What's in my head

This is the home of your average girl in her early 30s making her way in the big city...Not really. I have thoughts. Now I have somewhere to put them.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Up, up and away

Armed with two dozen tissues, me and my stuffy noise floated 1,000 feet above north Durham last night and it was pretty cool (my job has the occasional perk).
It was my first experience in a hot air balloon and although I didn't feel like I was flying it was still a pretty memorable experience. There was no fear, no knots in my stomach (well, there was momentarily as I signed the waiver releasing the company from any liability if anything happened to me - ballooning is a sport after all, apparently...).

Once we reached our launch point in Scugog, Dave and Drew (the ballooners) set to work unraveling the massive blue and white balloon. Two of the passengers offered a hand while me and the old guy stood around taking pictures. They used a big fan with a jet propellor to first fill the balloon with cool air and then the burners were lit to heat the air to make the balloon stand upright. The basket was tethered to the truck to prevent the balloon from taking off without us. Once the balloon was upright we all climbed in - the old guy, the big guy, the insurance guy, the pilot and me. It was a tight squeeze. The tether was released and we began to float up, up and away.

It was a very slow, calm ascent. The lush green fields and patches of trees began to take shape as we climbed higher. Once we reached our top height I could see Lake Ontario to the south, Lake Scugog to the east and the skyline of downtown Toronto to the southwest. When I looked down I could see people swimming in their backyard pool, a deer walking through a patch of forest and a herd of cattle resting. At one point a curious helicopter pilot took a fly by to check us out, he came almost a little too close but it made for a nice photo op.

We travelled along at about 7 km an hour, taking pictures and taking in the beautiful countryside and terrain of the Oak Ridges Moraine. At one point Dave took the balloon down low and we floated above some tree tops and then he took it down even lower and we were just inches above the lush green grass of an open field before he squeezed the red button filling the balloon with more hot air so it would take us back up. Unfortunately, the 'sunset' flight wasn't as picturesque as one might image as there was a thick cloud cover. After a few more minutes, Dave spotted a field that looked good for landing (no livestock and playground equipment, which usually means even if the farmer isn't too keen on us landing in his field his children convince him because they want to take a look). We faced the direction we were landing, bended our knees to prepare for the impact and after 35 minutes in the air we once again felt the ground underneath us. It was a pretty smooth landing with only a few bumps and the basket stayed upright. The farmer and his three kids came out to greet us and watched as the balloon was quickly packed up (we couldn't of landed at a better time as it had begun to rain).

After everything was back in the trailer it was time for a bit of tradition. We each were given a glass of champagne and we invited the farmer and his underage family to join us in a toast. The three passengers and I knelt with our right knee on the ground facing the direction we landed. Dave then put a piece of the earth (grass) on each of our heads and sprinkled them with champagne before saying the balloonist's prayer "The winds have welcomed you with softness. The Sun has blessed you with his warm hands. You have flown so high and so well, that God has joined you in your laughter, and has set you gently back again in to the loving arms of Mother Earth.", it is supposed to bring us luck. We drank and then it was back to the city. On the drive back I felt relaxed and calm, it was only a balloon ride but I thought I would have been scared - I mean it is one tiny basket, 1,000 feet in the air - maybe I should take more risks, I thought. Maybe next I'll try sky diving...On second thought, I'm too chicken for that!


  • At 6:56 PM , Blogger Danielle said...

    Now tonight would have been a beautiful night to go for a hot air balloon ride...but I guess I can't complain since I got to go for free.


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