Christchurch's geography and climate are ideal for ballooning, they provide a unique situation where passengers can enjoy a superb view of the ocean, mountains and plains. As the sun rises, our flight takes us over a checkerboard of farmland laced with rivers, with the Southern Alps dominating the horizon to the west and the endless blue of the ocean to the east. After landing in a farmer's field, we relax and enjoy a glass of chilled Methode Champenois. Up Up and Away provides courtesy transfers from hotels for visitors staying in central Christchurch. New Zealand is one of the cheapest places in the world for ballooning, costing about 30% less than other countries.
Those colourful hot air balloons look magnificent over the green Canterbury Plains and in front of the backdrop of snow-capped or -covered mountains of the Southern Alps.
The wider region of Canterbury is said to be New Zealand's finest ballooning location, especially the area around the wintersport town of Methven and Mt. Hutt. One company says: "There is no other place in the world where it is possible to fly from the centre of the city, in view of the sun rising out of the ocean, toward snow-capped mountains." If this superlative is true is hard to prove - but it sounds great, and at least it is correct that the balloons take off in Christchurch's Hagley Park and then set off to have the perfect over-view of the coastline from the Kaikouras to Banks Peninsula and down to Timaru in the southm and the Southern Alps in the west.
It is best to do ballooning in the early morning when the chance is high to have calm conditions.
All companies say that New Zealand offers the best value balloon flights in the world and is the cheapest place to do it. Let's hope this is also correct ;-)
Some companies in and around Christchurch:
Up Up And Away, Christchurch
Phone (03) 381 4600
Prices (as Jan. 2007): $260pp, children $220, free pick-up service.
Sunrise starts at 5am (Nov-Feb) and later in other months. The whole trip takes about 4hrs.
Aoraki Ballon Safaris, Methven
Freephone (0800) 256 837, Landline (03) 302 8172, Mobile (025) 334 861 www.nzballooning.co.nz
Prices (as Jan. 2007):
Superior plains flight incl. champagne breakfast: $295pp, standby-fare $245
City flight Christchurch: $250, standby $225
Equipment: Sturdy shoes, warm clothes, sunglasses, sunscreen