Hot Air Balloon Over England

hot-air-balloonWhen I was a child in boarding school in Guatemala, the boys decided to make a hot air balloon every year. They made it out of colorful tissue paper, which they glued together like a patchwork quilt. The boys lit a fire outside on the barbecue grill, and they held that balloon over the smoke. Slowly, the balloon would fill up. Then the boys would release it into the air, and it rose like magic, floating across the sky.

This was the only time we were allowed to run off the property (aside from the hikes on Saturdays), but, oh, how fun it was to run like crazy, over the hills and creeks, with our eyes lifted up toward the sky. I’m sure I stumbled a few times, not paying attention to where I was setting my feet as I ran. Thank goodness my best friend was with me, because I would have had a terrible time trying to get back. (I have no sense of direction; I never have.)

hot-air-balloon-2So when I had the opportunity to go on a real hot air balloon when I lived in England ten years later, I jumped at that opportunity. What better friend to go on my adventure than my very same friend from boarding school. Plus, my boyfriend Alan (now my husband) wanted to come with us. So I booked the flight. It would take off over the Lake District in England, one of my very favorite places in the whole world (and I’ve seen a lot of the world.) We were right in the middle of England, in a place that poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge found inspiring, and for good reason.

At the crack of dawn we headed over to where the balloon was being filled. Fog rolled over the green countryside. The balloon took quite a while to fill up as we shivered in the cool spring air, looking at the sun coming up over the horizon.

hot-air-balloon-3We finally stepped into the basket, a sturdy basket with something in the center that creates fire. One of the balloon owners stayed on the ground and would be following us in his pickup truck. Up we went, up, up, up…

The soft breeze carried us the opposite direction from the lakes, but it was still beautiful. We could see the lakes disappearing in the distance, and the hills looked so much smaller from way up here. Those hills and mountains always looked like shaggy monsters who were fast asleep. I loved those Lake District mountains almost more than the Swiss Alps, but not quite, since there is a majesty and splendor about the Swiss Alps that is lacking in the humbler Lake District.

Suddenly the fire was turned off. At that moment, we were suspended, in complete silence, in the sky. It was a beautiful, lovely feeling… definitely magical. I looked over at the little thatched cottages and half-timbered houses… I was in a storybook. I was happy. And I got to share it with my two favorite people in the whole world.

It was funny, watching the tiny pickup truck, winding around the roads, trying to keep up with us. The fire went on and off at regular intervals. Finally the balloon flight was coming to an end. We began to descend. We saw a group of cows moving their heads in unison as we descended.

cowsSuddenly we bumped onto the ground – Thud! My friend was squashing me, and I was squashing Alan, and we were all laughing with our heads on the dirt. The basket had fallen sideways, dumping us out, and, lo and behold, we had landed in a cow field. The cows (and bulls) were charging towards us. It looked so hilarious from the ground, to see those upside-down cows galloping towards us, but we finally managed to get up. The cows continued to rush towards our hot air balloon, and in a moment of wild bravery (and a wish not to be trampled), I rushed headlong into the galloping cows, screaming and waving my arms frantically.

That seemed to do it. They stopped. I turned around and walked back to the balloon, with everyone laughing at me. We packed up the balloon and went home. It was a morning to remember.

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5 Responses to “Hot Air Balloon Over England”

  1. gibsonchristie says:

    I remember laughing as the cows rushed toward us. When the got to the balloon where we were all sideways on the ground, piled on top of each other, they all stopped and stood in a circle around the balloon watching as we got out. You did rush them though and they ran away.
    It was especially funny that we landed in a field of cows during the time when there was a “mad cow disease” scare in England.

  2. Susan says:

    I forgot about the mad cow disease. How funny!

  3. gibsonchristie says:

    Yeah! Someone said something funny like: “Princess Fergie (because of the red hair) seen chasing mad cows in Lake District”.

  4. Diane Hurst says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Susan — glad you had such a fun balloon trip, and also managed to scare off the cows 🙂

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