Evening In The Sky


My husband had always wanted to go on a balloon ride but I had never been that keen. However, I had always said I would give it a try if the place interested me and an opportunity presented itself. We were holidaying in Lithuania and staying in Vilnius when we saw a balloon flight being advertised from the centre of town. We booked for the Sunday evening and at the appointed time a van came to pick us up. The English spoken by the two guys was very limited and we wondered whether we had done the right thing.
The balloons were in a large park very near to the Radisson Blu hotel. It was interesting to see them blowing up the balloons and how they managed the propane flame. Our balloon was red with white lettering. The basket seemed to be rather small for six people. We were grateful that one of the passengers was a young Lithuanian girl who lived in Ireland and spoke very good English. Thanks to her we were able to understand the safety talk by the Captain of the balloon, what to do, what not to do, how to land etc.
It was a strange feeling when we lifted up. The heat of the propane kept our heads warm. We rose up and saw the ground fall away. We saw the centre of Vilnius underneath us and noticed how quickly the Arkikatedra Bazilika (Vilnius Cathedral ) and the lovely Old Town disappeared to our right. There was beautiful countryside below us, so many houses and the river far below. What I remember most is the quietness up there. There was no perceptible movement and it was surreal. I had been scared to begin with but when I was up there I was glad I had decided to do it.
It was so quiet except for the noise from the flame and I enjoyed the wonderful views. Too soon it was time to land and the Captain informed us of this, there was a field and some houses and the balloon started its descent. At the last minute it missed its place and we started to go up again, nearly missing one of the houses, up and up it went. We could only see the tops of the trees, a thick forest of beautiful green pines but no possibility of landing. We went on and on and I started to get worried, someone said that if night fell we could stay up there all night. We passed a couple of roads and saw the cars below us. There was nowhere to land. The tops of the trees were skimming the bottom of the basket and except for the Captain and my husband (who thrives on danger), everyone was starting to get worried. The evening would soon turn into night. I was very worried as I kept remembering the many films where I had seen a balloon caught in trees and emptying out its passengers at a great height. I prayed and even thanked God for my blessings.
Almost an hour after our scheduled landing, the Captain saw an opening and told us all to adopt the landing position, very quickly the balloon came down and landed with a bump in someone’s garden. An irate Lithuanian came out of his house and started shouting at the Captain. We all got out very quickly and held onto the balloon so it would not float up again. The Captain, the girl who had translated and my husband stayed in the basket as ballast. We then had a wait of nearly an hour whilst the van came to pick us up as we had landed so far from the scheduled place.
After landing it is customary to do a little ceremony where we are all marked on the forehead with champagne and earth to admit us to Montgolfiers’ Ballooning Club. We were then given a famous balloonist’s name and we all had a drink of champagne. I have never enjoyed a glass of bubbly so much as I did after my evening in the sky.


V.Bailey

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