Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Grim weather but a short flight in the 'egg' at Tokorua

ALLIE: DAY 57: Thursday, 12th of April

A bit of a grim day in bad mood but at last a short flight in an egg-balloon

Welcome greetings
Couldn’t get to sleep all night long. Don’t know why.  Possibly in the anticipation of this night patrol flight that was meant not happen at 5 am.

We get up at 4 and find the weather looking prefect. Clear skies and not a trace of cloud or rain. But the show is cancelled! What a pity.

But when we get up at 8am we understand why: it’s howling a gale and big cumulus clouds race across the horizon.

I feel rather depressed. Every time since last years Bristol Balloon fiesta when I have the chance to do much flying myself the weather turns to rats. (Bristol and Munich though having had a fantastic Easter weekend with non-stop flying for 2 weeks!)

Spend the morning writing and reading. Even our try to find a decent coffee shop around this area is in vain. 

The Gods against us. According to our programme we are supposed to join “Balloons on tour” and drive to a town called Tokorua, 80km to the south where we had just come from yesterday, for a tether at the village. We are not fond of the idea. 
Maori welcome band playing for us

As we finally get to the place the weather looks really grim, despite the information that the weather is calm and sunny.

A little Maori celebration is staged for us 5 balloon teams with a children’s dance and a sturdy Maori music group playing. This is a traditional Maori welcome and so we receive the flower bands around our necks and a kiss from a young girl.

Then it’s time for speeches. The Maori leader blesses our team and gives thanks to the “Mighty water river” (the local sponsor for this event) but also to the almighty heavenly father. Unfortunately none of the Mighty powers has any control over the weather! It’s freezing cold and rainy.

Maori ceremonial pole
After some snacks and a “Maori pole tour” by an old lady we head out for the local sports field and unpack the balloon. The kids and the band are following us.

We were told that this show is for the locals and especially for the kids. And when you see what there is in Tokorua you can imagine that a few hot air balloons indeed may be the highlight of a year in this nondescript town.

The advertisements around the sporting ground read ‘Tiram earth movers’, ‘Soothing strokes massage’, ‘Positive parenting’, Todd Mc Phee crane hire’ and of course ‘Mighty water river’.

Even though we are supposed to just tether our team is determined to give it a will and try to do a fly-out with our special egg shaped balloon.

finally in the air!!
At 17.30 we finally take off and leave a screaming and amazed crowd beneath us. We only hop across to the next field. ‘Never miss a good landing site!’ is the motto.

And we soon discover how true it is even today. Just having packed the balloon, the mighty waters pour down on us.

It’s just been a ‘5minute egg’ we laugh, but at least a flight in a new type.

We head back towards Hamilton escaping the rest of the dinner ceremony and have a few pints in the “GPO Bar and Grill” in Cambridge but first we had to decide whether we are indeed suitable for this respectable pub because it’s sign read: “A smart casual dress is required after 5.30pm”.
farewell dancing
An then came the rules: “No black jeans, caps, beanies (whatever those are?), no hoodies, no workboots, no t-shirts!”.

But that wasn’t yet all. It continues with “Jeans must be of dress standard (again, what the hell does that mean?), no thongs, jandals or bare feet.”

And then it encouraged the confused visitor in saying “Celebrate going out – dress it up!” But if you think you had by now met all the requirements for entering this pub you hadn’t read the last line:

“Due to health and safety reasons prams are not allowed in this venue but can be parked in the back area.” There you go…drop your baby and walk in with your smart polished outfit and celebrate that you managed to get in!

PHIL: Day 57/12 April

getting the balloon ready
In the event the weather intervenes and the night take-off cancelled, so a rather unsatisfactory day during which I attend the local Balloon Association meeting to advise on European developments in balloon licensing as the NZ authorities have yet to devise a balloon PPL.

Later we drive to Tokoroa, a very run-down timber town an hour’s drive south. The local populace – mostly Maori or ‘islanders’ from the Pacific – greet us with traditional dance and leis, but untraditional rain and cold wind. It is all rather pathetic to see a town with nothing to offer trying desperately to put itself on the tourist map with ‘events’ such as balloon inflations.

hot inflation

Andy and I decide that a free flight out of the arena in his egg-shaped balloon would be more spectacular for the spectators – and more fun for us – than a tether only. It turns out to be the right decision, as Allie & Andy hop the balloon into a nearby field the other balloons are preparing to inflate when the heavens open and everything is brought to a dismal halt.

A meal in a rather grim pub in Cambridge on the return journey completes a depressing day.

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