…the lift of hot air ballooning
by Lynn Ogryzlo
It’s never as bad as you think, it’s never as bad as you think, it’s never as bad as you think. That was my mantra driving to Ontario Hot Air Balloon Rides. Why had I agreed to float thousands of feet above the ground in a littlewicker basket?
The drive to Ontario Hot Air Balloon Rides was calming. Ontario has some of the most beautiful rural landscapes and I never tire of it. It’s early morning, the air is still and the sun is just peeking above a crimson horizon. Who could not be hopeful in the midst of this beauty?
“Hot air ballooning is weather dependent, the slightest wind and the event has to be cancelled”, explains pilot, Simon Restell. “In fact, the perfect weather conditions are dawn and dusk and that’s when most balloon rides take place.” Having said that, most of the hot air balloon companies I talked to say it’s common to have your event rescheduled a few times due to weather. Today was not one of those days.
Simon has been flying commercially for almost two decades but he was just 12 years old when his father took him on a hot air balloon ride. Since then, Simon figures he’s clocked over 2,000 hours of flight time, but he still gets excited when he climbs into the basket of one of the oldest methods of flying in the world!
I took a good look at the basket and it didn’t resemble the picnic-like basket I’d pictured. Instead it was so large it went up to my ribs and was divided into three sturdy portions, partly for stability, partly for weight distribution.
It didn’t look like an easy take off, but then again I had no idea what they were doing as I watched the flat mass of fabric laying on the ground come to life into a giant balloon above my head. I climbed in.
The sun was rising just like the balloon and my stomach felt the lightness of floating up. The experience was so peaceful it didn’t feel like I was rising up, rather it felt as if the ground was getting further and further away. What I mean is that other than someone moving in the basket, there was nothing but pure stillness, peace. The honking of car horns and the occasional barking dog got further and further away and it added to the sense of tranquility and solitude, like the world and all of my worries were over there and I was here.
Simon explains that you can’t steer a hot air balloon, and that he
simply raises and lowers the altitude depending on the aviation forecasts he’d studied that morning. “Your direction is completely dependent
on where the winds are blowing.” It all added a sense of freedom, of complete abandon to the experience that was more thrilling than I could ever imagine.
Back on the ground Simon breaks out the champagne, a tradition that was started in 1783 by the first hot air balloonist, Pilatre De Rozier (Paris). Back then it was a celebration of surviving the flight; today it’s to celebrate the elated feeling of exhilaration, the ethereal experience of calm and peace and the blood rushing altruistic thrill. I noticed it was difficult to actually feel the earth beneath my feet again.
The Kitchener area is one of Ontario’s most beautiful and weather dependable locations to fly hot air balloons and with permissions and permits in hand, they can launch anywhere from a soccer field to a farmer’s field. As I drove away I in my new state of giddiness, of happiness, I notice that little voice in my head was repeating a new mantra: when can I go again, when can I go again, when can I go again?
All of these companies run hot air balloon rides in the Kitchener area. Call for more details.
Ontario Hot Air Balloon Rides – Kitchener
Sundance Balloons – Kitchener
Skyward Balloons – Cambridge
Air Display – Barrie