It was the annual Hunter Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival this weekend. Nicole and I decided to drive up for the festivities this weekend, electing to head up on Saturday despite the certain rain forecast. After all, Hunter Valley is NSW’s premier wine country, and what better excuse to indulge in an afternoon of wine tasting?
We hit up 5 wineries, and walked away with 1.5 cases. Mmm. Thankfully, the rain stopped by mid afternoon, and we set up our tent with no incident.
By the time we roused ourselves at 420am Sunday morning, the voluminous clouds from the day before had completely cleared out, leaving in its wake a blanket of quiet glittering stars. It was chilly out. 4 degrees C. But we were on a mission, to take pictures of lift off!
There were dozens of other likeminded photographers (although I don’t think anyone else camped), so we quickly formed a convoy to drive towards the launch point. But in a classic case of blind-leading-the-blind, the leading cars one by one got felled by spotty GPS and everyone ended up driving in circles for a while. Thankfully, Nicole persevered in her quest for the elusive cell tower signal, and we made it to the paddock in time to see the balloons fire up.
We had a most wondrous Christmas to New Year’s break, starting with our road trip down from Sydney to Melbourne. We spent Christmas at my aunt’s, and shared many amazing meals and laughter. Before heading back north, we squeezed in a day trip to Yarra Valley, where we delightedly tasted north of 40 different wines.
Our second portion of the trip was less about the eating, and more about the kayaking and snorkeling. Stopping at Tathra on the Sapphire Coast for a day and a half, we caught a couple sunrises and managed a 22 km paddle up the Bega River.
While the cloudless blue days made for undramatic sunrises and sunsets, they were perfect for being on the water.
We also spent a night up in Jervis Bay – a place where we seriously need to go back to spend more time at. On the eve of New Year’s Eve, we got in some snorkeling at Honeymoon Bay. Despite the heat of the sun, the water was chilly, but the snorkeling was worth it as we spotted a sleeping woebbegone shark under a shelf, and as we were about to head back into the bay, a pod of frolicking dolphins. 😀
On New Year’s Eve, we got in a 8km paddle from Callala Bay to Myola Beach. The water was flat and glassy when we launched, and we excitedly kept our eyes peeled for another dolphin encounter. No luck this time though. An hour and a half in, the wind started to pick up, and we decided to turn back in. It was tough work battling against the winds and currents, so that we were glad to finally slide our boats back to shore again. Afterwards, we learnt that Hyams Beach just south along the bay was closed down because of shark sightings. That’ll have been neat. Heh.
But in all, we had a marvelous vacation to end an incredible 2015!