One Magazine’s Jake Tucker takes to the skies on an unforgettable trip floating over the Devon countryside
When looking for an experience of a lifetime you’re spoilt for choice with ideas to get the adrenaline pumping. Skydives, bungee jumps, supercar rides and aqua-zorbing are all exciting things to try but most require a good level of fitness or a daring personality. What about something for those looking for an experience that’s just as exciting but without the adrenaline? A truly unique experience offering breathtaking views and sheer relaxation, a trip in a hot air balloon offers an experience you’ll never forget.
Providing hot air balloon flights to over 75,000 happy high-fliers, Aerosaurus Balloons offer weekday and weekend flights across the South West of England from just £99, with Devon flights floating over Exeter, Honiton, Tiverton, Crediton and Cullompton to name but a few locations. Flights can be tailor-made for your occasion for an extra price, with gift packages and in-flight photos available, as well as private flight hire for the ultimate special occasion.
Our balloon experience started at the Tiverton PETROC College campus, where we met our pilot and the rest of the team for an initial briefing. It’s worth mentioning that if you’re not used to an early start (like myself), it might be a bit of a shock to the system as our early morning flight meant we had to arrive at 5am! Despite this though, waking up to get to my flight on time was absolutely no problem – the excitement meant I was even up before my alarm!
After the initial briefing, we were transported to the takeoff location and had the chance to chat to our fellow passengers. Part of the spectacle of this amazing experience is watching the setup process, and we were given the opportunity to get the mighty Aerosaurus upright and ready for flight, which I was more than happy to take part in. We’ve all seen a hot air balloon majestically floating through the sky, but it’s not until you’re down on the ground and up close that you realise just how big the balloon actually is.
With the balloon assembled and ready for action, we were distributed into the basket by weight to ensure an even balance before taking to the air. The feeling of taking off is quite something. There’s nothing quite like the experience of flames shooting up into the balloon just feet above your head as everything on the ground shrinks further and further away. We were lucky enough to fly with two other balloons which really added to the experience. Watching them both taking off from our basket and floating ahead and behind us while taking in the countryside really helped to gain perspective, and enhanced the already breathtaking view.
Floating across the countryside is absolute bliss. I’ve never felt relaxation like it. I could have happily stayed in the air spotting landmarks and landscapes all day, and it turned out that that seemed to be the general consensus within the rest of the group. Having wind as your driving force means that, when the flames are at bay, you float in complete silence as the wind takes you. The lack of wind noise sends you into a deep relaxation, allowing you to focus on the mooing of the cows and the tweeting of birds. If you’ve ever been to a model village, then you’ll have an idea of what it’s like to be above the towns and villages below. It’s especially fascinating to see areas and landmarks that you know appear as though they were in a toy town – truly a sight to behold.
Sadly, as with anything, all good things must come to an end, and it was soon time to prepare ourselves for landing. A field in the distance was designated as our landing pad and we slowly began to descend towards the ground. We were instructed to have our backs to the direction of travel, and to hold the handles in front of us as demonstrated in the briefing beforehand. Landing positions assumed, we touched back down with a bump, and then another, as we slid across the grass before coming to a halt.
Once safely on terra firma, we each shared a glass of champagne with our pilot and were given a certificate of flight to take home – a great memento of an unforgettable experience.
To book your hot air balloon experience and for more info, visit www.ballooning.co.uk
Words & photos: Jake Tucker