What a morning! It can be an early start but if you haven’t tried a hot air balloon ride yet then you ought to.
For me it was a short drive to meet up with the 11 other passengers, Mandy our pilot and the ground crew in a pub car park on the edge of South Brent. After a quick trip briefing and the launch of a small balloon to check the wind we were off to the launch site.
For our trip we would be using the old race course fields just outside Buckfastleigh. With the wind supposedly blowing in a southerly direction, although very light, we would be able to track along the edge of Dartmoor and back towards are meeting destination.
At our departure point it was a very simple and slick operation to get the balloon basket into place and lay out the huge balloon canopy. Cooperation from all involved is all part of the experience and even the spectators were roped in!
By the time the safety briefing was over the balloon was almost topped up with hot air so it was time to climb up into the allocated compartments in the basket. The basket is balanced out with 3 people per compartment and the pilot in the centre to control the burners and balloon canopy.
The take off was as smooth as anything, with just the sound of the burners every few seconds and the odd passenger comment not realising that we were airborne. Yes it really is that smooth and even with only a few centimetres of basket between you and the clear air below there was no nervousness from any of the passengers.
Our flight started, for the fist few hundred yards, to follow the A38 towards Totnes and South Brent. As we climbed the wind changed and we found ourselves heading at a steady 5 knots towards Dartmoor.
The views as we increased our speed to up to 13 knots were breath taking and were accompanied by a fine goblet of buzz fizz! Along with the great sights that you can see at 2000ft above sea level you can also hear everything. Sounds travel up so clearly that you can hear people chatting, dogs barking and even the new lambs bleating.
Now the landing. It was text book as – according to the people I have spoken to about balloon flying – you always land on your back with the basket on its side. It probably looked far worse from outside the balloon!
It was a fine landing in a narrow field with cows and sheep so a testing time for our pilot. Within about 15 minutes from landing our support vehicle turned up to collect us and return us to our original meeting place. With all hands working to roll up the balloon and bag it up it wasn’t long before we were on our way back to our normal lives.
To sum it up the morning was one of the smoothest run things I have been on – everyone was put at ease, the company was great, the views were fantastic and the actual balloon has just left me wanting more – maybe in Africa next!
If you haven’t tried this type of flying then do have a go – and let us know how your trip went!
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