Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Hot air Ballooning

Hot Air Ballooning

Yet another blip to ward off yet another pedestrian week.... I always say keep the blips coming.

Yet again my network engineer and I were invited to go go flying, this time it was hot air ballooning, while it was a very exciting prospect mainly due to the fact that I absolutely love flying, I don't do the actual flying myself, I get flown, small planes, vintage planes, big planes, helicopters and now a hot air balloon....

So as I was saying the prospect was extremely exciting but I suppose also with a small amount of trepidation, I mean lets face it, going up in the sky in a wicker basket with a big bag of hot air above our heads and fire.... yes...... that's safe.

And so it was we gathered at the launch site at Heia Safari Ranch at 4:30 in the morning - the reason for early, the outside air has to be cool so that the hot air balloon can fly stable.

Now I don't quite know what I expected , I've seen plenty of hot air balloons in flight, when I was a kid (many many years ago) I went to an international balloon competition, but still I didn't know what to expect.

I had the impression they would fill the balloon, we would all climb in the basket, yes a wickerwork basket made of woven wicker or rattan with a big ripstop nylon bag above you a good couple of kilograms of liquid propane gas  - add fire - lots of fire .... who on earth climbs into a flammable object with fire, lots of fire ........ but I digress;

Wicker basket, Huge Nylon Balloon, Just add Fire 

Second Balloon ready to go

We climb into the basket, lots of ground staff hanging onto the sides to keep the balloon on the ground, get settled and the pilot gives the command to release ...... and....... 

Well.........we just sat there all looking at each other ..... 


Slowly easing away from ground crew
No spirited leap into the blue yonder, roaring off across the trees.... 
No we just sat there the only thing roaring was the burners above our heads; I mentioned lots of fire didn't I?

Aaaaaannnnnd ever so slowly and gracefully the balloon slid gently away from the ground gathering height, and we are up above the tree's

Then the incredible happened; the pilot turned off the burners and instantly you are enveloped in silence, you can hear birds and animals below, but by and large it is exquisitely quite, and we are gaining height into the sun rise.... INCREDIBLE!! 

The flight lasted nearly an hour passing over roads and farms, the pilot taking the balloon down low and then high up in the sky, it is alternately hot and very noisy when the burners run and crisp, cold and quiet when they stop.

Then onto landing and champagne to finish, before heading back to Heia Safari lodge, breakfast and the ubiquitous technology presentation.
Sunrise over Heia Safari Ranch

Dam near take off point

Wildebeest below

Fire and nylon

Wicker basket

Mist in the trees

Balloon with Sunrise
Sister balloon - Red Monster

Balloon passing below us

A tad high 

Lots of fire

Our Shadow

Support vehicles waiting for us

All over

Helicopters and Pigeons

Every now and then a blip hits the horizon to turn an otherwise rather pedestrian week into a highlight.
Such a day happened a couple of months ago ..... it involved helicopters and clay pigeons.

My network engineer and I were invited to fly by helicopter from Johannesburg to the Hippo Creek shooting centre approximately 110 KM near a town called Parys in the Free state to do some clay pigeon shooting then attend a new computer product launch, followed by some lunch before flying back.

Over the years I've had the privilege of flying in helicopters both military into combat and civilian and I can really say I never ever tire of the excitement and the experience

How To:
How to do clay pigeon shooting.... 

  • Take a pigeon, dip it in liquid clay and leave to dry for approximately 1 hour
  • Take pigeon outside with a 12 gauge shotgun
  • get someone to throw the pigeon high in the air
  • Shoot pigeon
OK now that I've got everyone in a state, a clay pigeon is actually a clay disc (see picture below) that is launched on your command and then you have to shoot it out of the sky.... sooo easy.... NOT!!!! ...... But incredible fun

So let me not bore you with endless details but rather put up some photo's.....

Sitting up front with the Pilot

Take off with Johannesburg in the distance
Sandton business district

Out over the free state

Hippo Creek on the right

The helicopter we flew in - Bell 407
Second of four helicopters coming into land

Clay Pigeon shooting
Clay Pigeon

Clay Pigeon launcher

Tailings dam near Johannesburg
Johannesburg with Hillbrow Tower (Telecommunications)

Brixton tower (Television & Radio)

Zoo Lake
Coming in to land