Australia: Alice Springs Outback ballooning at sunrise

After 12 hours of flying and a couple of beers at the Alice Springs Crown Plaza the night before, shuffling to the hotel carpark at 5am is not a joyous experience.

The tour bus is late, but then so am I.

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Never a morning person anyway, and hardly a lover of heights, my apprehension at my impending destination is only buffered by my general stupor.

But the plucky tour guide who narrates in mundane detail the 30-minute drive south to the outskirts of the Alice Springs region does his best to irritate me fully into reality.

Two minibuses full of tourists fill out consent forms on the way to an activity they seem far more up for than me – hot air ballooning across the Outback desert.

We turn abruptly off the highway straight into a ditch, no road in sight, and pull up at the still deflated balloons.

Watching them inflate is in itself a grandiose spectacle.

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