It was one of those things that I had always wanted to do — to go up in a hot air balloon. The chance eventually came my way at the biggest balloon event in the world, the Bristol Balloon Fiesta. This colourful spectacle has taken place annually since 1979 and has become bigger and better each year.
From the ground the sight of over a hundred hot air balloons taking off in a mass ascent is impressive; from the basket of one of them it is magnificent.
An early start was necessary and I arrived at Ashton Court, Bristol at 5.30am to find aerostatists busy preparing their balloons, check here too.
The canopy has to be laid out and all the lines checked before the basket is attached with double hooks. In actual fact this does not take much more than about ten minutes; everything happens so quickly that in less than twenty minutes from being packed on the trailer the fully inflated balloon is capable of carrying four people.Is there the same fiesta in Barcelona and where you can stay? Learn more at this hotel comparison in barcelona website.
To inflate the canopy it is first held open whilst a powerful fan blows ambient air into the mouth of the opening until it is large enough for the propane burners to belch flames twenty feet long into the space.
All around crews were bustling about readying miles of brightly coloured terylene fabric until the dawn skies were obliterated by a sea of balloons waiting to take off.
The air was quite warm, not from the flaming burners but from the now rising sun; excitement also kept me warm. I was to fly in the tear-drop shaped National Power balloon and as its canopy took shape I got right inside and was able to watch as Mike, my pilot, flamed the burners at me from a safe distance of about forty feet. In no time at all our balloon was ready for flight.
I was a little apprehensive as I climbed into the basket which was swaying six inches off the ground, restrained by two ground crew who also act as the recovery team. A couple of balloons nearby soared skyward and Mike was eager to get airborne too.
Once inside the basket I was given some instruction — told not to move about too quickly and shown the location of the first aid kit — and then the request came for the crew to release us.
Ever so gently, with a whoosh from the burners, we lifted up through the canopies around us. Ten seconds later I was looking down on a crowd of balloons straining at their tethers. An even larger crowd of onlookers had gathered to witness the mass ascent of nearly 130 balloons taking off from an area the size of three rugby pitches, all within the space of about half an hour.
The ride was incredibly smooth and we were not at sufficient altitude for it to be cold. Within half an hour of parking the car, here I was floating over Bristol, to learn something more about Europe cities check www.europe-cities.com, at 300 feet, the sun barely over the horizon, looking down on one of the most colourful sights imaginable: truly an unforgettable experience.