I am SO happy that I can finally write this blog post. I love to pre-plan my blog posts and therefore I had this title sat in my ‘scheduled posts’ for so long…9 months to be exact! This hot air balloon experience was a gift of Mat for christmas and despite our absolutely amazing summer we had, we managed to get our balloon flights cancelled 4 times… we were starting to accept that it was never going to happen. We were so excited every time we had the flight re-booked, either Mat or myself would drive over a hundred miles to each other with the hopes of being able to experience the balloon flight together, so I am sure you can understand our frustration when they kept on getting cancelled..the night before!
Mat came to Leicester last week and again, our flight was cancelled. We looked to rebook without much faith as you normally have to book in advance, HOWEVER, I was due to see Mat again that Friday for something different and on a whim there was 2 spaces left on a Friday morning flight on the 5th of October…it was meant to be! I just knew that this time it would actually happen and we would finally be able to experience it, I was right!
The pilot (is that the appropriate term for a balloon flyer?!) sets a pre-recorded voicemail you call late in the evening of the night before your flight, I think Mat said he called 10 times that evening until we finally got our answer…it was going ahead! We were due to have a bit of cloud cover in the morning so our flight time was scheduled for 9:30 am as opposed to 6:30 am. We were flying from Henley where Mat lives and the flight takes off from just down the road from Mat…perfect. We got up in the morning, drove a minute down the road and met our fellow flyers.
We followed Mark (have we established he is the pilot?) to an air field over the road and we started preparing the balloon for the air to be fed into it. I had never been so close to a hot air balloon before and I was really taken back by just how big it was. Myself, Mat and a few others stepped forward to help hold the balloon straight by a huge rope whilst the hot air was being blown into the balloon…it was like a big old tug of war, safe to say the balloon won!
40 minutes of prepping the balloon and sitting all cosily next to absolute strangers later, we finally took off and I realised…wow, I really am about to fly in the air totally by a balloon…what a weird concept. We took off over Henley and saw some of the most beautiful things during our flight; the changing leaves of trees during autumn, deer playing with each other, amazing houses and gardens, rabbits running through hedges, alpaca’s running around.
Due to low cloud that morning we had to stay pretty low for the first half hour of our flight but due to our pilot knowing that an angry game keeper lived in our flight path, we took to the higher skies (2500ft) and popped our balloon up above the clouds. This had to be my highlight of the whole experience, it was absolutely amazing to be able to see all the clouds below us and see the sun beaming down on us…as well as seeing our balloons shadow in the clouds. It was so bright, beautiful and fresh up there and totally relaxing.
One thing that scared me slightly initially, and which also ended up to be one of my favourite things about the flight, was flying near the trees. I was looking behind me watching the animals in the field below, when I turned around I saw that we were coming down lower than I thought, and heading directly towards the trees. I looked at the pilot, then to one of the ladies also in our balloon and I saw sheer panic in her face, we were both thinking ‘what on earth is he doing and is this normal’. The pilot looked completely relaxed and eventually explained that we were coming down lower so that we could come off to the left, however this didn’t stop us from panicking when we brushed past the tree tops…completely forgetting that he had the ability to pump hot air into the balloon and almost immediately lift the balloon higher up into the air.
The worst part of our flight was the fact that our flight was extended by almost an hour due to the fact that we were not being able to land in pretty much every field we tried to land on. There was either an unfriendly land owner, people shooting pheasants, horses in fields or trees in our way…under normal circumstances this would have been ideal, extra flying free of charge…totally getting your money’s worth right? Wrong. We we already cutting it fine with timings that day, so to have an extra hour of flying meant we found ourselves running down a dirt track and getting a taxi back to Henley. However, after a mad rush and a swift run down the motorway, everything worked out just great and we made where we needed to be in time…all was well!
Anyway, enough of my rambling on…here are some of the photo’s I got that day, one being of George Harrison’s house /mansion – never seen anything like this in my life! Have you ever been in a hot air balloon before? Are you considering going in one yourself? I can honestly say I will be doing this again and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had…there was something so amazing about being that high up and totally outdoors. something totally different and so very beautiful.
Thank you for the most amazing experience Matty, I absolutely love that we buy each other experiences for special occasions rather than material gifts. I think it’s so much better to get someone a trip or experience rather than a gift…you’ll always remember the experiences you shared but the same can’t be said for the endless material items you give and receive.
Until next time,