15 February 2012

Visitors and freakin' hot air balloons!

In late January Roy's little sister Kate and her friend Sarah flew over from Australia to visit us for a little under three weeks. We LOVE having visitors so we were counting down to this one for a while. They timed their visit really well since they arrived in the week of the hot air balloon festival in Château-d'Œx. We piled in our little fiat panda decked out in our snow gear for some fun in the snow. It was Kate and Sarah's first time in the snow and the higher and higher we drove, the more snowy and magical it was looking. Switzerland is possibly the most picturesque place I have been. It's beautiful! The excitement was building as we got closer and closer to the festival. As we drove over a hill we all spotted a snowy field, filled with colourful, round beauties. It was absolutely amazing. We parked the car, excitedly hopped out of the car and made our way to where the huffing, giant balloons were threatening to leave the ground. I'd never seen so many hot air balloons before and it was possibly my first time seeing them up close.

We watched in awe as balloon after balloon took off for a quiet journey amongst the alps. We headed to the visitors desk and asked about having a ride in one. We put our names down and were told to come back after lunch to finalise the booking and they would tell us when we could fly. We waited surprisingly patiently for the time to come. We watched as the operators dragged out their balloons and baskets and as they inflated the brightly coloured flying machines. We paid our money and waited until we were called to embark on our magnificent journey.

Our name was called, we followed the official and piled into the basket as the operator ensured the balloon didn't take off before we were all in. I've got to tell you, there's no graceful way to hop into a balloon basket. We all kind of threw ourselves in and rearranged our legs as best we could. The operator waited for the signal from the ground crew, pulled on the lever to give it some gas and we were off. I was expecting some kind of unsettling start to our adventure but it was so smooth, tranquil and quite surreal.

We were told by our balloon operator that Château-d'Œx is quite unique in the way the air currents work. There's a current going one way and another further up going the other way so the balloons can travel back and forth through the valley - something you can't do anywhere else. Hence the fact that the balloon festival is held there each year.

It is so serene flying at 3000m in a balloon in a valley amongst beautiful, snowcapped mountains. It's quiet (apart from the regular huff of the flame) and away from the world below.

It was an absolutely amazing experience flying over the snowy mountains, back and forth admiring the views below. We lowered close to the ground and came to a stop in a snow-filled field. We had to wait in the basket until the ground crew came to help us out. We climbed out and had to keep hold of the basket while the crew prepared to take off again. We watched our majestic balloon take off to meet the sky again. Beautiful! We all had the hugest smile on our faces.