My darling wife bought me / us a flight on the Hot Air Balloon with Alba Ballooning from St Boswells for my 50th birthday. Sadly, due to the lovely Scottish borders unpredictable weather, and our own commitments, it took a while before we were able to match dates that suited the weather, the flight times and our lifestyle. Well, those scenarios ticked all the boxes on Friday 15th Aug 2014 from St Boswells and we glued ourselves to the website avidly watching the comments from "on" to "maybe". A swift call to Pilot Pete at 1600 gave us a warm glow as he informed us that he was en route and that the weather, though cloudy, was suitable for lift off! We met up at the Green at St Boswells at 1800 together with the other 6 passengers, and immediately received a warm welcome from Pete the Pilot and his wonderful asst, George. This was when the experience started; getting mucked in and helping set things up. The guys had this well rehearsed and kept the experience interesting, explaining in detail any questions we had, the main one being "how does this actually get off the ground" ( a comment made due to the weight of the balloon itself as we unravelled it from its travel bag!!) in less than an hour, and following the first safety briefing, the balloon was raised to its full glory and we all climbed aboard and listened to Petes final safety briefing. Now, I love flying, done plenty; small planes, big planes and a helicopter but I have never experienced the sensation of lifting into the air in complete silence and being able to look over the edge of a large fruit basket watching humans turn into ants and housing estates turn into model sized layouts. The views were absolutely spectacular, the Eildons like you have never seen them before, all the wee towns and villages and of course, the semi Autumnal colours of the fields awaiting Harvest and the 100`s of different shades of green in the trees and hills. The silence was deafening, not even the road noise could be heard. The only noise was Pete keeping the heat topped up with the burners, jeez they get hot, which is re-assuring, but wear a hat if you are like me and void of follicle matter (hair) as it does get a bit cozy upstairs. I had my fleece on thinking it would get cold, it was off at 500 feet !! Pete kept in touch with George who was "chasing us" on the ground but as the winds were only 6mph at best, we weren't exactly racing each other, good for us, more time in the air. We got to 2700 feet which was breathtaking, not due to lack of oxygen, the views, then he came down to a few feet off the ground; all of us thinking he was gonna land, but then burners on and up we went again- he explained he was dropping below the "wind" level so we could maintain course; as a geek, I found this to be very clever lol. Pete was studying the ground to find a suitable place to set down, talking to us all the time, explaining what he was looking for and why also of course thinking about access for George and the vehicle. We headed for Pinalheugh monument and a smooth field just North of it. Pete guided the Balloon down and we landed with a tiny bump to a great cheer from us all, the quickest hour and 15 ever, sadly. We all mucked in again and helped pack up the balloon, Pete again keeping us up to speed with hows and whys, keeping us all motivated. After a glass of Champagne and the debrief we all climbed into the landrover and set off back to St Boswells, not a sad face to be seen. Sorry if ive dragged on, but this has to be on everyones bucket list, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Our thanks to Pete who kept the experience humorous but serious and to George who got us home safely. To Casaecosse, get a grip, this is a business that has the most awkward of working tools -THE WEATHER!! I waited 18 months for reasons aforementioned and you know what, if I knew it was going to be as good as this, I would have happily waited another 18 months. Pete was fantastic and has a thankless task in dealing with making the best of the Scottish weather, if you want an immediate result on an attraction, go to Alton Towers, Ballooning warrants patience. Well done Alba Ballooning we hope to see you again soon!!!!
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