This was bought as a birthday present for my mum in January, an experience for all three of us as a family to enjoy together…
…5 months and over 10 cancellations later we started to wonder whether or not the company actually owned a hot air balloon.
Excuses about dangerous winds and heavy rain were used on the sunniest days of the year so it was looking more and more unlikely that it would happen. Until 10pm one night when my dad received a phone call saying the weather was finally good enough for a 6am flight the next day.
But, because nothing can ever be simple in our household, my mum point blank decided not to go; convinced the company couldn’t be trusted she stormed to bed with the comment “Well if you want to get yourself killed go ahead, but you’re not taking my daughter.”
Of course her daughter was going; for a start there was no way I was going to miss an opportunity to fly across the sky in a balloon, but also I couldn’t leave my Dad to go on the flight alone like a creepy loner, the thought was heartbreaking.
Standing in a field with the freezing cold 6am drafts whipping round me I wished I had have worn a coat… and thermal underwear. An hour we waited for them to inflate the balloon before we all clambered into the basket, not something that can be done gracefully at 5’2” (and a half) and up we went. When I pictured going on a hot air baloon, I had a romanticised image of bobbing over an African savannah watching exotic animals and seeing beautiful sights – unfortunately an English hot air balloon flight is nothing like this, here are some of the things I learned:
- England is really cold (like I didn’t already know this) but it gets colder the higher up you go – I spent the whole trip desperately waiting for the driver to blow more fire into the balloon, just to defrost my hands
- England has no shortage of sheep.
- Or cows.
- Vertigo can hit when you least suspect it. I’m not afraid of heights, but as we soared higher I felt a wave of sickness come over me and had to spend 20 minutes crouching like a hedgehog at the bottom of the basket, desperately trying not to throw up on one of the unsuspecting sheep below.
As the flight came to an end the driver warned us to hold on as “3/5 landings go wrong and the balloon falls on its side”…maybe my mum had a point.
We skimmed some hedges and crashed into a tree but at least we were upright. That’s when the real ‘fun’ started; the packing up of the balloon and carrying it to the storage area, a task that took nearly as long as the flight itself. Once the balloon was rolled up the weight of it was astonishing; even between 15 of us it was stupidly heavy – well I assume it was, I was only pretending to carry it, but everyone else was seriously straining themselves.
It might not have been the most epic experience of my life, but I’m glad I’ve had the chance to give it a go – maybe next time it’ll be somewhere a bit more exotic.