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Ballooning

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                                                                                   The Balloonists’ Prayer

The Winds have Welcomed you with softness.
The Sun has blessed you with its warm hands.
You have flown so high and so well,
that God has joined you in your laughter.
And He has set you gently back again
into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

Hot Air Ballooning over Ait Ben Haddou-morocco

We did our first ballooning trip in Palm Springs USA, where we were visiting Hélène’s sister, Marion, who lives in San Diego, California. Together we spent a few days in Palm Springs playing golf and lost some money in Vegas.

But we wanted to make a balloon flight !.
You see us here just before takeoff, the girls in the back, me and my brother in law Carroll on the right. We flew over Palm Springs, the wind took us south over the Mexican part of the town. As is was just before Christmas Eve, shouts of Felice Navidad came from the friendly people below, mixed with the sound of their barking dogs. We had a lovely flight and landed in the vineyards and were treated on champagne !

A few years ago my wife Hélène and I made big trip through Namibia. It is a country of compelling beauty, abundant sunshine, and a feeling of unconfined space. We travelled from Windhoek, Fish River canyon, Namib Desert, along the Skeleton Coast to the Kunene river on the Angola border, then on to the Caprivi Strip.

We spent some great days in the Kaudom game reserve, a rugged, remote part of Namibia, along the Botswana border.But we has also planned a hot air ballooning trip over the Namib desert. Ballooning over the Namib desert is one of the most beautiful experiences one can possibly have on a Namibia trip. Because of the strong thermal movements over the desert, the start has to take place at dawn. The quietness that embraces you after the balloon has risen, is captivating.

In Namibia we camped at Sossusvlei, this is one of Namibia’s highlights in the heart of the Namib desert, is an enormous clay-pan, enclosed by mighty sand dunes. Some of the spectacular hills of sand reach a height of 300 metres, and therefore, belong to the highest in the world. Only after a heavy rainfall, which is very seldom in this area, does the vlei fill with water. However, as the clay layers are hardly impervious to water, a turquoise lake remains for quite some time.

After unloading all the balloon equipment, the balloon is stretched vertically and all the supports and cables to the basket are attached to it, then the fan is set to blow air into the “mouth” of the balloon.
After opening the mouth of the balloon, the fan is turned on, and the balloon is inflated with cold air. The Crew holds open the mouth of the balloon until there is enough air for the pilot to begin heating it with the “burners”.

Once the Balloon is inflated with cold air, the pilot will begin to the heat the air with the burners so that the balloon will lift itself into the upright position, so that the passengers may board with the pilot’s permission.

Once the Pilot has heated the air within the balloon’s “envelope,” the balloon gets itself upright. Then the passengers board with the pilots permission and the pilot heats the air a bit more to raise the balloon into the air.

Is was still quite cold, early in the morning as we took of. The balloon is gracefully lifted into the air. You will feel no turbulence as the balloon is gently carried with the wind. During the Flight, in order to stay aloft, the Pilot must burn every few minutes to keep the air in the balloon’s envelope hot enough to keep the balloon buoyant. We flew over the desert, the shadow of our balloon followed us. At the height of a hundred feet, one drifts quietly over a sea of dunes.
The first sunrays dip the desert into a magic warm, reddish light. After about an hour the pilot started looking for a place to land. Well in the Namib that is not a problem, he was searching for the pace car who had followed us and after a slow descent we came down. The basket tipped over en we climbed out.

Champagen in the Namib desert, 1999
It was absolutely quiet in the desert,
so calm and so peaceful.
But the silence was disturbed by the pace car who arrived, they set the table, the champagne was opened and we had breakfast.

A breakfast I will never forget,
talk about a room with a view !

We had a grand day !

PS: If you like something even more exhilarating go QUAD biking

Who can say
“I lost my clutch in the Namib desert”

Well, I can !

Cees

Source: Wikipedia, Balloon photo: this work has been released into the public domain by its author, Imaneb82