I can feel the heat on my skin as the flames scream upward as if it were a fire-breathing dragon next to me. It warms my goosebumps on this chilly, fog –filled, early morning in the Pyrenees and brings a smile to my face; a rare sight in the morning. My favorite part is the lift off. After filling the balloon with hot air, the liftoff it’s so subtle, quiet, and simple in a world which seems to get more loud and complicated by the minute. It’s an odd sensation to float, it gets me every time as the basket teeters, gently leaves the ground, and you feel as if you are learning to stand again for the first time.
As we lifted off the ground on the foggy morning I questioned whether we’d be able to see anything, but it turned out that the blanket fog ended up being what made the views so spectacular. It hung low in the Pyrenees and over the dormant volcanoes like tendrils of an octopus, slowing moving and crawling fluidly in an almost artist motion or brushstroke. As we floated above it all, you can only just take it in and marvel at nature in it’s glory.
There’s something poetic about experiencing a region from above, it’s like seeing the puzzle all put together as opposed to the little pieces that you digest one at a time on the ground.
As the fog started to burn off and disappear, we were left with hazy views and we cracked open the traditional bottle of champagne. Our pilot bobbed us up and down over ancient volcanoes so stealthily that I was surprised when we were skimming over treetops and floating just above the little village of Besalu. We reached altitudes of 4,200 feet moving at 24 mph, and as we came closer to the ground we’d slow to speeds of 5mph. Since hot air balloon rides are so quiet, it surprises me to find out that we were moving that fast and spinning around so much (as evidenced by this time lapse video of our morning that may make you dizzy).
The unpredictability of a landing space kept us in the air much longer than expected and we had a bonus experience of more flight time as the clouds burned off and blue skies surrounded us. And when we did land, I was amazed at the precision of our pilot as he plopped the balloon down right in the middle of a farm road as if it were as easy to control as a helicopter.
About the Operator:
The Vol de Coloms Balloon Rides was one of the most professional I’ve experienced. They even had their own take off point complete with coffee shop, snacks, and gift shop! It’s a family business that has been operating for 23 years with 6 balloons. After the morning hot air balloon ride, they whisk you back to the starting point and treat you to a massive brunch with the typical Catalan meats, cheeses, wines, and sausages. Vol de Coloms doesn’t stop there, they also do a number of package tours as well as exclusive tours where you can even eat a romantic dinner in the balloon!
I was a guest of Costa Brava Tourism on this trip, however all opinions here are my own.