Travel

A lifetime of adventure at Araku Balloon Festival

Neptuno, the seahorse shaped hot air balloon flying across the skies in Araku

Neptuno, the seahorse shaped hot air balloon flying across the skies in Araku   | Photo Credit: Nivedita Ganguly

“An element of uncertainty is always there when you are up there in a hot air balloon. And that’s the challenge – to achieve the perfect landing,” says Joseph Llado, a ballooning pilot from Barcelona. One of world’s most experienced pilots with 38 years of experience, Joseph seemed thrilled to explore the virgin skies of Araku Valley during the recently-concluded hot air balloon festival. “Every place, country and landscape gives different kinds of challenge to us. Araku is beautiful and its hilly terrain makes it a fascinating place to explore its grandeur,” he says. Llado runs a balloon manufacturing company in Barcelona called Ultramagic which makes 50 different varieties of balloons. For him, ballooning has presented a lifetime of adventure. Seventy three years old Bonanna from Italy has a similar experience to share. “I fly for my pleasure. It is very relaxing when you are floating up there. All the worldly worries just sink within you and it is just you and the silence of nature to soak in,” says the cheerful pilot. This year in February, they both completed one of the most challenging and spectacular balloon flights of their lives. They made a journey across 500 km in Switzerland in nine hours and 45 minutes. “We went up to 5,000 feet and it was such a breathtaking experience! Our basket carried food, lamps and emergency stuff and we just headed off,” says Bonanna.

Recalling another amusing incident when he was flying above Africa, Llado says, “So I was preparing to land when the wind direction took me towards an unexplored forest area. Incidentally, at that point of time there was a priest surrounded by a group of followers was fervently praying with a bible in hand to stop ‘the end of the world’. When we landed they all rushed towards us with the bible in hand assuming that their prayers have been answered. We were treated like Gods there!” he chuckles.

Many times, the pilots spot a serene place to land only to be greeted with a huge crowd within no time! “This happened in Rajasthan. When I was preparing to land, I couldn’t spot a single person in the vicinity from above. As the basket touched the ground, there was a group of 200 people who came rushing to meet us!” says pilot Syed Karimulla. For the pilots, ballooning opens up a magnificent world that nobody knew even existed. “You often fly in to a place you never expected. It is discovering the secrets of nature in the most exciting way,” says pilot Rick Astral from Chile.

Apart from the ballooning event in Araku, the pilots stayed in a luxury eco-friendly camping site close to a tribal village where they also got to shake a leg with the Dhimsa dancers around the bonfire. In the evenings, the night glow held at NTR Grounds in Araku was a delightful sight for scores of people who thronged the venue. Many got a chance to go up in tethered balloons.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 4:53:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/a-lifetime-of-adventures-for-balloon-pilots/article20551314.ece

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