22 Nov 2006 - Early Morning Balloon Trip
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The balloons set up All the balloons on the ground Some hot air goes in 
Well we had to get up at 3am for our balloon transfer. But it did mean we saw the two little geckos by the water fountain - one behind it and one on a glass on top. We were picked up by Dave who's driving reminded us of a Peruvian taxi we were once in. It was dark, raining, and a very windy road. I think we left finger marks in the seats.

When we got to the balloon site on the other side of the mountains there were quite a few balloons there as two companies run the flights. I have to apologise now - there are going to be a lot of balloon photos. It's just that they look so lovely, and you see them so rarely that we got a bit carried away. So if you don't like balloons that much, tough. Our balloon was the first one ready. We had to climb into it using the foot holes in the basket. Each basket is divided into 5 compartments - 4 for passengers (only 2 in each on our flight but you could have 3) and one bigger one for the pilot - who was called JJ - and the gas canisters. JJ was a nice bloke with a big beard and few teeth which was a bit worrying - wondered if he'd lost them on a dodgy landing.

We were the first balloon up! JJ fired it up - a very noisy, hot process - and we started to get higher. Everyone left behind on the ground waved like mad. It was a very odd experience, and the first time I've really been nervous. Once you're floating the basket doesn't move at all - but you do start thinking "it's only a bit of basket between me and a long 2000 ft drop". But I suppose there's less to go wrong than on a plane!

There's no steering - you have to just follow the wind. But apparently different heights give you different wind directions. JJ was an excellent pilot. At one point we nearly landed and were just about to hit a tree, but he just went up a little and skimmed over it and carried on!

We finally landed in a big field full of hay bales and had to help pack up the balloon which is a bit like folding up a very big tent. After that we were driven to breakfast at a farm/campsite, and had champagne mixed with guava juice which was very nice, and of course bought photos taken by the balloon-cam.

Then we went back to the hotel dozing off on the way and arrived back at about 9.30am. Had a nap for the next 2 hours.

After the nap we sat in the bar area to eat some lunch, and saw what looked like a bird flying around. Then we realised it was a bat. The poor bat then flew straight into the ceiling fan and fell to the ground, so Alice went over to tell someone on reception. It then moved a bit and came round and the reception guy came over and wrapped it in a towel and put it in a box. Then he took it to the rainforest centre. It was odd that no one else in the bar noticed until he started picking it up! Not even the couple right next to where it fell. Poor bat.

This afternoon we had a joint Rassoul mud therapy - you basically cover yourself in mud and sit in a steamroom. It's so messy but really fun! Then you shower it all off and put moisturiser on.

Went back into town for dinner at a fantastic restaurant called "2 Fish". We had whitebait for starters, then fishy main courses. The cocktails were very strong, and we made the mistake of having a "pudding cocktail" which finished us off. Got the shuttle bus back to the hotel, visited the bar and went to bed.


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