Up, up and away

My daughter Jenna gave Ian and I a hot air balloon ride voucher for Christmas. I was pretty horrified and put the voucher out of sight and the whole idea out of mind.

13876418_1079488328812234_943861930027990468_n

I have rather an odd fear of heights. I am perfectly happy on natural structures like mountains and rocks. I am also good on ladders. However, I am irrationally fearful of man-made structures like piers and bridges. For example – walking across the Golden Gate Bridge defeated me once I got out above the water. Ian is no good on rocks or ladders but is fine on piers and bridges. So between us – this was going to be a challenge.

Towards the end of August and with a strong application of Rule 5 we went on the Aerosaurus website to book a flight.

Since a hot air balloon has no direct means of steerage or control the weather is an all important factor when deciding whether or not to fly. We were lucky on our 3rd attempt.

Our 3rd booking meant travelling from Dorset to Launceston, but we were so pleased that this happened as it meant that our pilot was Arthur Street who is an absolute legend in the ballooning world. Arthur counts his balloon flights in tens of thousands after 25 years of piloting.

We met at Homeleigh Garden Centre near Launceston at 06:30 along with 12 other passengers. The ground crew, Matt and Marianne (Little and Large) dealt with everything in a very professional manner, but also somehow very relaxed and reassuring. It was all very workaday and routine for them. There was obviously no reason for any anxiety.

We travelled in the Aerosaurus vehicles to the launch site near North Petherwin with the basket and envelope on a trailer.

Arriving at the launch site with the balloon (known as the envelope) and basket on the trailer

Arriving at the launch site with the balloon (known as the envelope) and basket on the trailer

The ‘envelope’ is huge – much larger than we expected. The passengers all help to get it inflated on the ground.

Inflating the envelope with cold air to begin with

Inflating the envelope with cold air to begin with

The fans blow cold air in. The scale of the envelope is clear if you can spot Marianne walking around inside!

The fans blow cold air in. The scale of the envelope is clear if you can spot Marianne walking around inside!

Two strong men were hanging onto a rope to stop the envelope rolling around

Two strong men were hanging onto a rope to stop the envelope rolling around

Eventually the envelope comes upright and the basket with it

Eventually the envelope comes upright and the basket with it

The air in the balloon must be heated now to allow it to be airborne. It is tethered to the landrover

The air in the balloon must be heated now to allow it to be airborne. It is tethered to the landrover

At this point I asked myself whether I would be disappointed if I was going to be a spectator rather than a passenger. The answer was yes. It was very exciting!

Arthur gave a comprehensive briefing – and informed us that the most difficult thing we would face would be climbing into the basket. (There is an option of being in the basket while it is on its side and being gently scooped up if physical disability prevents a passenger from clambering in). So that was alright then.

Clambering into the basket

Clambering into the basket while Arthur continues to heat the air in the envelope

The basket is actually a steel cage with rollbars and a solid floor. The wicker work is really just for aesthetics.

Once in the basket Arthur continued to heat up the air in the envelope using the burners powered by propane gas. We smiled bravely for the ‘on the ground’ photo opportunity!

Once in the basket Arthur continued to heat up the air in the envelope using the burners powered by propane gas. We smiled bravely for the ‘on the ground’ photo opportunity!

Once inflated and heated up (quite noisy) the tether from the land rover was released and we were off – up, up and away. We gained height extermely quickly.

We gained height very quickly. The land rover got very small very quickly

We gained height very quickly. The land rover got very small very quickly

There were a few moments of ‘wow this is quite high’ – but that was all. We just really enjoyed being up there. Arthur was fantastic and gave us 360 degree panoramic views and information about what we could see. We had total confidence in him.

Arthur opening the champagne

Arthur opening the champagne

Early on in the flight the champagne was opened which Jenna had thoughtfully included in our voucher. I’m sure this helped to contribute to the relaxed convivial atmosphere on board.

Cheers!

Cheers!

We went up to 3,200 feet and could see the North Cornwall Coast

We went up to 3,200 feet and could see the North Cornwall Coast

Arthur controlled the height of the envelope by heating up the air with the burners

Arthur controlled the height of the envelope by heating up the air with the burners

The main landmark was Roadford Lake

The main landmark was Roadford Lake

As we descended preparing to land we could see the ground crew who had been following our progress.

As we descended preparing to land we could see the ground crew who had been following our progress.

The A30

The A30

Arthur negotiated the obstacles of the A30 and Roadford Lake with great skill – but it did mean we had a few extra minutes up in the air. The landing was gentle with just a slight bump.

Marianne and Matt had tracked us from the ground and were there to help with packing up. The farmer was very cooperative and helped us all out of the slightly boggy field we had landed in.

The huge envelope gradually deflated as the air cooled down and we helped to guide it so that it could be folded up again.

Patrick – the youngest passenger tried to get the air out of the envelope

Patrick – the youngest passenger tried to get the air out of the envelope

But he needed help

But he needed help

It was amazing just how quickly that huge envelope was packed back into the bag and stowed back on the trailer with the basket.

The envelope was tucked back into its bag ready for the next flight.

The envelope was tucked back into its bag ready for the next flight.

We even got a certificate to prove we had done it!

We even got a certificate to prove we had done it!

Highly recommended. It is not at all scary and just a wonderful experience.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s