GUESS WHAT I DID TODAY! A Birthday treat to literally TOP all others!
Sally and I have dreamed of a trip in a hot air balloon for as long as we’ve known one another. Our aim was to do it when we were 40 but we didn’t. Then when we reached 50 we didn’t, until today that is! Only last week we said that if there was some good weather during Hector and my week off, she and I would ‘go and take some pictures somewhere interesting’. Well – we sure did!
There was no time to get nervous… I only found out I was going at around midnight last night. By the time we were in the field getting a pre-flight briefing and helping inflate the balloon I was feeling a bit butterfly-filled. I tried to persuade Hector to join us for the flight but he says he and I will do it on our own another time. He did take all the film though and it was very reassuring to have him there and to share the excitement with him. Andrea brought hot chocolate with brandy and other goodies. The pilot, strangely, wouldn’t allow her to take the sparklers up!
I couldn’t help say that I had realised that we were being taken more than 6,000 feet into the sky in a small wicker basket, attached to nylon bag filled with hot air by a few thin cables all held together with karrabiners.
It was a glorious day. Stunning autumn weather and crystal clear skies. It was perfect. Hector drove us there and filmed us during the preparations and take-off, then joined the support team following us on the ground.
After a pre-flight briefing from the pilot we helped get the balloon ready. Getting ourselves into the basket was ungainly but funny. We took off at Bassenthwaite and ascended to 6,000 feet and flew over Keswick, Derwentwater, Thirlmere, Dunmail Raise, Grasmere, Rydal, Ambleside and up the length of Windermere to land in the Lyth Valley. We could spot and name the mountains, lakes, passes, places, roads and in the distance could see Morecambe Bay shining in the sun, the Eden Valley (home!), the Pennines, Carlisle, Scotland and the Solway Firth, the Isle of Man, The Yorkshire Dales hills, Blackpool Tower and even the coast of Southport and Liverpool.
During the flight the couple next to me (Gary and Sam) got engaged. He went down on one knee and proposed to her. It was the icing on the cake! With the new ring sparkling in the bright sun and barely a dry eye in the basket the mood was celebratory.
I expected descending to be a little daunting, but it was lovely to watch our full shadow getting larger over the fields and to see the tops of trees inches from us and to wave at the people below. After crashing heavily through a tall holly tree and, on touch-down, bouncing through mud to eventually coming to rest on our side, all of us were laughing ourselves silly and looking, I’m sure, like a load of upturned turtles!
“Come on Ladies – I know you’ve had fun, but everyone else has gone home – you have to come out now!”
After packing the balloon away we were presented with certificates and had some very welcome champagne. We had had the most amazing experience. The conditions were utterly perfect and I will never forget the views, the beauty and stunning conditions. The Lake District will always look different to me now. It’s landscape has been below me and spread like an enormous rug all around.
It really was a dream come true and we were so very lucky. We made new friends and enjoyed an amazingly beautiful experience.
I didn’t spend time faffing with the camera and adjusting settings, I just pointed and clicked (400 times). Hector shot the film, brilliantly as usual.
The better pics are on Flickr.
There is a YouTube film here….
Here’s the film!