Thursday, December 15, 2011

Balloon - Take two

A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do! And this being said I bought the tickets. However, going in a balloon trip is not as going to the cinema, when you buy the tickets, the popcorn/tacos/ben&jerry and 2 hours later you've had a nice evening already. As the sunny weather in Holland falls on 3 Thursdays, 2 Mondays and  4 Wednesdays, never in the weekend!, you need to align your trip with it. And that explains why all balloons  seem to fly on the same day :)

After a few missing attempts the day was settled, surely with the small reserve that we'd need to check with the weather forecast up to an hour or two in advance. No, it's not true that I was praying for the rain, stop teasing me, I knew I could do it!

So here we are, on the gathering field watching all preparations. The sky was clear, no threat of rain whatsoever. Where's a good shower when you need one? 

They started to bring the hot air in, we all drew nearer to see the wonder and we got the taking off instructions. First of all, the zero position of the basket is tilted and we need to crouch inside. Great! Just great! If the shit hits the fan you can't even jump out! Anyway, we all lay curled up in a foetal position while the pilot seemed to increase the amount of hot air. He went on an on and I felt the basket moving and...

"Now you can all stand up!" The first thing I saw was a huge tree coming our way and the pilot pulling the air strings with gestures second only to panic attacks. Very soothing  indeed, believe me!, but we just managed to miss the huge beast.

But when I looked around I saw the beautiful and reassuring smile next to me I knew this would be a lovely journey. I enjoyed the trip tremendously, we were flying apparently purposelessly over the green Holland, having a very smooth pilot/guide who chose to fly at a somewhat lower altitude, so we could see details on the ground ourselves. We were travelling with the wind, not knowing the next move and not knowing where we'd land. It was a care free journey and  yet a great deal of trust at stake as no one by the pilot could bring the balloon safely to the ground (why am I sweating writing this?).

After an hour or so we were told to get ready for landing. The pilot had spotted a large stubbly area where we could land safely. I guess it was cheaper in the end for the company, as sometimes they ruin parts of the crops and they need to compensate the owner for that. So, back to the foetal position.

I used to be young and naive, but I managed to cure the youth. However, I was still naive. On the descent I was looking for the landing gear of the balloon. You know, like the one on the plane, with wheels and stuff. I only saw stuff, as there were no wheels, no skis, no air cushion, no nothing. Just the edge of the basket bottom, somehow with a stronger hem or so, but that was all. And the basket tilted and it almost touched the ground (the bloody thing seemed to move muuuuch faster at the ground level) and it touched the ground (still I hadn't found Jesus yet) and then ascended a bit more and then again the ground and finally we were being dragged and who's the bearded man in sandals!? and after 250 km we came to a halt.

With a light thump we landed on our backs, hands and legs up. A minute later we were back crawling our way out of the basket and proceeded to fold the balloon. What a heavy thing, you wouldn't believe that!

We finished the journey by drinking champagne and getting our diplomas stating that we were appointed barons and baronesses of an order that slips my mind at this moment. And waiting for the minibus to take us back to the gathering points.

At the end of the day I was happy that I did something to overcome some of my fears. But I couldn't and wouldn't have done it alone, I needed a hand to support me and to be next to me while being up there. The hand of the beautiful and reassuring smile :)

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