I’d heard through the grapevine that the local hot air ballooning group was organising a flight over the Easter weekend, so the girls and I went along to check it out.
Seeing the balloons fill and float away reminded me of a trip back to New Zealand about 10 year ago, when I surprised OH with a flight. We were in Queenstown so we took in the majestic sight of Coronet Peak and The Remarkables, and the Southern Alps. The views were unbeatable – the ones my mind haven’t blocked out, at least, since I was completely and utterly petrified.
I love heights, but they don’t like me. I was fine with them until I was about 21 – I was in Surfer’s Paradise, on the Gold Coast of Australia, and stepped outside onto the balcony of our high-rise holiday apartment. All of a sudden the world began to spin and the ground seemed to rush up towards me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was going to slip and fall off the building. My brain told me I wasn’t being rational, but my body told me I was about to die, and the two just refused to agree.
While I’ve battled with acrophobia ever since, I refused to let it rule my life and have always try to push myself out of my comfort zone. For the most part I’ve managed to keep a lid on that constant thrum of panic that threatens to engulf me as soon as I get north of 10 floors high (wobbly knees, thumping heart and dizzy head aside).
Although there was an interesting experience at the top of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, when my body became convinced I was going to fall out one of the open window holes, and I had to go all the way back down the spiral staircase pressed up against the wall.
Anyway, back to the hot air balloon. We arrived at the launch area at sunrise and watched the balloons getting partially inflated before climbing in. It all started off so well: the propane gas ignited and we began to swiftly rise. But, I don’t think I realised just how high we’d be flying, and I quickly became aware that I was hanging from a glorified picnic basket thousands of feet in the air. And The Fear kicked in.
It was pretty awful for a while, but then I think I accepted that my fate was officially in someone else’s hands, and just let it go. I was able to enjoy the flight much more after that – it really was the most serene experience when burner wasn’t roaring – but there was still a little sigh of relief when we finally touched (heavily) back down.
Big Sis is now obsessed with hot air balloons, so it looks like I’ll have to get over my fear of heights at least once more. Gulp.