Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Fabulous balloon flight in Camden and chilling out at Rose Bay

PHIL: Day 42/28 Mar

beautiful sunrise over the misty landscape of Camden
Only four hours after getting to sleep we drag ourselves into consciousness again to drive out the 60km or so to Camden where our friend Rick Gillespie runs a balloon ride business.

It is very chilly at 0430 in the field at Cobbity Bridge where he has chosen to take off from. Other passengers include a well-known (to Australians) moto-cross rider and his moll plus two Bondi gays celebrating a birthday. 

The flight ends, after a magical drift through radiation mist, on the glider airstrip at Camden Airport where, conveniently, Rick has arranged a serious breakfast with Phoebe. 

Phoebe is a lady of uncertain age who looks, and talks, like the heroine aviatrixes of the inter-war years. Her father founded Camden Airport in the 1920s only to lose control to the military in WWII. 

Captain Gillespie has brought us safely down!
Only her small but exquisite bungalow remains to the family alongside the aerodrome boundary, but her tales of early Australian aviation are ineradicable.

Filled up with Australian ‘champagne’ we retreat to the beach at Bondi to recover – Allie by swimming amongst the surfers, me to doze and watch the ‘beautiful people’ of both genders (and, no doubt, both orientations) gradually fill the sea and sand. 

Bondi is timeless in appearance, and recalling the great worldwide surfing era of the 60s and 70s the inevitable ‘Beach Boys’ tunes ring in my head.

chilling out at Rose Bay
Nearby Rose Bay, devoid now of the stately Sandringham flying boats which served Lord Howe Island when I first worked in Sydney in 1969, still has bobbing seaplanes amongst the yachts. 

Sydney Harbour is one of the world’s truly beautiful marine/urban combinations and we discuss our affection for the others in San Francisco and Bristol.

ALLIE: DAY 42: Wednesday, 28th of March

Another Ballooning adventure and a swim at Bondi Beach
mysterious morning mist over Camden
3.00am! What a time to get into a car and drive out of Sydney for 60km to an airfield called Camden. 

That’s where we meet Nick Gillespie and his team for our second flight in Australia. With some 10 odd punters we drive out into the fields and look for a suitable launch site. 

It’s very cold and I am glad that by 05.55 we finally get in the air and the heat of the burner makes it a bit more bearable. 

Just a few minutes later the sun rises above the clear cut skyline of Sydney and create a magic light. Haze and clouds of fog stretch over some parts of the countryside and the shadow of the balloon reflects in them creating a great scene for a picture. 

passengers enjoying the magic views
The winds are very light and Rick manages to fly us a box. So we cross over the airfield and drift towards the town of Camden nearly getting stuck with no winds over the police station. Lower level winds then take us back towards the airfield where we land after a 50min flight.

Rick really seems to enjoy his job as pilot and as entertainer; he cracks one joke after the other (when he presses the remote control of his camera to take a picture of all his punters, he just says: ‘this makes all the garages down there go up and down!’).

Since we landed so conveniently on the airfield, it’s just a two minutes walk back to our cars and the breakfast place. 

Here an old lady, called Fhoebe, invites us into her lovely home situated right in the middle of this local airport. Her grandfather obviously founded this airfield after some distressed aircraft had done an emergency landing on his farm grounds. 

with Rick after a lovely flight
Being a gentleman he not only helped the pilot but also thought that planes were wonderful and started to invite more pilots to land on his grounds. Such the creation of Camden airfield. 

Up to date this is a very active airstrip with a pilot training school and loads of antique aircrafts (my husband of course going all mad about taking pictures of them!).

After lots of nice Australian champagne we manage to say good-bye to our friends and Fhoebe and drive back towards Sydney with a stop a the notorious Bondi beach. 

surfers braving the waves  ..
It is THE beach in Sydney and I have to see it, Phils says. Indeed it’s got a lovely wide sandy beach and beautiful clear water. But the waves are high and the currents fierce.

...and me running away from them!
So it’s not really a place to do serious swimming. You should rather be a keen surfer to enjoy the 2m high waves. It’s quite impressing actually to watch those surfers in their numerous vain attempts to reach the top of their surfboards and skate within or on top of the waves.

Most of them crash after nanoseconds in midst the foam of a clashing huge wave. No a sport for me I decide and fall into a tired doze.

A short stop at Rose bay to check out the seaplanes (they are not operating at the moment I must gladly admit to say, otherwise Phil would have been very tempted to fly in one of them) and back to the car hire place to drop our car. Unfortunately Avis seems to try and hide from the outside world and we drive 10 times around the stupid place and cannot find access to the building.

Trying to find a sunset bar in Sydney seems to be impossible. We end up buying ginger ale and tonic water from a shop and sit on a bench to watch the setting sun over Darling bay. 

It’s not really our lucky evening as the “Lord Nelson Hotel bar” also decides to be against us having any food there. So we end up nibbling cold sweet bread with cold cheese and a few pickles. Yummy!

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