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Thursday, March 8, 2012

The spirit of a hot air balloon flight

It was a Christmas gift. A great surprise. I like to fly a lot but it's not even close to passion like Saabs or sailing. Therefore there were a bit mixed feelings at that day, somewhere between questioning the safety and the joy of trying a new unusual thing.

Hot air balloon flying heavily depends on weather, no wind or heavy wind = no flight. So it is not 100% possible to agree on a date and time too far in advance. The uncertainty around when to go is interesting. You never know when it comes. You have only a few time to prepare mentally.

The set-up is majestic. From a semi-large box they conjure a huge baloon. In about 5-10 minutes.

From a semi-large box they conjure a huge baloon.
Than you jump in and start to rise. Faster than you would expect and without feeling it in your body, like in elevators. You just rise. The baloon is steered through rising and descending while searching for good winds. That's it. It is also possible to rotate it, but it is more for getting a better view. The flames heating the air inside the balloon are done by hand. You give gas by hand.

Gas by hand.

And than you fly. Mostly in quietness except the occassional flames. The quietness is awesome. It's sometimes as you would just stand somewhere high in the clouds. For most of us, used to some sound always around, especially in flying objects, the quietness is pretty unique. It shouts even a little bit.

Our flight was in only average good weather, mainly for the sight. Much better is to fly in the morning. The place we used for start was Senec, a small town close to Bratislava. There are lakes and canals around, no hills. But also the flatland has its magic.


One of the smaller lakes

We descended to one of the lakes, It was frozen. A swan walked to it's partner through the whole icy lake. When we came, she firstly tried to escape by foot but we were to big for her, so it flew away. I felt very sorry for it, we were in foregin territory.

We were flying between 400 and 2.000 meters (1300 - 3200 feet). One would expect more wind in higher altitudes but the opposite was true. Most probably this isn't a rule. Also while flying too high, the balloon feeling slowly fades away. Lower altitudes = better visibility from unusual angles.

From the altitude everything looked like from a computer game. Busses on the parking place, stock house, cars, streets, everything. The footbal players as well.

Our mighty football players

gggClose to the end a motorised paraglider appeared. He've seen us and who would resist to take a closer look ? He was a good pilot of that thing, he came close, made several turns around. Nice hobby.

Curious paraglider

Would I recommend it ? Definitely. Unless you don't fear altitudes. We were 6 in the balloon. Landed in the field and were going through all the rituals afterwards. Really interesting stuff the whole afternoon.

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