Monday, 20 February 2017

Ballooning over 'Stonehenge' in Namibia

ALLIE: DAY 7: Wednesday, 21st February

Another magic balloon flight across the sand dunes and landing at 'Stonehenge'

It was impossible to sleep tonight. Not a breath of wind and baking heat in our room (no AC, no ceiling fan, no nothing, except a lot of bugs). Just when its getting a bit cooler and we possibly could fall asleep the alarm rings and calls for another ballooning adventure in the desert.

Today we fly from a different area called Mwisho. The drive at dawn is actually quite beautiful because we see herds of darkish brown mountain zebras, oryx and jumping gazelles. Oh and three jackals. Our pilot today is William Kotze. A young South African who was trained out here by Erik. It turns out to be a bit breezy as we take off with sunrise. But the flight is stunning. 

We float across the sand dunes and William rises our Adrenalin by coming really close above some hills. The light conditions are fantastic and the visibility endless. After 55 minutes William steers the balloon to what’s called “Stonehenge”. Indeed showing a striking resemblance of the real Stonehenge in England. These are a pile of round shaped rocks sitting on top of each other like something out of a Japanese garden design. Same procedure as yesterday: we are welcomed by the crew with a wonderful breakfast and toast to the flight with nice cold champagne. What other job in the world starts a day with having to drink champagne every morning?

One good reason for wanting to become a professional pilot we all agree.
In the afternoon temperatures hit the 46 degrees mark. We are in desperate need of a cold drink and drive to the “Mirage” Hotel. This strange building resembles an English fortress and would rather fit in the countryside of the Scottish highlands then into the middle of this desert. Nevertheless we find a bar and some good “Windhoek draft” which actually turns out to be in a can!

Not much else can be done in this heat except hiding in the shade and catching some wind. A little stroll along one of the many tracks in the evening makes us feel that at least we have done a bit of exercise before we share a last meal with the Hesemans who have been so hospitable to us.

PHIL: Day 7/21 Feb

Another chance to fly from a different location over the iron-red dunes – this time with second pilot Willem. Allie had hoped to get some ‘hands-on’, but as navigational requirements meant a low-level flight (down to 25cm at times) at a reasonable speed (8-10kt) the opportunity did not present itself. Some great photos, though, and another spectacular breakfast location amongst ancient rocks.
More fruitless attempts to sleep. The temperature is expected to be 52deg C today!

Final dinner at Eric’s where we, rather sheepishly, handed over our only available ‘thank you’ gifts – some chocolate and a copy of ‘Safari by Balloon’ on DVD. What we expected to be a muted reception was transformed by Eric & Nancy realising that it was seeing this very film back in 1986 that had stimulated their enthusiasm for balloon operation in Africa and which accounted for their present successful and happy situation at Sossusvlei.

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