Monday, November 16, 2009

Up, up and awayyyy…in my beautiful balloon!

I don’t think about my bucket list very often. I have one, I mean we all have one, right? Things we want to do before we die. Mine is rather vague. I don’t really have a set list. Here’s usually how it goes: an opportunity will present itself and I ask myself, “Self? think this may be our only chance to do this? Should we give it a go, so we can say we did it before we die?” And usually my self will say, “Hell, yeah!”

An opportunity presented itself this past weekend. A group from CGMan’s work put together a trip to the desert to ride a hot air balloon at sunrise. Self and I didn’t debate long at all. We and another couple loaded up and headed out. We went a day ahead so we could be there first thing in the morning.

It was a beautiful, clear morning and watching them blow up the balloons was amazing.

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Then we had a couple of lessons on how to jump in the basket when it was time. We had to do it quickly because when the balloon is ready to go, it’s ready to go.

We all jumped in our basket and lifted off before the other balloon.

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We went to an altitude of 4,000 meters to watch the sunrise.

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After that, we lowered a bit to catch some wind and drift across the desert. We didn’t see any camels, but we did see some desert gazelles. They were fun to watch and amazingly fast. They didn’t care for our noisy balloons.

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And they are noisy! When the pilot wasn’t blowing the flame up into the balloon, it was very quiet and serene. Unfortunately, you can’t do that long because the balloon starts to sink. When he pulls the lever for the fire, it’s very loud. And hot. I was standing right next to him.

We sailed over the desert for a little while.

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Then it was time to land. Let me just say, the landing is not as pretty as the lift off. During the flight we practiced our landing positions. We were also instructed not to try to escape the basket after landing. He would let us know when we could safely leave the basket.

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Then he warned us it would be rough. I had a hint when we practiced the landing position for the second time. Hands on the rope, squat and press your back against the back of the basket. Our backs were to the landing, so when he had us “assume the position” we did not see that we were going to hit the sand, tip over and then drag for about 50 meters. On our backs.

Being next to him, I could see that he was steering and letting the hot air out of the balloon, all the while the wind was pulling us across the desert floor, and letting us know, “Not to worry (in his Polish accent) this is norrrrmal.”  I could not help but flash back to my last vacation and wondered if the hospitals in Abu Dhabi would provide pajamas. What is it with us and our “extreme vacations”?

But safely we did land and had to wait in the basket, on our backs, for all the air to leave the balloon, lest we catch some wind and be dragged further. I didn’t mind, because I was quite comfortable. Couples were encouraged to “spoon”, if you will, for landing, so with CGMan behind me, I was now very comfortably on top of him, while he was on his back. After only a minute or two, we were allowed to get out of the basket.

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We were in the top quadrant. I feel bad for the folks on the bottom, they got sand down their shirts.

I can now add crash landing a hot air balloon to my list of things I’ve done before I die. I only have one thing to say about it:

It. was. awesome.

Join us next time for:

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a trip to the camel market!

(There’s your camel, Meg)

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