FLY­ING HIGH

The Dee­ble fam­ily have rid­den the bal­loon­ing gold rush.

North East Living Magazine - - Contents -

The Dee­ble fam­ily have rid­den the bal­loon­ing gold rush.

words Jar­rah Loh pho­tos Sup­plied by Gol­drush Bal­loon­ing

FOR many years there was an an­nual air bal­loon fes­ti­val held in Mans­field. And that’s how Rob Dee­ble got so well-ac­quainted with the area. Though liv­ing out of Mel­bourne at the time, he trav­elled wher­ever the bal­loons went, and at that time there was a lot of ac­tion in the North East. What was once a big fes­ti­val even­tu­ally faded away, but Rob never for­got it, and when he and his wife Lisa de­cided they needed to make a move, Mans­field and its one time thriv­ing hot air bal­loon in­dus­try seemed like the recipe they’d been look­ing for.

Though orig­i­nally from Mel­bourne, Rob grew up in the high­lands of Pa­pua New Guinea, where his fa­ther helped en­gi­neer the new roads and con­struc­tion across the young coun­try. So it was with lit­tle sur­prise that when he fin­ished school, it wasn’t straight to univer­sity or a nine-to-five job for him. In­stead he and sev­eral of his mates took to tour­ing around the Great South­ern Land.

Fit­tingly, he landed a chance job as a light­house op­er­a­tor in Arn­hem Land. Once he got a taste for that kind of em­ploy­ment, a reg­u­lar of­fice job was never go­ing to cut it for Rob. So once back in Vic­to­ria, he cut his teeth with ground crews, chas­ing bal­loons around the Yarra Val­ley. This even­tu­ally snow­balled into him get­ting a com­mer­cial fly­ing li­cence of his own, and be­fore he knew it, Rob Dee­ble was syn­ony­mous with hot air bal­loon­ing. It was also when he first met Paul Gibbs.

“It is only a small in­dus­try,” said Rob, who has op­er­ated bal­loons for Paul’s busi­ness Gol­drush Bal­loon­ing for years now.

Be­fore that, Rob had trav­elled the world on a bal­loon string, fly­ing out of Hol­land, Ger­many and Bel­gium, just to name a few places, not to men­tion years of fly­ing over Mel­bourne city in bal­loons of ev­ery shape and size one could imag­ine. And it was dur­ing this time, 15 years ago, that he met a real es­tate agent called Lisa. >>

“I sold his block of land and got his money,” Lisa said with a laugh. “Then he gave me a call later and asked me out to din­ner.” Now 15 years later they are still to­gether, mar­ried with their son, Ben, and Lisa’s twin girls from her pre­vi­ous mar­riage. The cou­ple set­tled in Kinglake, but fol­low­ing the drama and dev­as­ta­tion of the Black Satur­day bush­fires, they de­cided to make a fresh start for their fam­ily. So, with the plan al­ready in place to help Gol­drush Bal­loon­ing es­tab­lish it­self as the only bal­loon com­pany run­ning in Mans­field and the King Val­ley, the cou­ple went full steam ahead.

“Global Bal­loon­ing used to have the big bal­loon fes­ti­val in Mans­field,” said Rob.

“I used to work in Mans­field back then, so we came in think­ing of bring­ing that back again.”

But the plan was more than just bal­loon­ing. Lisa had been an Aus­tralian Cham­pion javelin thrower and fit­ness body com­peti­tor so she brought her fit­ness busi­ness to the High Coun­try as well. But as if that wasn’t enough, they also wanted to ex­pand into cat­tle farm­ing, and to fully utilise their new farm prop­erty they in­cluded an ac­com­mo­da­tion fa­cil­ity. “We knew the tourist land­scape in Mans­field,” said Lisa. “So, we al­ways had this multi-busi­ness plan go­ing in - cat­tle, fit­ness, ac­com­mo­da­tion and the bal­loon­ing. My pas­sion was in fit­ness, and Rob had bal­loon­ing, and we both wanted a hand at farm­ing too.”

But un­sur­pris­ingly after six years of do­ing all of that full time, along with three grow­ing chil­dren to look after, the cou­ple be­gan to run out of steam. “It got to a point where we were work­ing seven days,” said Rob. “We knew we needed to make a change.” Though it would seem dras­tic to sell up ev­ery­thing and start troop­ing around Aus­tralia, any­one that knew Rob’s past prob­a­bly wasn’t too sur­prised.

“It was def­i­nitely time to make a dras­tic change of life­style – we re­alised we were suc­cess­ful, but we weren’t liv­ing a proper life,” said Lisa.

“Rob had tripped around Aus­tralia pre­vi­ously, so he wanted to do it again with his fam­ily and show his young son Aus­tralia.”

So with the bless­ing of Paul Gibbs and Gol­drush Bal­loon­ing, the cou­ple sold 95 per cent of what they owned and went for­ward into their next ad­ven­ture. Now the fam­ily en­joys the free­dom of the open road, and Rob flies back to man the bal­loons for weeks at a time, ei­ther here or in other places like the Hunter Val­ley, be­fore pick­ing up with his fam­ily back on the road.

“We have seen so much and ex­pe­ri­enced so much,” said Lisa of their road trip. “And it has been es­pe­cially good for our son.” And while they travel, the bal­loon­ing busi­ness has been thriv­ing in Mans­field and the King Val­ley, with Gol­drush re­cently sign­ing a part­ner­ship with Brown Brothers in Mi­lawa that blos­somed into the first ever King Val­ley Bal­loon Fes­ti­val ear­lier this year – ex­actly what Rob had hoped to ac­com­plish less than a decade ago.

“Brown Brothers were in­ter­ested in of­fer­ing a lit­tle some­thing dif­fer­ent for their clients,” said Rob.

“And the King Val­ley is such a great place to fly. It’s easy weather and is so pretty. And just through some con­ver­sa­tions with the Brown fam­ily, it blos­somed into some­thing amaz­ing.”

SAFE LAND­ING / Ben Dee­ble is happy to lend a hand on his dad’s bal­loon­ing ad­ven­tures.

SKY HIGH / Gol­drush Bal­loon­ing re­cently part­nered with Brown Brothers to of­fer flights over the wine re­gion, cre­at­ing the first ever King Val­ley Bal­loon Fes­ti­val.

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