Today’s guest post is from Chris Richardson, a travel writer currently making his way across India. Chris was a winner in our hot-air ballooning competition a few months back and kindly wrote to us about the experience. Amazingly, not all of our winners have claimed their prizes. Let this whet your appetites!
Having been on the road for a while now, I’ve lost all sense of a sleeping pattern: probably for the best when you’re facing a 4:30 start. After overcoming that bitter morning sensation we peered from our hostel window to see what appeared to be a hot-rod straight out of Kill Bill: we hopped in and it roared through the dark, dusty streets of Jaipur and took us to our take-off point.
Thanks to travelling during monsoon we had a spot of drama as the team decided whether or not a flight was even possible. We were well catered for and sat with milky, sugary chai and soft biscuits as we cursed the black clouds overhead. But thankfully the winds subsided and the rains decided to be fashionably late, and the balloon was inflated and set to go.
After being put at ease by an excellent English-speaking team and a mandatory safety briefing, we let the winds carry us over the villages surrounding Jaipur. Ballooning is much more graceful than I’d anticipated, so I was able to toss aside the concerns of a Delhi-belly and really enjoy the views.
And what views they were! It’s not often I get to say “I’m so glad we came for the monsoon!” but this was one of those rare gems: the usually-arid shrubland was lit up as a spectacular sea of green, made all-the-plusher by the plentiful monsoon rains. A calm breeze cooled us as we gazed over rocky hills in the distance and vibrant Jaipur city with its quaint Amber Fort closer by.
Having been confined to seeing India from tuk-tuks for far too long, the bird’s eye view was welcome and wonderful. The location is perfect for catching a mix of the busting city and the calmer countryside, and against the emerald backdrop the roaming wildlife and glistening garments of village ladies looked stunning. I’m sure colour is what I’ll miss the most about India, and from the sky you can really see it all.
Being the first balloon of the season, we attracted the attention of countless villagers as we passed overhead: when the pilot kindly dipped us closer to the ground hoards of children chased and waved at us with a morning “namaste!” It was also a great experience for us to catch a glimpse of their morning rituals without being overly invasive.
After we landed with a great thud villagers ran over to greet us, and took more photos of us than we did of them! Crew members spoke fluent English and Hindi so were able to mediate and make the meeting a little more engaging: getting to mingle with the people we’d just seen from the sky was an enjoyable ending to a great morning escapade. If you’re going be sure to take plenty of pens, which are an invaluable resource to the children.
All in all, a fantastic and worthwhile way to catch Indian culture alongside a terrific backdrop of dusty buildings and plush trees, with the usual docile cows in view to keep you entertained if all else fails. I only wish that I could see more of this beautiful country from such great heights.