Sunday 25 September 2011

Clock, toe, balloon

The start of daylight saving always makes me think of Alice Springs: it was because way back in 1973 a dozy railway booking clerk in Sydney didn't allow for the fact that there is no daylight saving in the Northern Territory that I turned up in Alice to catch the Ghan back to Adelaide only to find that it had been gone for an hour. And the next one wasn't for another three days. I found that out by climbing over the padlocked station gate to check the timetable - and it was when I was climbing back out again that I tripped and fell, gouging a chunk out of my big toe so bloodily that a passing police car took me to the hospital for a dressing.

The second time I was in Alice I scraped a hotel door over my toes and had to swathe them in plasters too - but last time I escaped all injury, which was particularly fortunate, considering a hot-air balloon ride was on the itinerary. The worst thing about balloon rides in Australia is having to get up so early: pre-dawn, for some aeronautical reason. The one time I went up in England it was in the evening and very civilised, and the standard glass of champagne afterwards went down very well - at about 8 o'clock in the morning, it's not normally so welcome, unfortunately.

On the other hand, seeing the sun rise as you float along is pretty magical, and seeing the colour flood into the landscape is just lovely. That last trip was the most exciting, though, and not in an entirely good way, as we missed our first choice of landing spot, came a little too close to a power line for my personal peace of mind, and then had to hang on to the basket as we were dragged along sideways before stopping. The champagne was more medicinal that day.

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