My first Hot Air Balloon ride was back in 1997. t seems like a long time ago now but I remember it like yesterday. Getting up at a staggering 4.00 am in the morning and driving to the Balloon Club. I had been given a Day out experience of a lifetime for a birthday present.
As a choice for an extreme sport it seemed the safest option as I had a choice of a parachute jump which I had done previously and can I highly recommend not to do again ever. The other fabulous choice was a diving experience and as I’m already a Divemaster I chose to do the Hot Air Balloon ride.
I drove up to the balloon centre and was welcomed and given the experience which includes the safety talk introduced to the day’s hot air balloon pilot and prospected course and a brief history of the sport of Hot air balloon rides.
Watching in the early hours of the morning the giant red envelope inflating trying to calm my last minute nerves. Eventually the envelope was full enough to tilt the basket to the horizontal position. The pilot was fantastic at calming me and fiancée. At around 07:30 in the morning watching the sun rise and the balloon was ready. We scrambled aboard into the basket.
Watching the ropes release and feeling the initial lift made me shudder but then you feel strange as the ground gently slips away beneath you. The pilot gives a few blasts of the burner to give additional lift and we rise over the countryside.
Watching the landscape and the peace and quiet as we drift across England on a sunny day. This is one of the most acceptable extreme sports especially when you can the early morning rush hour of backed up traffic. Watching life go by slowly and feeling the wind and a fair bit of cold at altitude was one of the most fun days out I have ever had.
Eventually as they say what goes up must come down and the pilot pointed out into the distance to a large field and simply said landing over there approximately. The pilot had not used the burner for a while so we had started to descend. This is always going to be the tricky bit at what speed and our you going to get hurt when landing.
You start to feel a little bit anxious as you see the ground becoming a little bit closer but the use of the burner slows you down and I was confident in our pilots ability. We gently came down to the last 100 feet and you feel yourself counting as we get lower to the field and then as you touch drag along the floor you know the words the eagle has landed pass into your head.
We gladly helped out in tidying up the equipment as the call came through to where we had landed. We phoned through to find out where we are to get picked up. Overall it was a brilliant experience and now I have become a bit of a balloon enthusiast.
Becoming a hot air balloon pilot is out of my range at the moment but its something that I have started to look into. I have found that this is only way to fly gentle control and peaceful flying drifting over the countryside.