|In a hot air balloon 12,000 feet above the Swiss Alps|
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12,000 feet above the Swiss Alps in a hot air balloon.
See the 360° panorama taken inside the basket.
As we arrive as 6 AM on a Sunday morning, the three balloons are already taking shape. The pilot starts to inflate them with a huge electric fan.
The inside of the balloon is so big you could host a wedding banquet in it.
Now is the time to make the inflated balloon rise up. A huge flamethrower-like triple gas burner spits a 10 feet long fire tongue up the balloon ...
... until it slowly rises, turning the basket up. Ready to board.
We board, 7 passengers and the pilot.
Another flame ...
... and up we go.
The gorgeous Swiss prealps start to unfold all around us.
One of the other balloons chooses a lower path so as to leave us alone ...
... and passes right below us.
Captivated by the view ...
... we see many lakes, here the Lac de l'Hongrin, an artificial lake.
A few snapshots to help remember the day...
... as the view continues to unfold 360° around us.
Perfectly calm and in command, François, our seasoned balloon pilot gives his balloon a little more hot air from time to time, ...
... by pulling on a lever that releases another fire tongue into the huge balloon.
After two hours, François the pilot starts thinking about landing - but where will the wind take us? Below our feet we see Zweisimmen, one of the many airfields in the Swiss Alps.
All is still on the airport as we slowly advance. Where exactly will we land? François talks with his ground crew to tell him where to pick us up. A field perhaps? I prefer to land on something dry so as to keep the balloon cloth dry. Kind of hard to find a cloth hanger large enough to hang it to dry at home, François tells us.
Now it's clear - François will go for the landing strip. Farmers don't like it so much when you land in the middle of their crops, says the pilot. If you manage to land it in the middle of the runway, I will eat my hat, says one of the passengers, soon regretting his bravado.
The car the pilot was calling on the radio is already on the runway, waiting for us.
Like in a dream, we float above the runway and move by inches. François touches down on the runway and lets out the strongest three passengers, all volunteers.
The balloon rises again because of the sudden loss of weight.
As the balloon is hovering 2 feet above the ground, the three passengers bravely push it towards the pickup truck.
Like a Pays d'Enhaut cut paper, our shadow spreads on the runway.
By pulling a well-secured rope, the whole roof opens up to free the hot air...
... and the balloon starts coming down on God's green earth.
It lays on its side, keeping its hot air in.
A passenger is kindly asked to pull the top rope to ensure the balloon is properly stretched.
The balloon is still cavernous inside...
... then slowly collapses as the pilot winds it so we can pack it.
Almost finished ...
... and a little vehicle comes to collect the wound balloon carried by the passengers.
Another fine day in the Swiss Alps.
You can make the same flight by calling the people below. Don't forget to check the day before whether the flight is still on - nobody flies in less than perfect weather and many flights are rescheduled.
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