Cross off the Bucket List – What’s it like to fly in a hot air balloon?

 

How many of you have a bucket list? Or a ‘Things to do before I die’ list, or a ‘Things to do before I’m 30’ that then becomes a ‘Things to do before I’m 40’ list?

I do. There’s not much on it any more as I progress with mindfulness and live more in the moment. One thing however that I have always wanted to do since being very young is ride in a hot air balloon.

The graceful way they potter through the sky on a sunny day, big balls of silk floating weightlessly, has always fascinated me. It’s never dropped off my list, nor has it moved up being pretty much out of price reach in our current climate.

Until now…thanks to a generous aunty who couldn’t use her voucher, myself and my wife got to give it a go in York.

The funny thing about bucket list items is that as they loom, you come to examine them a bit more. Particularly when they involve flying very high in the air in a small wicker basket with a bit of gas to keep you up there. I became fearful, tried to reassure myself people do it everyday, if it wasn’t safe they wouldn’t fly. It didn’t help that the first flight which I had psyched myself up for had been cancelled due to the bad weather.

Anyway Sunday dawns a beautiful bright day, and the air balloon ride is a go. Cue me wrapped up in many layers, hats, gloves , scarf as if I am climbing the Himalayas rather than heading 2000 foot up on a spring day.

The hot air balloon experience is rather a surreal one. You and 15 others help to unfurl a very heavy bag of silk, lay it out, two of the ‘strong men’ get to hold it open to blow the cold air into, and the another one at the end holding the top in, and then once you’ve got to that point, in comes the magic- the hot air. Once the hot air goes into the balloon it’s get ready to go time. And my ultimate comedy moment. Flexibility has never been my strong point…once the balloon is ready to go it’s ready to go and whether you’ve done Pilates all your life or not you’ve got to get in the basket. So here I am struggling to get my leg over, and some very kind bloke pushes my legs over while my wife pulls me headfirst and I somehow manage to land undamaged (with the exception of any slight shred of pride I might have had beforehand) in the basket).

The flight was amazing. For us, total Yorkophiles (if there was such a word) getting to see your beautiful city from the eye of a bird is pretty amazing. Very weird how things look from the sky as well. The park and ride suddenly has the look of an art deco fan, the Minster like a tiny chapel. My favourite part was 2500 feet above, with just silence, and the view of all the countryside, watching the world pottering about below whilst we were floating serenely above it all. So I would say that’s a pretty successful bucket list item ticked off.

Thanks to Virgin Balloons and our pilot Dave, and crew Nick and Nick for getting us up and back down safely

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