Up in My Air Balloon

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 Magaliesburg 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.

Lift-offpsd

Lift-off.

Airborne

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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28 Comments

  • Reply Manny's Gallery May 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I just love how a song and people we meet everyday in our personal experiences in life inter-connects. Lovely video and amazing photographs. Great story.

    Manny 🙂

    • Reply 2summers May 29, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks Manny! This song really does fit well with the experience. Timely.

  • Reply ciki May 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    What a lovely post! I wish I was back up in that hot air balloon! 😀

    • Reply 2summers May 29, 2014 at 3:32 pm

      Me too! Let’s do it again 🙂

  • Reply ciki May 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    What a lovely post! I wish I was back up in that hot air balloon! 😀

    • Reply 2summers May 29, 2014 at 3:32 pm

      Me too! Let’s do it again 🙂

  • Reply Firefly - Jonker May 30, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I got to go on one of these a couple of years ago and had Bill Harrop himself pilot the balloon I was on. What an amazing experience, even for somebody with a genuine fear for heights.

    • Reply 2summers May 30, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Bill Harrop seems like an interesting character. I wish I’d had time to chat with him.

  • Reply Firefly - Jonker May 30, 2014 at 9:54 am

    I got to go on one of these a couple of years ago and had Bill Harrop himself pilot the balloon I was on. What an amazing experience, even for somebody with a genuine fear for heights.

    • Reply 2summers May 30, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Bill Harrop seems like an interesting character. I wish I’d had time to chat with him.

  • Reply Roetsuprooted May 30, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I had the privilege of doing a Bill Harop’s Balloon trip too. It was amazing. You got beautiful shots.

  • Reply Roetsuprooted May 30, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I had the privilege of doing a Bill Harop’s Balloon trip too. It was amazing. You got beautiful shots.

  • Reply Matthew Karsten May 30, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I want to travel long distance by hot-air balloon now. How fun would that be!

    • Reply 2summers May 30, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Maybe you could find a long-distance ballooning expedition over Afghanistan and Iran? That would be perfect for you 🙂

  • Reply Matthew Karsten May 30, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I want to travel long distance by hot-air balloon now. How fun would that be!

    • Reply 2summers May 30, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Maybe you could find a long-distance ballooning expedition over Afghanistan and Iran? That would be perfect for you 🙂

  • Reply Sunshinebright May 31, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Thank you for the experience. As I’ve said in past comments, I won’t be going to Africa – my travelling days are in the past, but I so enjoy yours. 🙂

  • Reply Sunshinebright May 31, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Thank you for the experience. As I’ve said in past comments, I won’t be going to Africa – my travelling days are in the past, but I so enjoy yours. 🙂

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish June 3, 2014 at 6:21 am

    I’m dating myself here, but you got me humming the 5th Dimension’s “Up, up and away, in my beautiful balloon”. I’ve seen them filled and rising in Vermont and California, but I don’t think I’ll ever get in one now. Even when I was younger, I could look down from a half-mile cliff and love the view, but two feet off the ground in a wobbly basket and I start to hyperventilate. But that’s okay, I can enjoy your photos instead 🙂

    • Reply 2summers June 4, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Haha, interesting. I’ve never felt any fear of heights and I’m starting to realize how lucky I am for that.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish June 3, 2014 at 6:21 am

    I’m dating myself here, but you got me humming the 5th Dimension’s “Up, up and away, in my beautiful balloon”. I’ve seen them filled and rising in Vermont and California, but I don’t think I’ll ever get in one now. Even when I was younger, I could look down from a half-mile cliff and love the view, but two feet off the ground in a wobbly basket and I start to hyperventilate. But that’s okay, I can enjoy your photos instead 🙂

    • Reply 2summers June 4, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      Haha, interesting. I’ve never felt any fear of heights and I’m starting to realize how lucky I am for that.

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