A few years ago we took a balloon ride over the skies of Cataluña. Our pilot drove us to a small town called Igualada to the north west of Barcelona, his crew following us with all the equipment – acres of lightweight yellow and black material which formed the balloon canopy, the basket, gas cylinders and a lot of rope. The experience includes helping to lay out the balloon, fill it with gas and then hop in to the basket before they untether it and you float up into a clear blue sky.
So here we are, stretching the balloon canopy out on the grass of a local park. The obliging townsfolk were well used to this and before we’d finished we had attracted the attention of all the local children who gave us a noisy send-off.
Below are two pictures from inside the balloon, the second showing the basket still lying on its side.
Our instructions were to leap into the basket once the balloon was fully inflated – at that point the basket rights itself – last one in is a cissy (and more to the point would have to wave goodbye as the rest of us sailed skyward).
Whilst the balloon is being inflated it is firmly tethered with guy ropes to something solid – in this case the bumpers of the support vehicles – two whacking great 4 x 4s.
If the wind gets up, it all starts to get a bit unwieldy, but we were lucky – only a couple of hairy moments.
Like I say, our pilot encouraged a very hands-on approach – he got us involved with every stage of this fascinating (if slightly scary) process – like below – having a go at igniting the gas – this produced a really loud roaring noise – a bit worrying when you’re not used to it!
But as you can see from the next pictures, eventually we were ready and the command to untie the guy ropes was issued, we waved goodbye to the excited collection of local kids whose play area we had invaded for over an hour on this balmy Spanish evening, and away we went.
But the landing was always my biggest concern – I didn’t really relish the thought of being dragged along the ground at speed at the mercy of an unstoppable, giant balloon – like you see in the films. Our first attempt had to be aborted – our pilot had his eye on a nice level field, and after negotiating the telegraph wires and big trees on the descent he was refused permission to land by a very irate little Spaniard who was jealously guarding his crop (of weeds!) So we went up again, carefully avoiding those power cables. The driver of the support vehicle, who had been tracking us, hared along the road in pursuit. Our man then spied a ploughed field and headed straight for it. ‘Mmm ……..’ I thought, ‘looks a bit bumpy’ , but actually the field was on a gradient and this worked in our favour because the edge of the basket just caught nicely in one of the furrows and anchored us immediately to the spot. All smiles!