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The Lengths People Will Go to for a Little Hot Air in July

The Canberra Times | 13 July 2005

Geoff Howe rides solo in a hot-air balloon
Geoff Howe rides solo in a hot-air balloon

WHILE MANY OF US were preparing for work yesterday, Geoff Howe, 62, of Latham, was high above the Canberra earth in a hot-air balloon. He was the pilot of one of two balloons that took off from near the High Court about 7.40am and came down about 9am in a paddock on the south side of Fyshwick. It was minus 2 degrees on the ground when he took off, but don't feel sorry for Geoff. It was 5 or 6 degrees warmer with the inversion layer up at 3500 feet where he was.

Canberra is used having hot-air balloons around - there were nearly 50 in the skies during this year's Canberra Balloon Festival in March. But most days now there's only two or three up there. Yesterday it was the Balloon Dawn Drifters Microsoft balloon, piloted by Geoff, and Balloon Aloft Kamberra Wine balloon that floated almost together towards Black Mountain and then back towards Fyshwick as the city came alive beneath them.

Geoff had eight people aboard, including a family from Spence with four boys, a school teacher and a public servant. Geoff says he's not great with heights. "Don't ask me to jump off a 3m diving board or look over a high wall - but it's different in a balloon; it is for everyone." Geoff is in fact a latecomer to ballooning. He started crewing balloons in 1994 and started piloting them in 1997 after a champagne-inspired conversation. But ballooning is not Geoff's profession (a small mercy given his fear of heights). He's just filling in for a week. When he came down to earth yesterday, he headed for his day job as a CSIRO field technician working with wheat and canola.


So, what's the Hong Kong connection? Two people from Hong Kong have already entered the Bush Capital Marathon on Saturday, July 30, but organiser John Harding is mystified how they came to want to come here. Yan Ling Wong 45, is doing the 42km marathon, and Yan Wah Ma, 37, is doing the 25km bush walk. Perhaps they saw the event publicised on the Internet? Or do they have Canberra connections? Entry forms are available from the Runners Shop or you can download all the information from web-site www.mountainrunning.coolrunning .


Tim the Yowie Man was miffed by an item yesterday in which a postcard sender claimed that the Great Wall of China was the only man-made item that could be seen from space. "What about Australia's very own dingo fence - at 5132km long and over twice as long as the Great Wall surely it can be seen from space as well?" he wrote. Dominic Stinziani might have some bad news for Tim though. "Hate to be picky," he said in an e-mail yesterday before proceeding to be picky anyway, "but I'd like to explode a persistent myth. You CANNOT see the Great Wall of China from space. Sure it's long, but it's nowhere near wide enough." Guess that puts a few holes in the dingo fence theory.


I went to a boxing tournament years ago that used the same ring that had been used for a wrestling tournament the previous week. I am not sure how heavy those guys were, but I guess they were thrown around the ring a lot because come the main bout of the boxing tournament the following week, the worse-for-wear ring collapsed and the only way the fight could go on was for many, many members of the crowd to hold the ring up. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was speaking to the 100kg Warlock who heads the bill in Capital Pro Wrestling's Clash in the Capital which will be held at the Police and Citizen's Youth Club at Turner this Saturday.

It turns out Warlock is a mild- mannered Civic chef. He was making a nice carbonara sauce when I called him yesterday, but on fight night this good chef will go bad, up against Sydney's 80kg Scarecrow in a battle for the CPW championships. Other bouts will be between Crofty the Kambah Klepto and Lobo, Rex and Mad Dog in a No DQ match; a Triple Territories tag team elimination between Cletus and Retus Blood, of Victoria, and Will Phoenix and Bishop Sommers AKA team Metro (NSW), and Russell the Love Muscle (a public servant in his day job) and Jumpin' Jak; a 20-man Royal Rumble to crown the King of Canberra Wrestling; Angeleeka versus Scarlet versus Sammy Jo in a triple threat women's match; and Dino Velvet versus Hank Armastrong versus The Gimp versus a mystery opponent in a four-way elimination match. This is the sixth such Clash in the Capital and promoter J-J. Hewlett is expecting between 300 and 350 people to pack the club from 5.30pm. You can get more info at


Sydney-based science magazine Cosmos is bringing some scientists and thinkers together in Canberra today to discuss and debate the science of ageing, life extension, and the possibility of immortality. The speakers include futurist and research fellow Richard Eckersley of the Australian National University's National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, leader of immunology and genetics at the John Curtin School of Medical Research Simon Easteal and Australian National University senior lecturer in health and law and director of the globalisation and health project at the Centre for Governance of Knowledge and Development Thomas Faunce. The session, at the Holy Grail Restaurant and Wine Bar, Bunda Street, Civic, between 6.30pm and 8.30pm, will be chaired by Cosmos editor and former Quantum reporter Wilson da Silva. Questions are encouraged, audience interaction valued, laughter essential and prizes up for grabs. Entry is free.


Husband and wife Jeff and Brenda Day, of Greenway, will go to Adelaide together in October for the 10th Masters Games, but then they will go their separate ways. Brenda, 56, will be competing in the swimming where the minimum age is just 25 (yes, a 25-year- old master). Jeff, 57, is competing in the sailing where the minimum age is 35 (helm) and 30 (crew). "This will be the third Masters Games," Brenda says. "I've had a wonderful time. I may only be a 'hack' swimmer but thoroughly enjoy the competition and love meeting new people. Masters are a very friendly mob."


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