Thursday, June 7, 2012

Up, up and awayyyy!!!

As is common in our travels we were up at 4:00 in the morning and picked up by a mini bus at 4:50. It was really cold and the bus was full, but everybody was quiet and there was the scent of anticipation in the air. Light was only just starting to bring some colour into the landscape. We were driven to a large open area not far outside town that was excitingly a hive of activity, we were about to take our balloon ride. All around us there were balloons at various stages of inflation and the whooshing sound of the flames were punctuating the air.

This is why I hate photos of me!
We were given coffee and cake while we were waiting and then ushered to a large basket with an inflated balloon surrounded by ladders to get in. The basket was sectioned into 4 and then the operator with control of the flames was in the middle. Four to five of us were helped into each section and our excitement built as individuals or couples got the helpers to take pictures of themselves in the balloon (us too). With a final last whoosh of fire into the balloon we started lifting into the sky, the ground disappearing underneath us at a furious pace.

The next hour was fantastic, both awe inspiring and scary at times while at other times a marvelous sense of space and peacefulness. The scary part came from the balloon operator letting the balloon drop into canyons quickly and pull it up just in time, skirting up the side of mountains with cm to spare and on one occasion actually scraping the top of a hill as we went past. At first I thought there was a problem with the balloon and then realised he was doing it on purpose. The awe inspiring came from the view of the unique landscape and the sight of 100 plus balloons (we were told later there are 120 balloons available) and the sense of peace came from the times we were flying high above most of the balloons and everything else and there was total quiet in the balloon except for the occasional woosh and the sudden feel of the heat from the flames keeping us aloft.

1 or 2 balloons in the sky

When we finally came down the operators were so skilful that they actually landed us in a field on the trailer itself behind the 4 wheel drive so that they did not have to lift it up. Certificates were passed around and champaigne was poured and another unique and amazing bucket list item crossed of the list.

Picture from our room the next morning

Also from our room, no zoom, they were that close to the building.

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