tent combos. Eventually we found our plot and set about putting up our newly acquired tent. The actual construction was not overly complex (having practiced in our apartment during the week) however we had probably not counted on the 37 degree heat meaning that even the most straightfoward construction turned us into sweat-drenched campers. The campsite itself is interesting as (and this is why it is 10km long) it effectively fills the grassland between the coast road and the beach. As a result our plot was approximately 25 metres from the road. This was offset by being 25 metres from a glorious beach.
The temperature meant a quick dip in the bay was required and it was good to find that it stayed shallow for a long while and, having been warmed by the sun, was a pleasant place to drift around in for a few cooling minutes. As this was an organised camp site it did come with some advantages including a dated but clean enough toilet and shower block (reminiscent of prison) and, even more importantly, a couple of power points for each site which meant that we could boil a kettle, charge our phones and that parents could provide young boys with portable DVD players when looking for a few minutes peace.
Having to work a full day and then drive down the coast on what was due to be a glorious weekend affected the arrival of the remaining campers and the final groups turned up around 9.00 meaning both tent construction and barbecuing were done in the dark on the first night. An entertaining evening of chatting and beer drinking was followed by us turning in for our first night in a tent in Australia - which turned out not to be too bad. The temperature was still warm enough that it was a hot night but helped by the airbed we got a good few hours sleep.
Arising at about 8am on the Saturday it was clear as soon as you emerged from the tent it was going to be another hot one and a BBQ breakfast was followed by us relocating to the beach - where we stayed for the day. The next eight hours were filled with a combination of sun-bathing and shade seeking, reading and snoozing, cricketing, rugby playing, frisbee throwing, paddling, swimming, floating, sun-screen applying, sun-screen forgetting and of course drinking.
The hot weather did bring one issue however with a total fire ban coming into place on Saturday meaning that all naked flames were banned - which of course meant no bbq. We were therefore forced to walked to the Rye strip and, along with all of other other local campers, look to find some food at one of the local bars, restaurants or take-aways. Our party opted for a combination of take-away Thai or fish and chips and after waiting over half an hour for the food took it back to the campsite to eat in the dark (again).
The sun had drained some energy from most of the group (with the notable exception of the two young boys who were still wanting to play ball late into the night) and a relatively early night ensued.
Sunday morning saw us take a chance with a cooler and overcast morning to fire up the bbq for a final time to create some top quality bacon, egg, hashbrown and cheese butties. It was then time to deconstruct our home for the weekend, re-load the car and head back home.
So what it the conclusion? Will the Barley's be camping again? I think the answer is - we spent $100 on a tent so we better had really. We did enjoy the weekend in actual fact and being able to wake up and wander straight onto the beach was a very pleasant way to spend a weekend. The conditions - I think we still need some amenities and the fact that it doesn't rain as frequently means that, unlike the Yorkshire Dales, you don't always need to be worried about waking up in a quagmire.
So over a couple of weeks we have been up up in the air and slept right down on the ground. Both were successful and we would certainly happily do either again should the chance arise.