The #TrekSouthAfrica team were lucky enough to go on a hot air balloon ride over the Magaliesberg River Valley with Bill Harrops Original Balloon Safaris. They weren’t going to experience it themselves, and the team invited a young couple to join them as they flew high above the treetops.
Bill Harrops hot air balloons are some of the largest in Africa, and provided the team with breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences. If you’d like to experience it for yourself, #TrekSouthAfrica lead photographer Rudolph De Girardier shows us what it’s like.
We were guided into the property by the flames of torches, dimly lighting the eerie path we were walking on, and our sleepy faces. I remember this short walk as part of my dreams. A dream that took us to Bill Harrop’s Restaurant and Hot Air Balloon Launching Field.
We were welcomed by warm coffee, and ever warmer smiles, in the presence of the gentleman Bill Harrop himself. We signed off a paper that delegated all responsibility for the risk undertaken to the individual partaking in the adventure: a way to make one fully realize that we will be hovering a kilometer high above the surface of the earth, in a parcel lifted by a balloon filled with hot air and no safety lines.
The balloon started growing in size, handled by two of the four air captains of this location. Flying a balloon is an art mankind has perfected over nearly 250 years, since the first 23 minute flight over Paris in 1783. The hot air balloon is a French invention, and the first device that successfully brought a man into flight.
We were as excited as our two guests to experience, in 2016, the oldest form of human flight. After about 30 minutes of inflation, the balloon was ready for takeoff. It is with great excitement that we obeyed the precise prompts to get in the parcel of the balloon.
Within seconds, we were, surprisingly enough, flying. A magical silence surrounded the balloon, which was steadily gaining altitude over the ground beneath. The views over Magaliesberg were revealing themselves gently as we reached higher altitudes.
According to Bill Harrop, our captain on this exhilarating adventure, the breach of a 1000 meters altitude in a hot air balloon calls for a lover’s kiss. Needless to say, we did not partake in the romantic prompts, but we surely were baffled by the spectacular views that this unfamiliar transport was revealing to us.
The most surprising feature of this trip is the perfect silence of the flight, punctuated only by the occasional blasts of the powerful burners, and the faint call of birds far beneath. A thrilling and yet relaxing experience.
It somewhat felt that the awakened dream we were living in the morning had not yet stopped.
At last, the dream gave way to reality: after an hour and a half of flight, we gently landed on a dry grassland. Maestro maneuver from the competent pilot, Bill Harrop, founder and owner of Bill Harrop’s Balloon Safari.
The ground crew anchored us to the ground during the technical phase of the landing, where the deflating balloon is still buoyant enough to glide across the ground if speedily and incorrectly relieved of weight.
After that delicate phase of landing, the ground crew’s generosity did not stop: Champagne got brought out. Still filled with thrill, we cheered to a great experience.
After rejoicing festively, a few minutes’ drive took us back to the launching field and the restaurant, where we enjoyed fresh pancakes, salmon, fruit salads and many other delicious treats. We later received a certificate of flight, which concluded this unique experience. Absolutely thrilled, we walked back to our cars and drove off.
It was 8 am. It felt like we had lived two days’ worth of adventure.