“That’s it,” declares the Woman with Altitude, as Pterodactyl’s Captain Mike Jervis lands his chopper six inches or so off centre. “You’re down to three stars on Trip Advisor.”
They both know she’s joking but it’s a game they’ve been playing for a couple of hours — even since Mike declared his unnecessary paranoia about getting a rating of than five stars on the influential travel website.
They also both know that, if push came to shove, she’d rate his performance — and the company’s — at nothing less than five stars.
Mike has been with us for much of the day, showing us the stunning country around the Queensland city of Ipswich, including taking us on an aerial pub crawl, hugging the Brisbane River on a low-level, adrenalin-pumping flypast, and generally providing us with a fitting final adventure together — there are some things, as I find out a few days later, which just can’t be unsaid.
Yes, Mike has been an admirable host indeed, from the moment he picked us up from the lawn at Spicers Hidden Vale, a legendary resort where we had spent the night before, and provided the Woman with Altitude with the opportunity to use a line I’m sure she’d been saving up for years.
“Can you tell me how much longer breakfast will be?” she’d asked the waiter. “We’re being picked up by a chopper at 9.30am”
Pterodactyl Helicopters (www.pterodactylhelicopters.com.au) provides a range of options for travellers intent on seeing the area by air, ranging from winery tours to pub crawls to lunches on out-of-the-way locations to short scenic flights.
And the prices aren’t exorbitant, starting at about $130 for a short scenic flight over nearby Lake Manchester.
It wasn’t our first chance to see the area from above.
That had been provided the morning before by Floating Images (www.floatingimages.com.au), which operates hot-air-balloon expeditions in the Greater Brisbane area and whose pilot Graeme Day had prompted us to wake by 4.30am for a designated pick-up at the Metro Ipswich International.
It’s quite a charming and peaceful way to travel. You tend to forget that you’re being carried by the breeze and hence that there’s almost no sense of movement.
Indeed, if it wasn’t for the periodic burst of the burners there’s be complete silence for the duration.
It does represent a return to another era, one in which travel was much more weather-dependent than it generally is now, though it’s obviously comforting to know that the craft — and the dozen or so on-board guests — are all in well trained and practised hands.
The precise take-off and landing points can never be pre-determined. They’re determined on a daily basis depending on what the breezes hold and, indeed, the whole flight is subject to postponement.
What is certain, if the flight goes ahead, is that guests will participate in both the take-off and putting-away procedure — and have a hearty bubbly-charged breakfast afterwards, complete with certificate presentation.