Floating through Hartebeespoort, South Africa

In December, much to my delight, I got to cross another item off of my wanderlist.

We crawled out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4am after a mere 3 hours of sleep – these things happen when you see your brother for the first time in a year!!

We showered, and hopped into the car for the never-ending drive 1.5 hour drive to Hartebeesport Dam, we had been on the road for a whole 2 minutes when I suggested we stop at the garage for cuppacinos, mc nabs and water – there was no protest to this suggestion! I stocked up on the caffeine and we were on our way again.

About an hour and 15 minutes later the sky began to change into ribbons of blue, pink and purple as we drove the winding roads through the Hartebeespoort Mountains. Not long after the skies had begun changing we arrived at Bill Harrops Balloon Safaris airfield, welcomed by a spectacular sunrise.

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We helped ourselves to some coffee and biscuits and watched in excitement, cameras clicking away as they inflated our balloons.
DSC_0052-1After about 20 minutes of trying, the main guide/pilot told us that the winds were too strong and since safety is of paramount importance they were going to wait for the winds to die down. While we waited they opened the doors to the breakfast hall and we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast, followed by cheese and savoury crackers, rusks and coffee while watching them trying to inflate one of the balloons again. A few minutes later it was announced that we would indeed be flying. Yes!!
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DSC_0458-1 We watched as the first balloon floated up to the heavens, and then it was our turn!
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DSC_0311-1You climb into your surprisingly sturdy basket (wearing a skirt was definitely not a smart choice, but whatevs!) and they talk you through how far/long/high you’ll be flying. Then they familiarise you with the basket – let me break it down for you – there’s a very soft sponge block to “sit” on and ropes on the inside of the basket opposite you to hold onto for the landing. They then proceed to tell you when you are told to brace (WAIT! WHAT??) you must just push really hard with your back against the basket. Uuuhhhh ok – up until now I had never really thought about how a hot air balloon lands! You’ll see later!

It’s hot in here!!! Fill her up with a last bit of hot air and then we’re off.
DSC_0556-1Up, up and away! A truly special feeling.
DSC_0546-1Light as a feather. It may have been all the butterflies that made it feel so wonderful.

Over farms and fields, wave at the workers.
DSC_0543-1Listening to all the stories the pilot is sharing.

Take in the beauty of your surroundings.
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DSC_0555-1Obviously take a selfie or 10 (I’ll only give you one though).
DSC_0333-1Try not to look down if you have a fear of heights.
DSC_0341-1Just watch the landscape float by.
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DSC_0555-1We floated along for about 35 minutes before having to land, and although I was nervous about this I’ll tell you it was the best part.

We started to descend over an empty field, the ground approaching at an alarming rate, given the instruction we sat down and braced, I peeked out of the foot hole and squeaked as the ground came closer. And then there was a thud followed by squeals and giggles (mostly from me), we launched back into air as our basket toppled, we had hit an ant hill, and then again thud, thud, thud and a nice long draaaaag until we stopped.
DSC_0078-1After crawling out of the basket (once again – great choice to wear a skirt!) we went to admire our skid mark (lol) and sipped on some champagne and listened to stories from our (very proud French) pilot about how the hot air balloon was invented in France and the first flight only lasted around 15 minutes. Once the balloon was packed up we went back to the airfield to continue a day of adventure.

Next stop – the Hartebeespoort cableway.
DSC_0563-1This is not for the feint hearted! I know the cable cars have been recently upgraded and I don’t see how on earth people entrusted their lives in the old cars, but it still felt ridiculously scary.

If the wind blew, or you moved a little, your car would sway and rock from side to side and every time you pass a support tower it makes a loud clanky noise – very entertaining the first time as we were not expecting it at all and Riaan was gooing up backwards so he had no idea that we were approaching a tower!

We wandered around on top of the mountain admiring the beauty our country has to offer, also discussing why we never indulged it as much as we should have when we lived here…Eventually deciding that unless you’re some really fancy pants high earner it’s difficult to pay a mortgage and explore the country all at once. Anyway we walked along in the sweltering heat, reading all the plaques, trying to see if we knew where Pretoria, Joburg and Sun City were and if we could see them in the distance.
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DSC_0575-1When it all(the heat and sheer tiredness) got a bit much we took refuge in a shady spot and just chilled, closed our eyes and enjoyed the breeze as we chatted.

Sadly there isn’t very much to do up there, there’s a souvenir shop, a pizza restaurant, a little kiosk selling ice creams and cold drinks, a bar and a cafe.

Feeling extremely lethargic, we ended up sitting by the bar sipping on ice cold drink and sharing a small plate of good ol’ slap chips, sprinkled with salt, doused in vinegar and dipped in tomato sauce – just the way we like it.

After we mustered up the courage to face the cable cars again, we gingerly stepped into one and this time I had to go down backwards…my nerves were just a little frazzled by the time we reached the ground.

With the whole afternoon ahead of us and absolutely no plans we headed back home to laze about next to the pool, dipping in and out at our leisure. Definitely the best way to spend a lazy afternoon in sunny SA!

Until next time,
Sim

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