H is for Hot Air Balloon
I am anything but an extreme thrill seeker! I love water parks but you’ll find me jumping the waves or on the lazy river rather than flinging myself onto the kamikaze slide. At DisneyWorld I head for Dumbo rather than Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. I bottled the zip-lining in Costa Rica and had to descend the mountain along the lonely path of shame as I listened to screams of joy above me! So I’m never going to jump out of a plane or go cave diving.
However, Hot Air Ballooning I can do! And did! This is probably on most bucket lists and I was lucky enough to enjoy my balloon experience over the Serengeti at sunrise.
Collected from our lodge in darkness, it was cold so we wore almost all our clothes. The transfer to the launch site was like a mini safari trip in itself as we passed animals on the move.
Two balloons were in use that morning – 16 guests and a pilot in each. I never gave any thought to the logistics of the trip – so I didn’t know that the basket would be on its side. We slid into 8 compartments like bottles in a wine rack! Once everyone was aboard, we braced ourselves for the lurch as the pilot inflated the balloon and the basket straightened.
And up we went. As the sun rose above the Serengeti, we looked out for wildlife below – zebra, hippo, wildebeest, elephant – either individuals or herds crossing the plains. But the experience turned out to be less about the animals – everyone there had already enjoyed safari drives and seen plenty – and more about the silent journey through the air, broken only on occasion by people’s shouts and the pilot hitting the gas.
And when it was over, we left one wine rack and headed towards another as champagne was poured. Then we sat around a table in the middle of nowhere and as breakfast was served we compared travel stories with our new found friends.
(Silverware, champagne and a ‘full Irish!)