Bucketlist #21: Take a Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

Last summer, one of my dreams came true: I was invited to go up into the air… in a hot air balloon! Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity – I mean, when am I ever going to do this again?

I have flown in airplanes all of my life and have even flown over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter! That doesn’t mean it didn’t wanna go up in a hot air balloon – and especially not after having seen UP When I get excited like I was that day, it is difficult for me to find a balance between experiencing this wonderful moment and taking pictures and videos to document everything. Everything. Instead of enjoying the moment I tried to capture every detail, so you’ll be seeing some of the best pictures me and my brother took.

I don’t know about you, but when I imagined taking a ride in a hot air balloon, I didn’t think I’d have to do anything besides, you know, climb into the basket, watch the sunset, yell at the people below like a crazy person, and hope I don’t break my legs when we land in the middle of nowhere. None of that. Everyone had to do their part for the flight to go through.

We were a group of nine and were completed engaged in the whole process of blowing hot air into the balloon, keeping the whole thing from floating upward without us by hanging all of our weight on the basket until we were allowed to climb inside. Finally, when everyone had climbed in one by one, we were up and away. My granddad and brother followed us by car. You have to be able to get home when you have landed in the middle of nowhere, right?

Here are some facts about our particular balloon:

  • height: 5 floors, or 28m, or 92ft
  • speed: 12-13km/h or 7-8mph
  • legal stuff: in Belgium you can’t fly higher than 750m (or half a mile) above sea level with a hot air balloon, which is just below the level where airplanes fly when they leave from Brussels International Airport

We flew from Waasmunster in the direction of Zele. It’s too bad we couldn’t fly over my region, but hey, this was a lot fun already!

In the wake of several other balloons, we soared along on the northerly winds and enjoyed the views of changing horizons in which the sun set and the landscapes of green fields and woods and the typical red Belgian rooftops of the little houses. We waved – and in my case yelled (which created these freaky echo’s) – at the spectators below us and laughed at the way the dogs in the people’s tiny yards reacted to our balloon.

Eventually we started to look out for a nice field we could land in. As we got closer to the ground, I noticed how quiet it had been up in the air. Sounds started gaining volume again: birds, cars, the wind in the trees…

Our pilot – or whatever you call someone who steers a balloon – decided upon a field where an angry-looking peasant woman was waiting for us. Her hands put firmly in her waist, she looked as if she would… I don’t know… scream our heads off if we dared set foot on her land. Not that there was anything I could do about it, though.

Of course, I’d had nothing to fear for. Apparently, the farmers in this region are used to random balloons using there fields as an airstrip. They know they’ll get something in return: in this case, a basket filled with Belgian beers.

The flight took about an hour. Basically, it was over way too soon. After we landed we had to work like a team again to hold down the balloon before we guided it neatly onto a truck that would take the basket and balloon back to… wherever it came from. Everyone, including the drivers that followed us around during our flight to take us home afterward, got a drink (champagne!). We, the flight crew, received a certificate for our first time riding a hot air balloon.

Riding a hot air balloon was one of the many things I got to scratch of my bucketlist last summer! Is this on your bucketlist too? 

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