It is now one week since team Australia landed D-OWML in a vineyard to end their Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race due to lack of ballast (sand). One week of travelling back to Bern Switzerland from East of Venice in Italy, saying our goodbyes to each team member as they flew back to their various homes or new adventures.
It is one week to recall the demands of such a challenging flight but also one week to remember those unusual moments so not lost forever. I took with me a multicoloured blue woollen cap that I put in the pocket of my Mountain High jacket prior to lift off. My plan was once airborne to put it on to keep the cold away. There was so many things to do as I have written earlier that I was airborne for over 2 hours when I started looking for my cap. I searched the 8 side pockets in the basket to no avail. Once my gloved hands started freezing I flung them into my coat pocket to find my cap. I felt like I had won a $1m lottery. Now my head was warm finally.
Our initial intentions were to ballast only sand which any experienced Gordon Bennett pilot will tell you was a delirious thought. Drifting above the snow covered tips of the mountains in the dark of night with much reduced sand our intentions altered dramatically. “What can we throw out to conserve our reduced sand load” both pilots discussed. One future day some adventurous mountain climber may find my beloved thermos. It went first. The other stuff can remain a secret.
After 15 hours of looking at the vast width and height of the Swiss Alps and then the Dolomites I recall lamenting “when will these mountains end?”. They ended after two more valley ranges to huge relief. We then only had the USA/Italy NATO Base to transverse. And our cute gas balloon drifted over their main runway as their fighter jets stood to attention in far corners of the airfield.
These last days I have taken in the French countryside around Alsace, staying in a beautiful village with dear friends Francine and Jean-Michel Hieber in Soultzmatt, visting the colourful town of Colmar yesterday. Today it is onto Belgium with Ghent and Brugge on my to do list.
What will tomorrow bring?
Team Australia’s landing place between the Italian vineyards