Gay Globe Trekker

Destination: Down Under—Balloon Freeze

Follow my Priscilla-esque journey Down Under as I reveal each week one of 21 reasons for wearing my love for Australia on my sleeve (literally, tattooed there).

#10 Because record-breaking cold couldn’t dissuade me from taking my first-ever hot air balloon ride—over Australia’s majestic Red Centre.

It’s not like I didn’t know it was going to be winter Down Under when I visited during “my summer.”  Unlike the impossible to discern time difference, I generally am hip to the fact that seasons flip-flop when crossing the equator.  But I wasn’t ready for headlines in the local Alice Springs paper announcing a citizen had died from hypothermia during the night.  It’s Australia, after all.

But there I was, scouring the souvenir shops for any stitch of clothing I might add to my wardrobe for the pre-dawn hot air balloon ride over Australia’s Red Centre.  A chance to see kangaroos from the air?  No way I was missing that, honey.

That morning I looked like a lavender Pillsbury Dough Boy outfitted in layer upon layer of gay boy-approved novelty t-shirts.  At the launch site for the Outback Ballooning flight, all I wanted was a cup of hot tea, but when the captain asked for volunteers to help hold the balloon while it inflated, I immediately stuck up my hand.  Hey, I’m no dummy; it was the closest I was getting to an open fire in sub-zero temperatures (okay, that’s Celsius, but dramatic nonetheless).

Watching the sunrise over the plains was magical—with not a kangaroo in site, of course.  But that didn’t matter.  The Korean captain’s humorous patter and a waiting glass of champagne was all that it took to keep a smile on my face.  Or maybe it was the cold that froze my face in place.  A photo montage:

photo by Tourism NT

Like one of my all-time favorite films Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the ultimate destination on my last trip Down Under was Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the country’s “Red Centre.” Granted, I didn’t take a bus or wear a silver lamé dress (damn), but I did sing lots of disco songs and chose a circuitous route. I found the majesty of Uluru spellbinding—one of those places that more than lives up to expectations. No wonder it’s a finalist to be one of the New7Wonders of Nature, an online poll that will announce winners on 11.11.11. Join me in voting for Uluru/Ayers Rock, by visiting Who knows, maybe I’ll end up adding Uluru to my sleeve.

photo by Jamie Beck; tattoo by Friday Jones

Jon Paul Buchmeyer for

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