When I’m bored, I, kinda drift away,
I’m not sure, quite, why we work all day.
I’ve been thinking, and I’ve got this plan,
Let’s go, right now.
Come meet me in the sky I’ll be waiting for you,
And we can’t hear what they say.
Up in my air balloon, air balloon, air balloon, HA.

–Lily Allen, Air Balloon

This song has been running through my head for days. (Incidentally, the video features Lily Allen riding a zebra and was shot in Cape Town.)

It must be time to post my balloon story.

Tiny balloon

 Up in my air balloon, air balloon, air balloon, HA.

A few weeks ago I took a hot air balloon ride over the Magaliesberg Mountains with Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris, as part of the #MeetSouthAfrica trip. This is one of those activities that I probably never would have booked on my own, simply because it’s out of my price range (R1365 to R2450 — $130 to $240 — per person). But now that I’ve done it I realize that it’s totally worth the money.

Here is my balloon safari in pictures.

Inflating balloon early

Balloon safaris start at sunrise. Our group arrived before 5:00 a.m. (after a painful 3:40 wakeup call), which was actually much earlier than necessary. At this time of year the sun doesn’t start to rise until after 6:00 a.m. I was still feeling pretty groggy and cranky at this point (hence the fuzziness of the shot), but the fuller the balloons got the more excited I became.

IgnitionMy crankiness dissolved completely at this point.

Inflating balloon later

Watching the balloons inflate was one of my favorite parts of the experience.




My balloon was one of the last to take off, just after the sun passed the horizon. I was awe-struck.

Magaliesburg landscape

The best thing about going up in a balloon was the silence — no motors, no wingbeats, no chattering flight attendants. The only sounds were the occasional bursts of hot air, the camera shutter-clicks, and the excited squeals of half a dozen sleep-deprived, over-excited bloggers.

Kat and phone

A balloon full of bloggers. Look at all the extended hands clutching cell phones and go-pros. Kat from Simply South Africa is in the foreground.

Heather in balloon

Happiness. (Photo: Matthew Karsten)

Looking down Bill Harrops

Looking down on Bill Harrop’s.

Balloon silhouette

I can’t think of any more words to describe how beautiful this was.

Balloon landing

Coming in for landing. I was briefly terrified that we would hit the power lines but of course we didn’t. After the uneventful landing, our balloon was deflated and we enjoyed a champagne toast. Then a van drove us the few kilometers back to Bill Harrop’s.

Bill Harrop

Bill Harrop himself. Such a dapper gentleman — he reminds me of my dad. As we enjoyed our hearty champagne breakfast (included in the price) at the clubhouse, Bill made a witty speech and handed out certificates to everyone who survived the ride. We all did.

I highly recommend this experience to anyone in the Joburg/Pretoria area who can scrape the funds together to do it.

Na-Na-nananana. Na. Na-NA-nananaaaaa….

Logistical note: You can easily do a balloon safari as a day trip from Jozi, assuming you can manage to wake up in the middle of the night. It’s about an hour’s drive. I recommend going in early winter like we did — the autumn colors are stunningly beautiful and the sun rises late, allowing for more sleep. There are also several lodges within half an hour of Bill Harrop’s: We stayed at the Valley Lodge and it was lovely.

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