Highs and Lows

A lot has happened since my last post:
On my return to Australia from Turkey, I arranged to pick the balloon up from DB Schenker’s warehouse in Brisbane. I can’t say enough good things about DB Schenker, they have been great to deal with and made the logistics very smooth. Having them do it for me takes a lot of stress out of the shipping logistics, which is sometimes a difficult task.

It was great to see the balloon had made its trip from New Zealand unscathed.

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The next big thing a couple of days later was to pick up the truck. I went over to where it was being kept and checked it over. All seemed in order. While driving back to my friends’ place (where I was staying), the engine suddenly stopped. It happened in a tricky place, in the middle of a busy road and rush hour was approaching. I managed to get it to the side of the road with the starter motor, but it still blocked one lane. Luckily for me the Acting Assistant Police Commissioner of Queensland was on his way home and stopped to help. He put me on to a good towing company and called for Traffic Management. Traffic Management promptly turned up, but I had to wait over an hour for the tow company to come. A special tow truck was needed as my truck was larger and heavier than what a standard tow truck could take. My truck was loaded up and taken back to where I had picked it up from, (a mechanic’s garage). It was Friday, so I had to wait until Monday to get it fixed. As it turned out, the fuel gauge wasn’t working properly and I had run out of fuel. That isn’t such a bad thing, but when I tried to drive it off the road with the starter motor, it blew the electrics. A couple of parts needed to be replaced and I was on my way again late on Monday morning.

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The rest of the day was spent peeling off all the old stickers that the previous owners had put on the truck. It was a huge task and took around 12 hours to do. The signwriter came a couple of days later and applied the stickers. It was a relief that the measurements were correct and the stickers fit where they should.  I was very happy with the final result.The other relief was that the balloon fitted into the truck’s storage area perfectly. Again it was a case of making sure measurements were correctly done and Kubicek Balloons helped with that. They even made a unique bag for the balloon’s envelope so it would fit better while stored in the truck.
I’m not sure what I would’ve done if the balloon didn’t fit.

The first school visit in Australia was at Ferny Grove High School. I went there at around 7.30am. The weather was perfect and with the help of a couple of local balloonists, we got the balloon up and did a tether. A number of primary school kids came to have a look also. A speaker system had been set up and I spoke to approximately 400 kids about what the flying High For Kids Project, UNICEF and making a positive difference to society using the talents they have. It was well received. The school made me a number of postcards to pass on to other schools I will visit along the route. I presented the school with a few postcards which the kids had made at Balmoral School in New Zealand.

A couple of days later I left Brisbane and made my way to Grafton. A big thank you must go to my friends I stayed with in Brisbane,  Tim and Michelle Jorgensen. They went beyond the call of duty to help me.

Grafton Aero Club kindly invited me to inflate the balloon at their airfield. I arrived there on the Sunday evening and was greeted by a few of the members. They were very hospitable and invited me to stay in the club’s bunkhouse for the night. The next morning a few of the members helped to prepare the balloon for South Grafton Public School’s visit at 9.30am. A couple of balloonist friends made the drive from Coffs Harbour to help me out also. The wind had increased to about 15kts by the time the children arrived. We managed to get the balloon up for a couple of minutes before putting it down again due to the wind. I invited the kids to come and have a closer look at the balloon. There was a lot of excitement from the 600 kids.
We packed up the balloon and I went back to the school to talk to the whole school over three groups. Postcards were again exchanged.

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I stayed in Coffs Harbour that night and drove to the north of Sydney the following day. I stayed with relations for a few nights. While there, I attended a couple of meetings in Sydney.
On the Friday I drove to Canberra where I am now attending the Canberra Balloon Spectacular. The first flight yesterday was relatively low and slow across Lake Burley Griffin.
Canberra is a very interesting city and it is rare to be able to fly over a capital city with so many embassies and government buildings. It is a relatively new city, 101 years old, and was especially planned to be the capital city of Australia after it moved from Melbourne. The layout of the roads is very easy and it is full of parks and wide roads.
The second flight this morning was spectacular with all the balloons flying under a rainbow. Hopefully it is a sign of good things to come. The Canberra Balloon Spectacular runs until the 16th of March, after which I will pack up the balloon and truck and send them both to Malaysia.
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About the author: Andrew Parker

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