As far as Travel Bucket Lists go, a flight in a Hot Air Balloon is certainly right up there on many people’s lists. It certainly was on mine!
It seem quite out of reach from Cape Town.
I won a flight for 2 in the WTM Africa travel bloggers competition!!!
My heart leapt, and then it sank a little…. Magaliesburg. How on earth would I ever find myself in the area to take advantage of my prize??
Fast forward a few months and a few emails with another Bucket List experience based near Pretoria, and suddenly the experience seemed possible. I started planning for a Bucket List Birthday Weekend to take place at the end of July over my birthday weekend.
Unfortunately best made plans often end up awry and a phone call to postpone one leg of the trip meant everything else had to be reshuffled too… My Bucket List Birthday Weekend was no longer. Instead it was to become just a Bucket List Weekend or #bucketlistweekend a few weeks later.
On the last Thursday in August I flew up to Lanseria to rendezvous with my husband for what was to become a seriously romantic weekend away… Our first stop was the De Hoek Country Hotel (read my review here)
The next morning we rose before the birds and headed off to experience a Hot Air Balloon flight!
Up and at ’em is not my usual morning vibe. I’m a slow riser, but not this time! I’ve said it before “I only wake early for flights and game drives”, but I’ve now made an exception for a hot air balloon rides, after all they also count as flights, right?!
Once again we found ourselves weaving our way through the unknown back roads of the Magaliesburg, dodging potholes in the dark.
We arrived in the pitch dark so the lantern-lined pathway and bonfire were a welcome sight.
Our tickets were waiting for us, as was a hot drink and some South African rusks, much needed as we’d yet to have breakfast!
And then we waited….
You see Hot Air Balloon flying IS an exact science. The wind has to be perfect to take flight… You don’t want to get this wrong!
Unfortunately the wind wasn’t playing along quite as it should. Panic started to rise within me. What if we’d come all this way only to be told that they wouldn’t be taking to the skies because of the weather. I’d flown in from Cape Town for this, and it was unlikely I’d be back anytime soon. I sent up some prayers!!!
Usually the flight is followed by breakfast but our pilot wanted to wait a bit longer to give the wind some time to change it’s mind, so we sat down for breakfast first, keeping our eyes fixed on his face for positive signs or at least a smile.
And then we finally got the good news. We would be going up! My heart literally lept with excitement.
As we finished our breakfast the Bill Harrop’s team set about prepping the balloon….
After seeing other hot air balloon pics I knew I wanted one of the interior as it was being inflated, so I hung around to see if this would be possible (staying well clear of the HUGE fans used to inflate it!)
And then I got my chance to step inside and capture it’s magnificence and incredible scale.
Excitement (& anxiety) levels mounted as the thought of heading up into the atmosphere, held there by a thin layer of material, became a reality…
Finally it was time to step aboard the balloon basket…
And then, ever so gently, we took to the skies. Floating up, up and away! The earth getting smaller and smaller with every second!
No words can do the feeling justice. A Hot Air Balloon ride is something that has to be experience to be believed.
The peace and serenity of this way of travel can’t be beat! It truly is like nothing else.
“Completely addictive” according to our pilot, Marc Nuthall, and I can well believe him.
Only the occasional loud blast of the gas burner to keep us afloat broke the silence as we cruised like a cloud… Winnie-the-Pooh would have been very proud indeed!
The views of the Magaliesburg mountains and the unique perspective of the farmlands below, including a wild animal or two, made this a most memorable way to spend the first few hours of Spring Day 2017!
And then, as we neared Hartebeespoort Dam, an added bonus to make this flight even more thrilling.
See if you can spot it in the picture below…
Yip a fly by of a tiny aircraft who was taking off in the area and contacted our pilot to request a fly by. What fun!!!
After flying for almost an hour, and covering a distance of approximately 7 km, it was time to come in to land.
We practiced our landing positions a few times and then slowly started to descend, allowing us a closer look at some of the building work taking place in the area 😉
And then it was back down to earth with a bump!
Our pilot had earmarked a large vacant plot of freshly ploughed land (a potato field) that looked like a good spot to set ourselves down and we managed to land with a few bumps and drags, but without toppling the basket over (it happens, a lot!)
To celebrate our successful landing, a glass of bubbles at 9am… because not dying is worth celebrating right!!
What an experience! Surely one for EVERY Travel Bucket List! And now that I’ve ticked this off the list I’m definitely keen to do it again. Maybe next time in Cappadocia – the world capital of Hot Air Balloon bucket lists.
Now for those of you reading this who are saying “I could NEVER do that because I’m so afraid of heights” I have some news for you… so am I!
Making my way up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain or standing at the top of a high building (even inside) gives me the freaks, but this Hot Air Balloon Ride was a totally different experience.
Yes, I was a ball of nerves beforehand, but as soon as we took to the sky my anxiety floated away and I was able to completely enjoy the ride. I think it’s because the sensation of gliding through the air is so relaxing.
It also totally helps to switch off the voice in your brain that wants to scream “You’re hanging in the air hundreds of metres above the ground in a basket” You just have to ignore that voice and marvel at the balloon safari experience you’re enjoying!!!
Here’s a short video of our Hot Air Balloon Flight… Enjoy!
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Images: Kathryn Rossiter
Disclosure: 1 (I won this flight in a competition!)