Ten years ago it was all very different in the world of ballooning. You could expect to travel some considerable distance to find a balloon ride operator to take you into the air for a hot air balloon ride. You might even have to leave your own country. If you were lucky, there would be a small number of balloon ride operators somewhere near you, and if you were unlucky, there would be none.
The good news is that all that has changed in the balloon ride business. These days a balloon ride can be had pretty much wherever you wish: Brazil, Russia, Chile, Surrey, South Africa, Spain, Gloucestershire, Namibia, Costa Rica, Kenya, Hertfordshire and, let us not forget, little old Australia and the United States of America.
That I am able to throw a few counties in England into my list of exciting ballooning locations from around the world is a sign of high times for the balloon ride business in the United Kingdom. It's good news for any one like me who loves the idea of taking a balloon ride in Kenya, but is too poor of time and money to book the flight out there.
Australians and Americans, blessed as they are in their respective countries with numerous stunning locations that are ideal for balloon rides, might legitimately say that the United Kingdom is not blessed with the most ideal of flying conditions for a balloon ride. We Brits might sigh and agree that (even if we do get up in the air) our balloon ride will just disappear into a constitutionally guaranteed grey sky, where the best sight from our basket will be a steaming cup of tea. But the truth is rather brighter. Most flights take place early in the morning, when the weather is calmer, and if you get up into the air, it's because the conditions are right for flight, and so you will get a great view. I have been taking photographs from way up there for ten years, and my photo albums speak of the ballooning beauty that is Great Britain.
Of course the weather can disappoint. Too much wind, or the wrong type of wind, will keep you on the ground, ruining your day. But there is usually another one following it, so there is time to try again.
There are over a hundred commercial balloon ride operators in the United Kingdom just waiting to get you into the air. The statistics are impressive: there were around 80,000 balloon ride passengers in the United Kingdom last year. And if you don't trust the statistics, trust the pilots. Many of our pilots are highly experienced Australian and American pilots, and if the flying or the business were poor, they would not be here.
So why not make yourself one of the 80,000? Bring your friends, the family, who ever you want. It really is jaw-droppingly beautiful up there. It's another world and you just do not want to come down. But with business the way it is, you don't have to for long.
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© Stephen Turner 2006. Stephen Turner has set up www.rideballoon.co.uk where you'll find loads of balloon ride information, advice, articles, discussion and specially chosen links to other balloon ride websites.
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