A hot air balloon ride over Costa Rica!
|I had dreamed of taking a hot air
balloon ride for a long time. I imagined soaring in a wicker
basket over beautiful Napa Valley. Unfortunately, when I
actually traveled to Napa Valley, during a whirlwind tour, I
was short on time and had to skip the balloon ride.
Years later, when a friend and I were planning a trip to Costa Rica, I discovered that hot air balloon rides were available near La Fortuna, one of the cities that we were going to visit. Without hesitation, we booked one.
On the day of our flight, we woke up before sunrise and hopped in a cab for a thirty minute ride to our pick up location, Hotel Tilajari. It was still dark when the people from Serendipity Adventures met us and drove us to the field of wild horses that would be our launch site.
We watched the pilot and his ground crew prepare the balloon on the dewy grass. After the pilot had checked it carefully, it was inflated with hot air and magically righted itself. We climbed inside the basket and the ground slowly slipped away. The pilot pointed out large iguanas sunning themselves in the upper branches of a tree.
Since we were traveling on a wind current, the air around us felt completely still. The only sounds were our voices and the occasional loud roar of the burners. We marveled at the many beautiful shades of green, the herds of grazing cattle, a tree we dubbed “Vulture Tree” (because it had over twenty vultures perching on its gangly branches) and Arenal Volcano (an active volcano in the distance). All this distracted me from the fact that we were floating, high above the Earth, in a wicker basket that shifted a little when someone walked from one side to the other. I kept a tight grip on a handhold at all times, especially at our maximum altitude of about 4,500 feet.
We touched down gently in a field of king grass on the property of a Costa Rican farmer. Rather than complain, the family came out of their home and warmly welcomed us. Our crew invited the boys to check out our flight equipment. The look of curiosity on the youngest boys’ faces was priceless. The picture that I took of them turned out to be one of my favorite pictures of the trip.
I did this in 2007 near Muelle, Costa Rica.
Dr. Jen (California, USA)