The man who catches falling hot-air baloons

Most days, when it’s late afternoon and the sun has got down to an angle to where it shines right in my face when I’m sitting at my desk, I go for a walk in the woods. I have a semi-regular route that is about 11 kms long and takes me an hour and 45 minutes to walk it, more or less. Today, when I emerged from the woods, at the end of my walk, this is the sight that faced me:
baloons over the Asticou centre fields
And that shot captures less than half as many as were in the sky at the time. It was a surprisingly beautiful sight!
These balloons were part of Gatineau’s annual Montgolfier Festival. (Dear Ottawa folks: there’s a lot of cool stuff on this side of the river. And it’s closer to downtown than Westboro. Just saying.) And so I stood around for a while to watch them pass. It was really quite delightful, and did much to raise my spirits on a day when I had been feeling rather blue. I’ve never been in one of these before, and I wondered what it would be like.

This one got really close, and was falling rather rapidly:
baloon coming down
I could see the flames of the gas burner clearly and loudly, and see the people on board shouting something in French at me. Because I am a (mostly) unilingual anglophone, I shouted back the most useful French sentence I knew: “Je ne parlez pas Francais”. So someone else on the baloon shouted in English, “Catch us!” They needed some extra weight to slow them down. So I sprinted as fast as I could – not easy for me, since I injured my ankle rather badly a few years ago – and jumped on the side. The breeze still blew the balloon all the way across a parking lot, and tipped it on its side. So I ended up riding on “top”. But the balloon stopped before crashing into anything. I got off when the balloon was flat, and then I shook the pilot’s hand and went back home.

I have to say, that was perhaps the most fun thirty seconds of my summer. Next year’s festival, maybe I’ll take a longer ride than just across the parking lot.

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3 Responses to The man who catches falling hot-air baloons

  1. Fiona says:

    Well done!

    Who knew you had such a stabalizing personality?

    That definitely sounded fun. One day I, too, wish to ride in a balloon. Who knows what kind of interesting people I could meet on the way down?


  2. George says:

    It is an amazing feeling, to drift silently above the ground. You can hear cars going by, and birds singing. And of course, the look on people’s faces when they glance up at the shadow and realize there is something the size of a house drifting silently overhead. You could volunteer for a ‘fiesta’ balloon crew during the festival. The hours are long, (dawn launch and retrieval about an hour later, and sunset launch and retrieval) but it is a lot of fun and, will often get a ‘cherry’ a free ride, at least once.
    I volunteered for a number of years at the Molson Park Balloon-fest in the 80’s and early 90’s.

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