Of all the experiences I’ve had this one has the greatest discrepancy between my expectation and reality. We’ve all seen the ground from the air when we’ve flown. The interesting part of the journey where you’re near enough to the ground to make out the details and the expanding horizon. Some of us have been up in one of the world’s amazing skyscrapers (I actually have a bit of a problem with them…but I deal with it) and enjoyed the staggering views that we can take in at our leisure. This one sits between but brings an unexpected feeling of freedom and peace that took me, pleasantly, by surprise.
Starting early is no big deal for me as I am an early riser being up by 5am most days. My wife and daughter, however, are not so “bright and breezy” normally emerging from their pits closer to 7am when not dragged out of bed by the alarm during the week. This early start was one that they were both truly excited about. We were dressed and down to our hotel’s lobby to be met by our transfer driver. We enjoyed the early morning light as we drifted to the resort where our adventure was to start.
At the resort we all enjoyed our coffees and teas whilst we waited for the balloon to be prepared (remembering to take our little lady for a quick wee before we got called to the balloon). Without much delay we were loaded into the basket and quickly got ourselves settled in for our journey. A long blast from the burner and the basket drifted up. That’s when this strange sensation starts. Every time you’ve been in the air to this point in your life there have been clunks, whirrs, bangs, whistles and the accompaniment of the powerful sound of jet engines. Nothing…short blast of burner….sound of voices on the ground becoming quieter…..short blast of burner….bird song from the trees around you.
What to say next? Everything. You don’t know where to look. Around you your travelling companions slowly spring to life and everybody is spotting something of interest for us all to check out. We drift higher into the sky and the balloon, barely noticeably, changes direction as our pilot moves into a different air flow. Temples, cars, roads, trees, the resort moves out of view and we have no idea where we are…..and it is bliss. We have escaped. This exclusive group of random companions and our little family have escaped….and I don’t want to go back! In all our considerable travels this has to rank as one of the most powerful senses of escape we have experienced and we have “dropped off the map” for weeks at time on numerous occasions. You breath slower, try to take it all in and then you remember to take photos. Of course, and worth remembering, you get phone signal for a much longer range as you head up so it was possible to post photos to Facebook real time. I say this is worth remembering as it is also worth remembering to SILENCE your phone before the flight. Luckily none of us were that popular at 7am!
All too soon our pilot spots a landing site and expertly drifts us down to touch the ground. The first sudden movement in nearly an hour since we left the ground. Within minutes the chase crew are with us and we’re walking, hand in hand, away from the balloon into a car…..and we have NO reference for where we are. I suck up that feeling, hold it in and wish I’d remembered to take a minute to enjoy a few breathing exercises whilst I was up there.
This experience ranks up with taking a helicopter up on to the Fox Glacier in New Zealand then flying low through a valley high up in the mountains. This is totally different but the end result is one that stays. I have that feeling and, if I close my eyes, I can take myself right back there. My daughter talks of little else but was fast asleep on Mummy by the time we got back to our hotel. An amazing memory for our little girl to reach back and enjoy as she moves through life and well worth booking today!