LOTS OF HOT AIR !          - 20/ 9/ 2011      <--Prev : Next-->

The Kriel Girls have always been renowned for their courage.

SheHoo Must Run was after all a Zimbabwe Gymnast and a Matabeleland High Board Diver and SheHoo Must Sing happily tangles with Taliban and meanders around in Mogadishu.

It was Mother who was in the back row when bravery was being handed out and as much as a trip to the Masai Mara WAS in my bucket list, a hot air ballon ride was definitely not !!

However Mike and Lyndy Rogan persuaded us that this was indeed the most incredible way to cross the Mara and so I acquiesced although rather nervously.

It might have been the promise of a champagne breakfast amidst the wildebeest that prompted me to change my mind !!

Encouraged by the fact that the Balloon Captain was a Zimbabwean, our large and unruly safari crowd arose at 3.30 am to be at the Hot air balloon take off point before dawn. There were two vast flimsy looking silk balloons festooning the lawn and the crew appeared to be doing their best to set them on fire when we arrived.

The old knees turned to jelly instantly but HeeHoo took me by the scruff of the neck and firmly propelled me towards the giant basket right under a vast flaming pyre ! (Yes that was the word that came to mind!!)

The basket under each balloon was divided into four compartments each for four persons, but when HeeHoo, B tie, Stella and I tried to sit down, our not inconsiderable derrieres (with the exception of Stella) could not and would not possibly adopt the "Brace Position".

HeeHoo leapt out in an agile fashion and left me to sob weakly on B tie's ample chest.....

Once airborne however, the closer I got to the Angels, the more secure I became in my fiery inferno, and I stopped praying furiously and managed to peep over the side of the basket to enjoy the ride.

It was indeed a magnificent experience.

The Captain kept us enthralled with his obvious ability and competence and his eagle eye spotted lion instantly, as well as every other conceivable type of plains game and the Big Five of course !

Seeing the Wildebeest massing from this vantage point was indeed a moving experience, it painted Natures Big Picture for us on a fabulous Masai Mara canvas.

"Like wave formations on the sand" was one description, and there were indeed many kilometer long swathes of black beasts marching steadfastly towards the Mara River.

I had handed my rather fetching Panama Hat to the driver who followed us below with the safari vehicles and the balloon trailers, imagining that my hat would be blown off in the maelstrom. However there was no wind at all and the whole experience was one of a quiet dream, interrupted occasionally by a fiery blast from Captain Dante's inferno !

Here an hyaena pack, there a giraffe herd, lion, zebra, topi, gazelle, and of course the thousands upon thousands of wildebeest, but they did not notice the giant albatross above them unless we let out a blast of hot air which had them scattering instantly.

We were not the only floating apparatus in the sky. This is a most popular method of travel in the Mara and there were dozens of balloons of all colours, dotted like Montgolfien blimps across the vast exhilarating expanse that is the Mara.

We passed over the impressive champagne breakfast table set out with elegant gleaming white napery below us and we could almost see the champers glistening in the silver ice buckets.

The landing was the tricky part according to the experts and I had been having visions of B tie landing on top of me and breaking some of my fragile limbs. However I carefully and rather adroitly I thought, maneuvered Stella between us as a cushion.

The landing was orthodox, banal even, very slightly off course due to a mischievous last minute wind flurry, but Captan Riz was most comfortable and rather pleased with his impeccable touch down on Mother Earth.

Yes we lived to tell the tale, the remarkable tale, of the ancient almost mythical passage of a million or more beasts, who move hundreds of miles annually in their patient pilgrimage to greener pastures.
For more information contact reservations@maraballooning.com