The writer (second from left) having a blast (Picture by Skypoint Climb)
A view of the hinterland from the hot air balloon (Photo by Zuliantie Dzul)
Each passenger of the Hot Air Balloon ride will receive a certificate to congratulate them on completing their very first Hot Air Ballooning experience

SkyPoint external building climb and hot air balloon ride give Zuliantie Dzul memorable high altitude adventures in Gold Coast, Australia

IT’S a bright and sunny Friday in Gold Coast, Australia, with a sky that is deep blue, flecked with tiny white clouds. I’m starting to feel the heat on my skin even though it’s only 9am.

I’m at Q1 Building, a supertall residential skyscraper inspired by the Sydney 2000 Olympic torch and the Sydney Opera House. The building, which is located in bustling Surfer’s Paradise, offers an unparallelled and breath-taking view of one of Australia’s vibrant cities.

But I’m not going to enjoy the view behind the glass panels and with a drink in my hand. Today, I’m going to experience Gold Coast like never before – by going on Australia’s highest external building climb, SkyPoint Climb, and enjoying an open-air adventure atop of one of Queensland’s most recognisable landmarks.

I’m here on a media familiarisation trip in conjunction with AirAsia X’s 10th anniversary with Gold Coast being the first route of AirAsia X in Australia since its inception. Seven of us from the media will take up the challenge of climbing the SkyPoint today.

Our adventure begins with a safety briefing at the Mission Control centre on the ground floor before we are provided with a specially-designed climb suit and full body harness. I take my chance to warm up and do some stretching while listening to the briefing.

After final inspections on our gear, we follow our climb leader Brody Shaw, a 25-year-old who’s passionate about the outdoors.

We make our way to the launch platform via the building’s high-speed elevator that takes us from the ground to level 77 in 42.7 seconds. We certainly receive many head-turns as we line up at the fully enclosed glass airlock, our gateway to outside the building. Those in our group who stay behind are waving at us and taking our photos from behind the glass panels.

As Shaw opens the door to the stairs, my heart beats faster. I’m not going to lie. I had my doubts about my fitness and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But it’s too late to turn back now. The way forward now is upward.

Carefully, we all lock our harness to the purpose-built safety rail and climb the step ladder which positions us 240 metres above street level and continue to climb to the summit, approximately 30 metres from here.

The climb, which opened to public in January 2012, has 298 stairs from start to finish. It tends to get really windy up here and so, for safety reasons, climbers are not allowed to bring any loose items, including smartphones.

It’s rather an easy climb, I admit. Once we reach the platform, we take our time to soak in the view and the cool breeze. Blessed with kilometres of picturesque, spell-binding beaches and wide expanse of sea, the view from up here makes me forget about my fear of heights. The view is simply spectacular!

I learnt that from May to November each year, the whales migrate north to escape the cool waters of the south.

Brody did mention earlier to keep a lookout on the ocean as we might just get the glimpse of these majestic marine mammals.

But luck is not on our side, whale-wise. There’s no sign of them at all and I’m starting to think that all the whales have migrated.

We take our turn to have our photos taken by Shaw before we descend back down to the Observation Deck, which is located on Level 77.

The Observation Deck is for the less adventurous to sit back, relax and grab a bite to eat and enjoy the unsurpassed 360-degree views of the Gold Coast beaches to the lush hinterland and beyond.

Feeling a sense of accomplishment, we erupt in joy as we step back inside the building. Everyone agrees that the exhilarating SkyPoint Climb is something we’d definitely do again.

We proceed to the Mission Control to return the suit and harness. We are presented with a climb certificate to acknowledge our achievement in conquering the SkyPoint Climb and also to collect the photos taken by Shaw earlier on the summit. We leave the building with big smiles on our face and are ready for more adventures that Gold Coast has to offer.

Up, up and away

Adrenaline from the climb lingers for quite some time and just as it’s about to rest, another high altitude adventure awaits.

The wake-up call comes at 3.30am on Sunday, but I’m already up since 3am (that’s 1am Malaysian time, mind you).

Walking down to the lobby, my anticipation and excitement are building up as I’m about to go on a hot air balloon ride, a first for me.

Other people are just making their way home after hours of partying on a Saturday night. Our group of media is half-awake as we wait for our shuttle to go to the take-off field.

The van finally arrives and an Asian guy steps out and introduces himself as Light Chen, our driver from Hot Air. He briefs us about the journey we are about to embark upon.

We’re going to Canungra, a small rural town and locality in the Scenic Rim Region local government area of South East Queensland.

Canungra is nestled in the middle of the four major tourist destinations, and is the gateway to the Gold Coast hinterland; Mount Tamborine, Lamington National Park, O'Reilly's Guesthouse and Binna Burra.

After about 40 minutes, the sight of two giant hot air balloons, one yellow and another is orange, being prepared for take-off excites me. The pilots are checking and changing gas canisters, making sure everything is safe. Hot Air, which has been flying since 1996, is committed to providing passengers with the highest standards of service, reliability and safety.

After storing our bags which will be taken care of by the Hot Air personnel, we step one by one into the basket, which can fit about 20 people. Our pilot for today is Ben Parkes who has 10 years of aviation experience. The sky is getting brighter and by 6am, the balloon is slowly off the ground. We certainly have the best luck in weather as the sky is clear and there’s not much wind.

Parkes carefully manoeuvres the balloon, releasing the hot air from time to time as we ascend to 730 metres above the ground at about 30kph.

The balloon floats slowly and gently over the spectacular Gold Coast hinterland, offering a panoramic view of Tambourine Mountain and Lamington National Park. A herd of sheep can be seen grazing the grass on the vast green fields down below. From the blue ocean to the lush green valley, this change of scenery is certainly refreshing.

After 30 minutes flying above the valley, it’s time to land as delicious hot breakfast awaits us at the O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards. The landing can be rough, according to Parkes, and we’re advised to bend our knee and lean against the basket.

Chen, our trusted driver, is already waiting down below with the personnel who has been taking care of our belongings. All of us join the merriment of folding the balloon before we leave the field for breakfast.

For this adventure, we also receive a certificate to congratulate us on completing our very first Hot Air Ballooning experience. We really did it!

As I leave Gold Coast for Kuala Lumpur later that night, I realised how grateful I am to be able to experience this journey. It was lavished yet chilled, and though it was over so fast, it was a journey worth the experience. My bucket list has one thing less, now that I’m no longer a hot air balloon virgin! I promise myself a return trip for another round of exhilarating adventures. And Gold Coast can offer just that.

nor.zuliantie@nst.com.my

Travel FIle

SkyPoint

Website: www.skypoint.com.au

Email: info@skypoint.com.au

Opening hours: Sunday – Thursday (7.30am – 7pm), Friday - Saturday (7.30am- late)

Hot Air Balloon

Website: www.hotair.com.au

E-mail: goldcoast@hotair.com.au

Air Asia X flies 11 times weekly between the Gold Coast and Kuala Lumpur. Log in to www.airasia.com for more details

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