One of my current photography volunteers had found a company near to us who offer hot air balloon flights near Kruger National park, so 6 of us left Dumela Lodge at 3.50 a.m. last Saturday to go to the take-off site. I love how it’s dark one minute, and light about 15 minutes later. Whilst the balloon was being inflated the moon was still out and we were offered coffee and tea to get us going. Of course, as we were keen photographers we made the most of the colourful opportunities.
The sky was perfectly clear and conditions were almost perfect. I say almost, because there was very little wind, so we actually didn’t manage to fly as far as I expected. However, there’s nothing that can be done about that, and it was such a beautiful sunrise and so peaceful up there that we all loved it. If you haven’t been in a hot-air balloon, it’s not the slightlest bit scary, and if you had your eyes closed, you wouldn’t even know you’d taken off and were moving. The peace was only broken by regular bursts of the burner. We initially drifted over Blyde Canyon and farmland. Saw our balloon reflected in the water…. And our shadow over the trees….
We were up for about 70 minutes, and had a very experienced pilot, who pointed out giraffe, zebra, and various antelope in the distance for us. When it came to the landing, the recovery crew were waiting on a track, and she managed to put the balloon down within about 20 feet of them. Once we had all got out, she gave it a little burst of hot air, and the crew guided it on to the trailer.
Whilst the balloon was deflating, we drank a glass of fizz. I don’t normally drink at 7.00 a.m. but when it’s offered, and it’s chilled, and it’s already very hot out there, then why not! Once the balloon was packed up, we were taken back to a nearby lodge for breakfast. Fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurts, juice, coffee or tea, followed by bacon, eggs (done however we wanted) mushrooms, tomatoes and toast. The lodge felt like it was up in the trees, as we had to cross a wobbly bridge over a river to get there, but it was incredibly peaceful and leafy, which provided very welcome shade.