For my 24th birthday I had the opportunity to do something completely magical… I went up into the clouds in a hot air balloon! Although, our original plan was to fly on the morning of my birthday, a huge storm and strong winds meant it had to be postponed to the following day.
We were picked up from our little cabaña in the mountains at 5:15am, I know, painfully early! Balloon rides have to be done so early in the morning because this is when then winds are calmest, making it the safest time to fly. After a 45 minute ride we arrived at a small, secluded house in the middle of Apulco… very unassuming. However, once you walked through the house, it opened up onto a huge field full of hot air balloons!
Me and my boyfriend snuggled up to keep warm, and watched the balloons being inflated. By 6:30am the field was filling up with excited groups of people and I was worried we would get put in a large group for our balloon ride. Luckily this wasn’t the case, as we got called over to our own private little balloon.
After a very awkward climb into the basket, and the valiant efforts of three young men holding down the balloon, we were ready to go. I can’t explain to you how smooth the take off was! It felt as though we were still on solid ground, but as the people below became little dots, it was clear we were definitely flying.
The sound of the fire was extremely loud, and made me jump the first couple times it was turned on, but it quickly became background noise making the ride completely tranquil. Up at 700m and the only sound you could hear was your own breathing, and the distant sound of the other balloon’s fire being turned on as they rose slowly behind us. And the views… oh the views! They were spectacular! You could see for miles and miles in every direction. Beautiful, untouched scenery.
Half way through the flight we dropped down into a canyon. Skimming the cliff faces and tree tops as the sun started to rise over the surrounding mountains. I noticed that the other balloons were beginning to rise and move back towards the take off site, we asked the pilot why and he told us he was taking us over the biggest canyon in the area and that most people weren’t comfortable with the drop.
As we neared the edge of the cliff I could totally see why some people may not have the stomach for it! The sheer drop was breathtaking! A giant river at the bottom of the canyon looked like a tiny blue squiggle, almost unrecognisable at that height.
And then, the last thing you want to hear so high up in the air, an “Oops!” from the pilot… He told us that the cut off height is 800m and we were currently at 1100m! Once the moment of panic was over, I began to really register the beauty of the views at this height, and noticed that I could see four volcanos. Two in Puebla, one in Veracruz (over 450km away) and the other in Tlaxcala. Apparently it’s extremely rare for the sky to be clear enough to be able to see all four, even the pilot was amazed and he’d been ballooning in the area for 14 years. Very lucky!
After an hour of flight we began our descent, while being followed on the ground by a man on a motorcycle and two boys in a van. Radioing between all three to coordinate, we had to change the landing site multiple times as the wind wasn’t allowing us to pin point our landing site accurately. Finally we found a field to land in and dropped our rope down for the boys to pull us in.
The landing was totally smooth and within a matter of minutes we were safely on the ground and out of the basket. It took quite a while for the boys to deflate and pack the balloon into the van, but the areas surrounding the landing site were so beautiful we didn’t mind the wait.
The whole trip lasted around three and a half hours, as we were dropped off back in the town of Huasca at 9:00am. And now, as I’m writing this post, I realise that no words or pictures can truly describe how stunningly beautiful and breathtakingly magical a hot air balloon ride really is! If you ever have the opportunity to go up in a balloon make sure you take it and see for yourself! I think I’ve found my new hobby (best get saving).
You can watch the whole unbelievable experience here!
If you’ve been on a hot air balloon ride before then let me know your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.
Stay Salty x