“It’s just 5:15 a.m. I’ll come to the pick- up spot at 6 as mentioned in the mail”. The person sounded a bit perplexed as to why I was there 45 minutes early in the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t tell him that after three cancellations due to bad weather in different countries, I was so excited once I got the confirmation mail in Barcelona that I did not want to have any reasons to miss the opportunity to take the hot air balloon ride.
The balloon flight was to take off from a place called Vic near Barcelona. It took us an hour to reach there. The sun was just rising. The Barcelona Balloon flights team was already there. All we could see was a trailer in the field. As the crew pulled down the stuff from the rear of the trailer, we could see the basket. There were 10 of us who were going to take the ride together. They laid out coffee and cakes for us as it took an hour for the basket to be set up. The pilot tested the gas. It was quite fascinating to see the precision with which all the paraphernalia was fixed on the basket.
Once the basket was up, the balloon was spread out on the field. A powerful fan which had been standing quietly on the side was brought to the forefront and it started blowing air into the balloon. The balloon is huge, imagine a huge room that can accommodate 40 people. We could see the crew look like tiny icons when they walked inside the balloon as it was inflated with the air. It took about 45 minutes for the balloon to be up.
Now it was our turn to get into the basket. Its pretty easy. The basket had foot holes which acted like steps to climb inside. Once we were all inside, we were given instructions on how to crouch when the balloon was going to land. The crew made each of us do it, so they were sure we understood the instructions. The take off was so smooth that we didn’t realize that we were up in the air. The balloon ride is the smoothest flight I have ever taken. No jerks, no bumps and no noise.
At 1000 feet, the balloon sails quietly in the direction of the wind. The pilot would pull on the rope to navigate the balloon after a few minutes. He was constantly in touch with the crew on the ground and the air traffic control through a wireless device. There were a few other balloons in the air at that time since it was the first ride of the morning. The views were mesmerizing. When we got tired of clicking the beautiful shots, we all stood quietly just enjoying the serenity and the beautiful view we saw all around. There is no other ride that allows one to be up in the air for such a long duration at such calming pace.
After an hour-long ride across the fields, mountains, and cities, we landed in a barren field very far away from where we took off from. We only had to crouch once when the balloon hit the crowd.
As per the pilot the landing could be slightly bumpy depending on the weather. The crew was following us on GPS and reached the spot where we landed. In the middle of nowhere, a nice champagne feast was set up for us to raise a toast to our maiden flight. We were also given certificates for completing the ride. It took a couple of hours for us to return to Barcelona as the balloon had landed much further away.
Some tips about the hot air balloon ride:
- As long as you can stand for an hour and climb a few steps, you can do a balloon ride.
- The basket is quite tall to get over fear of heights. However, it allows enough room to look below.
- There was enough place to stand though when crouching you may be too close to each other since you must catch onto the iron holders.
- The balloon ride is only an hour long but plan for half the day for this adventure as the set up takes a couple of hours and so does the wind down and the champagne toast. Typically, everyone leaves only once the crew packs up the entire apparatus.