I can guarantee that Hand Luggage Only isn’t going to see a more outlandish or enjoyable mode of transport than a hot air balloon, but drifting on the breeze does pose some organisational challenges for the compact traveller.
Despite my general tendency to plan everything to within a millimetre of its life, it was only on Wednesday that I finally decided that taking an early-morning hot air balloon from Alice Springs would be my tourist indulgence of choice. (Chalk that up as the second piece of serendipity during this trip.) It’s certainly the most novel way I can think of to vary the transport modes used during the project.
Doing this in May is quite sensible, as the pickup time is a comparatively social 0515, as opposed to the 4am pickups that happen during summer. But even leaving aside the need to edit the US Lifehacker feed before I leave the hotel, this entirely pleasurable journey (what’s not to like about a balloon flight with chicken and champagne to follow?) poses a challenge I didn’t predict: dust.
At the end of the trip, everyone helps to fold the balloon back up. (‘Everyone’ in this context does not include a few disgruntled French tourists.) This is great fun, but it results in everything you are wearing being covered in a fine layer of dirt. So now, despite having washed all my clothes in a machine at the hotel in Cairns on Tuesday, I pretty much have to do it all again, and contemplate some high-speed dry-cleaning when I get to Perth tomorrow for my jacket, which isn’t a washing machine item.
The other organisational lesson of this excursion? The hat I purchased in Devonport got another airing. With the on-ground temperature at 5 degrees and the temperature rising to 10 degrees when en ciel (as our lazy French friends would say), head covering is very useful.
Incidentally, the most astonishing detail of this trip is that I had perfectly good Vodafone GPRS signal on my BlackBerry when we landed approximately in the middle of nowhere. That might well have been the case in the balloon, but I was too busy taking photos to notice.
Throughout May 2009, Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman will be travelling throughout Australia with just one carry-on bag for the Hand Luggage Only project.