We climbed into the twelve (!) person basket and hunched down while the basket still laid on its side.
Our pilot continued to fire the
four (!) massive gas jets until we were finally wrenched upright
and then quickly lifted off the ground -- just in time for the sunrise!
You really got a great perspective on things from just a few dozen yards up.
At one point early on we were
drifting at a height much lower than the surrounding
(and fast approaching) trees. Our pilot started burning the gas blowers and held them open
almost continuously for nearly a minute as the line of trees closed to a few hundred yards away,
but the balloon still showed no sign of rising from the heat of the jets.
And boy do those things generate heat.
With a wicked smile she then turned off the jets again
and we continued to drift quietly and seemingly faster towarrds collision with the trees.
Momentarily, without any
further action on her part, the balloon finally began to rise
and cleared the trees by probably just fifty feet.
We all cheered in admiration.
Talk about a good sense of timing...
Passing over a hippo pool here.
Landings in hot air balloons
It's not much more than a controlled crash -- it's not like there are any brakes or anything
or like you can steer the balloon down a runway or something.
You're told to remove all
cameras and other belongings from around your neck
and to crouch down in the basket again and... hold on.
The balloon is merely allowed
to descend until the basket
starts to drag on the ground.
Often the basket is pulled back on its side as the balloon drags the
basket across the terrain before finally coming to a stop.
The regulations in the park
require that they land the balloon on one of the few existing
(Just as all vehicles are restricted to existing roads.)
Amazingly, our pilot does just that.
Mind you, we didn't drift down parallel to some road -- she intersected an
approaching road perpendicularly.
This is what they do on a regular basis. They time the descent for the current wind speed
such that they come to a stop on an available road.
And sure enough, after we climbed out we found the basket resting half on, half off
of this narrow little dirt road.
Now that's timing.
Following our landing and a
we were whisked off for a classic safari breakfast near the river.
Check out the costumes of the servers!
When we arrived, we found the
cooks and servers were having a little trouble keeping
the babboons clear from the table.
As we pulled up, our pilot had to chase off what must have surely been
the alpha male enjoying our pilot's seat at the head of the table.