Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A date in the skies

I'm horribly lazy, I must confess. My dear husband as well, is no shining example of a man driven to not sit still in the weekends. We're both made for each other. Our enemy is that tiny but powerful button on our alarm clock, camouflaged with a cute sounding name like 'Snooze'. 

It was a Saturday following an early Friday evening. The best of plans were laid and we were to comfortably complete our mission without any hindrances or delays. The kids were to sleep in, my mother accommodatingly giving us a chance for a real date, a real date in the skies literally.
Alas, 'snoozing' more than twice, I suddenly jolted up from my pillow realizing we were 20 minutes late and running. Breakfast and the morning bathroom rituals were cast aside asunder. Suffice to say, we weren't giddily excited and buoyant with our moods having to sacrifice such vital parts of our Saturday mornings.

The rush to our destinations were peppered with accusations from each of us on who was supposed to be responsible for our lack of tardiness. Imagine a scene from The Amazing Race, but with much lesser attractive people and less subtle dialogue. You'll get the picture just fine. The rest of it was, as they say, history.

Hundreds of adventure seeking enthusiasts were already lining up even before the crack of dawn to get their hands on tickets for a tethered ride on hot air balloon while we had ours handed to us along with a media pass. Tickets that awarded us an experience to be in an actual hot air balloon flight with no strings attached! Skipping coffee was so worth it!

Armed with a sophisticated digital camera and media pass, I went American Sniper (film) and shot every potential target - click, click, click non stop. I even crashed a wedding proposal and got a close up pose. It wasn't long after that I remembered Uncle Ben's advice to Peter Parker from Spiderman, "with great power comes great responsibility" and eased off a little. 

There were 20 hot air balloons from across the globe sharing Putrajaya's airspace on that day (14 March 2015). It took more than five balloon crew members and about 15 minutes to set up one air balloon. It involved spread opening the balloon with big fan blowers while it lay deflated on the ground like a sleeping giant and heat from big gas cylinders to push it up to the sky. Once it was up, we climbed into the rattan basket attached to the balloon while the balloon crew anchored it to the ground with their body weight.

Scared, exhilarated and excited . I was a bag of mixed emotions in that tiny basket because that's all it was, a basket. It had no safety net, no parachutes and not even a first aid kit in it. I stood close to the pilot, almost crushing her against the basket so she never got a chance to climb out with me in it because of a silly thought, what if the balloon takes flight without a pilot? Would I jump or pilot it myself? Yet, I stayed in as it ascended into the clear crisp morning sky. 

Take off was just one word command, "OK!" from the pilot and we were off the ground in a heartbeat. Never had I seen buildings, people and cars looks so tiny so quickly as we travelled swiftly up into the sky. Once high up in the sky, we were at the mercy of the wind that had the power of navigation. It could blow us to whichever direction it fancied.

After a knee trembling lift off, the serenity, stillness and silence I felt once up in the sky was simply awesome that I should’ve sang 'Everything is awesome' Lego movie song. For couple of minutes no one spoke and had their gaze transfixed into the vastness of the horizon, each from their little corner in the basket. I could hear the gentle wind blowing but all that came to an abrupt end when more heat from burner was released into the big balloon that was ferrying us.

There aren’t many parts that make up a hot air balloon but I kept a watchful eye on the burner because our safety depended on it. The pilot also gave us a brief history lesson on hot air balloon. I was very contented sharing the basket with her and wished the flight never came to end. Right up to the point I started probing her of some hot air balloon mishaps. Note, never ask about mishaps while you're still flying.

"Let's land this bugger" said the pilot shortly after our Q&A and these words were like music to my ears. I was eager and happily welcomed her suggestion. We landed on a small vacant spot in between some houses. It was still windy during landing, so had to prepare for a rough landing. “Keep knees bent” she instructed, followed by a loud thud and skid. We were dragged by the wind a few metres away from our landing spot but just before the edge of a small hill. Going over that would have landed us on hard tar road.

Some residents flocked to the hot air balloon and took pictures with us. We obliged because we were sitting ducks in the basket, awaiting for the balloon crew to help anchor it to the ground before we can climb out. If one of us were to jump out prematurely, the balloon might ascend back into the sky. I was back at crushing the pilot between me and the basket, so she had no chance to jump out.

It all ended well and will be an experience we shall not forget. We even made a video interview with Ashley from Capital FM 88.9
Being interviewed by Ashley from Capital FM and sharing our experiences on a hot air balloon.

For more pictures, check out my other post, Flying with no wings (coming soon...)

Thank you for stopping by at A cuppa for my thoughts
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  1. What a beautiful experience! So glad you got to do that!

    A suggestion for the snooze button issue: put the clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. ;-)

  2. I have always wanted to do that - they have that huge festival in New Mexico which is just a few hours from us in AZ. Beautiful photos from your trip! :)

    1. Thanks! The pilot mentioned that New Mexico's hot air balloons festival is one of the biggest as you get to see more than 200 hot air balloons in the air. But her all time favourite is Japan because of the beauty, the weather and scenic route Japan has to offer.

  3. That is so cool! My hubby and I are lazy too :). We love sitting around together at home. Not sure we could do this as we are both scared of heights! I think it's great you got those pics of the wedding proposal. I'm sure they would love to have them.

    1. Ha! Good to know we are not the only lazy couple. I am glad they were willing to let me take those shots.

  4. So very cool! I would never have the nerve to go on a hot air balloon ride... so thank you for taking me on this one with you!

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely day.