Yesterday I had my first hot air balloon flight,quite an experience. Maybe not exiting enough for the adrenaline junkies that like to (bungy-)jump of bridges, but if you want to have a different view on your home city a ballon flight is really nice. The flight was a present for my mom's 65th birthday and we needed a couple of volunteers to join her. Someone has got to do the dirty job... so my sister, two of my mother friends and I went up. The trip was booked at A3 Ballon and around 17:00 our pilot arrived in a van with the balloon basket on the trailer.
Getting the balloon ready to go was quite some work. The balloon itself was 25x18 meters and it required a serious fan to first fill it up with cold air and then heat up the air with the burners. Once the air in the balloon was hot enough, it lifted itself, we jumped in and our 'safety-line' attached to the van was released. Pretty impressive how fast we gained more and more height by just heating the air above us. The first sights of Woerden were really beautiful, here's the castle in the center of Woerden with the church next to it. It felt like playing Google Earth , but instead of seeing pictures of over a year old this was live. The silence up there was amazing, you don't feel the wind (since you're moving as fast as the wind), and you really feel free like a bird... with one problem, you have no clue where you're going to end up. The wind is just going to take you somewhere.... Marijn (our pilot) did bring some maps, but the only thing he's able to control is the height of the balloon.
After leaving Woerden we past Kamerik, Kockengen, Breukelen (with it's infamous Chinese Building and traffic jams), crossed Breukelen and then started to prepare for the landing. While preparing for the touch down we lost some height and started to touch the top of trees, here you can see that we were on the same height as the trees. Just before the landing we noticed a weird building just left to us . There were bars all around it and it definitely did not look like a nice place to be. The landing was perfect, one little bump and we were back on earth, two thumps up for Marijn, our pilot on this flight. Soon after we landed we learned from people passing by that the weird looking building is was the womens-only prison in Nieuwersluis, it took only minutes before a couple of guards came out to check the situation. I wonder what would have happend if we landed on their territory...
This is the route we took (red line running from green balloon to red balloon):
Think you're done after the touch down? No way, pulling the balloon down, getting all air out of it, folding it and getting it back in the van and then finally The Ceremony, the thing we all did this trip for: because the survived the trip we wre promoted to Baron and Baroness "from Woerden till Nieuwersluis":
- First we had to kneel down
- Then some grass was planted on our heads
- Using a lighter the grass was 'symbolically burned'
- A bottle of the best champagne available was opened and was poured over our head
- And finally we got to drink some champagne
All in all a really special happening and if you ever have a chance to join a balloon flight: do it, it's worth every penny!
If you're interested: at the A3 website there's a set of pictures of this flight.