Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Full of Hot Air

Last weekend I was able to tick one of the items on 'bucket' list. When my friend Johanne, said that she was planning a trip in a hot air balloon to celebrate her birthday, my immediate response was to say I was coming with her! I love flying and even more on those little planes, I  have enjoyed parasailing on two occasions and I would still like to paraglide. Last year I flew through the air hanging onto a cable on a canopy tour in Tsitsikamma and now I have gently wafted through the skies dangling from a balloon. It was awesome!
It was peaceful - so quiet up there amongst the clouds - looking down on the birds. We had an early start and arrived at the launch field in the dark. The ground crew set to work unpacking the enormous furled up balloon which stretched about sixty metres in length. The basket was attached and then the task of getting air inside the balloon with the assistance of rather large fans - then a couple of blasts of heat and the balloon started to rise. It's a pretty skillful procedure and the way in which the team did it all so efficiently gave me (and I am sure the others) the confidence to step into the basket and upwards we drifted towards the moon which was still visible in the dawn sky.

Up and Up and Up but so gently that you didn't feel the ascent. I thought we may drift towards the Swartberg mountains to look down on farmland and game, but the air currents had a different plan and sent us over Oudtshorne to look over 'lego' land - well that's what it looked like from above - with ants scurrying around it on their way to work. Ironically we drifted towards the prison too and I thought how sad the inmates must feel watching the balloon and the people in it be and feel so free while they were definitely not!
Of course we had a spectacular backdrop of blue mountains to frame our views and were able to witness the sun's first rays peeping above them and rising high into the sky. We enjoyed over an hour of voyeurism - silently observing the wold beneath and then sadly our descent started and we bounced to a halt in the veld next to the airfield.

Our capable ground crew drove along to meet us and with a glass of champagne we toasted our happy landing. Its an experience to remember and on reflection I learned that:

* Sometimes the important people in your life/team stay on the ground while you enjoy the experience.
* It's not easy to go with the flow but sometimes you have to.
* You will travel higher and further if you don't carry heavy baggage with you.
* You don't need half the stuff you think that you need
* Journeys are fun when there are others there to share them with you.
* Turbulence and crash landings may be dangerous and exciting but a soft and gentle landing is the best!

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