Hot air balloon rides are a bucket list activity for many travellers unless you are afraid of heights.
It has always been something I wanted to try. However, the windy or rainy weather always put a damper on my plans.
As I travel to the hot air balloon location, I don’t have high hopes for the experience. It probably won’t happen if the dull weather persists, I think to myself.
Thirty minutes later, the bus arrives at Granny Mouse Country House in the KZN Midlands; the weather clear and warm.
Our tour guide tells us that an off-road vehicle will fetch us at the reception to take us to the hot air balloon site.
Still, I’m wary. After surgery two months ago, I’m unsure whether I can travel on the hot air balloon. Once we arrive at the location, our temperature is taken and written down. Our masks still fixed on our faces.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee, positioned on a table nearby, permeates the air.
The hot air balloon accommodates eight guests and a pilot.
When it’s time to board, everyone climbs into the balloon in pairs (there are 5 compartments, with the bigger one for the pilot in the middle).
It’s a small climb up the balloon, and after two attempts, I give up trying.
“I can’t do it,” I say; my heart sinks.
“We need someone in your place then,” the lady says sympathetically.
I’ve given up hope of ticking off hot air ballooning from my bucket list when someone recommends that I climb on a stool and get assistance from the men to get inside the balloon.
It works. Within two minutes, I am inside the fiery vessel, my face beaming with happiness.
“I am so happy you are on board,” a member of our tour group tells me. “I would have hated for you to miss this opportunity,” she says with a smile.
Views for days
After a mandatory safety prompt, the balloon glides into the air effortlessly. The sun rises above the horizon. I’m in awe of the spectacular view in front of me. The clicking of cameras can be heard all over the vessel as everyone is relishing the sensory overload.
The hot air balloon continues to rise and there’s plenty to see. Like the dazzle of zebra who are enjoying a morning sprint and the lush views of trees swaying from one side to the other. I could be up here for hours.
After an hour, it’s time to land. The pilot tells us to store away our gadgets and valuables and squat down for landing.
We land in a remote grassland area, children playing nearby.
To calm our nerves, our pilot pours us a glass of mimosas to celebrate completing the journey.
“This is the tradition of ballooning, guys. If we can’t make you happy with a balloon ride, then we make you happy with some champagne afterwards,” he says as he pours the champagne into our glasses.
Well, I am pretty happy with both. I raise my glass to the air-cheers to the high life and my first hot air balloon ride.
What you should know before you go
*The activity is hosted by Hot Air Ballooning SA and weather permitting. Email [email protected] or call 011 802 4318.
*Travellers can enjoy hot air balloon experiences in the Maluti mountain range in Clarens, Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng, the Vaal River, Vredefort Dome in Free State, KZN Midlands, Champagne Valley in the Drakensberg and Tala Valley in KwaZulu-Natal.
*The activity takes three to four hours, including travel time.
*It’s safe for all ages over the age of five.
*Rates for the hot air balloon varies and depends on your location and the number of people on the ride.
Clinton Moodley was hosted by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.