04:00AM and my alarm sounded. Time to get up, take a shower, brush my teeth, slap some make up on my face so I look alive a bit, eat and drive off to work. The day started like all other days, but this day, was going to be a memory that would stay with me forever.
This day was my mother’s birthday. How she wanted to celebrate her birthday was very special and it happened to be something of my bucket list. We were promised a sunny and warm day and I was very excited. After work I went home to change. We (my family, sister-in-law and I) have these matching team-shirt and of course for this occasion we wanted to wear them. I got home, changed and my family picked me up. We drove to my youngest brother’s school to pick him up too and off we were, driving to Tilburg. Good music and food in the car and the party started. When we finally arrived after a lot of traffic on the road, we walked up to the place in a park where we would take off. They were already setting everything up. A big basket lying on the ground, with a really big, half inflated white and green balloon attached to it. We were going on a hot air balloon ride!
The balloon was already inflating and it was almost time to get in. As the balloon filled up with air it pulled the basket right side up. Time to jump in and ready to fly. We climbed in, the five of us in a space of about 1,5 square meters, in the basket. We were a few centimeters off the ground when the pilot ordered to take the balloon down again. Inside the balloon a knot had formed in the strings. Better to be safe than sorry. We got out and helped to get the balloon down, basket on its side and started over. Me and another man held the bottom of the balloon open for two big fans to blow air in the balloon, the pilot went in to get the knot out. It took my whole bodyweight to keep the balloon in place as the air was blown in. As the balloon filled up, it started to float, the pilot turned the burners on to fill it with hot air and eventually we had to let go. The balloon pulled the basket right side up and we boarded the basket again. Up, up and away. I was surprised how smooth and fast the balloon went up. We floated over the city of Tilburg at different heights. Over peoples houses, waving at us from there gardens. Then over the meadow and we went up just the time not to hit the trees of the woods. We could see the other air balloons floating ahead of us, the sun going down and smoke coming out of the woods from people having a bonfire. A really pretty picture and I’m blessed I got to see that with my own eyes. Up that high it was really quite, except for the noise the burners made to keep us in the air.
After about an hour we landed in a field filled with mosquitos the size of my hand. Save to say, I lost a little bit of blood in the field. After we landed and waited for permission of the farmer, we took the balloon down. As a few people pulled the balloon to the ground, another group of people pushed the basket over on its side. It took 15 people to fold the balloon and pack everything up again. I can tell you, although I didn't train that day, I had a full body workout. With everything packed up, it was time to celebrate a save landing with some crazy traditions.
We toasted with champagne to celebrate a save flight and landing. After which the ones who’d never been on a hot air balloon flight were made counts and countesses. One by one we were called forward. Our pilot made us a certificate and we had to take a knee. As I sat on one knee, grass was placed on my head and I was made a countess by pouring champagne over my head.
After this we were taken back to our car, said thank you and goodbye and headed home with this new memory which is gonna stay with me forever.