Up, up & away: Hot Air Ballooning over the Okanagan Valley, Canada
Kelowna (Okanagan Valley), British Columbia, Canada
“Less then 1% of the worlds population have been in a hot air balloon” – John, Okanagan Ballooning. As of Friday the 25th of August we are proud to say that we have now joined the 1%. We were grateful to ride a hot air balloon seeing Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley, Canada in a whole new perspective.
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It had all begun 6 months prior, Renee had to make an impromptu trip back to Australia. While there the mother-in-law pulled her aside to orchestrate her sneaky plan – Surprise the father-in-law with a hot air balloon ride over the Okanagan Valley.
3 weeks pass and Renee is now back in Canada, we did a bit of research and pondered about where and how we could pull it off. Or if there was even a business in the Okanagan Valley doing hot air balloon rides.
The next day Renee lying in bed hears a tap on the window, John is outside he is pointing. Low and behold a bright rainbow hot air balloon glides over Vernon city. Questions answered now to find this business!
It didn’t take long before Google revealed all, Renee promptly shot off an email to Okanagan Ballooning. Within hours we received a response confirming availability, easy peasy…
The hard part came next… keeping our mouths shut for 6 months, which ‘when your that excited’ it really is hard to do.
D-Day arrived, alarm blaring at 5.00am we roll ourselves out of bed make a coffee for the road and hightail it to Kelowna which is roughly a 45 minute drive.
We’re not due to meet Okanagan Ballooning until 7.00am at the Burger King car park, we arrive at 6.15am whoopsie…bit too excited perhaps. At this stage the father-in-law still doesn’t know, he was being a good sport with the early wake up. Thankfully there was a Tim Hortons right across the road, we make a bee line and indulge in a second coffee and a bit of breaky.
6.45am we see the Okanagan Balloon trailer pull up, we finished up and headed back across the road. The father-in-law is squinting to see the car decal and finally works out the big surprise. ‘Bloody brilliant’ he exclaims ‘I’ve always wanted to do that, but always had short arms and deep pockets’.
We introduce ourselves and John OB (Okangan Ballooning, OB for short – this may get confusing) releases a balloon in the air, this so he can determine wind direction and pick a launch site accordingly. To the firehall he says!
Once we arrive at the launch site John OB and the crew get to work, unrolling the balloon envelope, setting up the basket and ultimately inflating the envelope. John and his father were all hands on and proudly assisted with the whole process.
We climb up and into the basket, John OB then gives us the safety talk. With a pull of the lever and roar of the burner we’re off!!!
The wind picks us up instantly and directs us towards the city. The view was just magnificent, there were too many photos to show them all, but here are some of our favourites.
Spot the deer…
Here she is…
Every time the burner roars Renee and the father-in-law give a little jump, the heat and sound it generates is intense it is almost unbelievable.
45 minutes pass and the crew in the retrieval vehicle radio in to signal that it’s time to look for a landing spot. This can be rather difficult, the pilot cannot control the direction the balloon flies in only it’s height.
We approach a parking lot, John OB radios the retrieval vehicle, they are in place. Then last minute the angle of the balloon changes and it is no longer suitable to land… back up we go…
We continue for another half an hour before a suitable landing site appears – a green patch of grass at Parkinson Recreation Centre.
As we lower down John OB says ‘drop the line’ ‘drop the line’ ‘drop the line’. It was supposed to be a queue for the father-in-law to drop the rope so the crew could catch us, however he was too busy taking photos of the landing. A little late but better then never he drops the rope over the side and the crew catches us. We watch as the two of them lean back with all their might to stop us mid air.
The basket does a little bounce back up off the ground before finally dropping down. John gets out of the basket followed by his father and Renee, they then assist to manoeuvre the hot air balloon closer to the vehicle.
By now we have a couple of bystanders. Once we are close enough the balloon envelope is then deflated and laid out along the ground. There is still some air left in it so John OB invites a couple of bystanders (a little girl and her father) to roll around the balloon on the ground with him to help deflate it.
The Okanagan Ballooning crew then takes over with the pack up with some assistance from John and his father.
Once everything is all stowed away we walk over to a grassy area. The crew treat us to a glass of Champagne and some sweet treats for morning tea.
John OB explains to us the tradition of the hot air balloon. We can’t remember exactly what was said but it entailed lining up preparing to catch the Champagne cork which is shot up into the air – a blessing for the next flight. After which we kneeled down in a row. John OB sprinkled some earth onto our heads followed by champagne then came the sweet part the champagne drinking.
We then stood around the picnic table talking and indulging on the sweets before being dropped back off to our car.
- Envelope (balloon thingy) is a Cameron 0-120 and holds 102,000 cubic-foot of air
- The basket is large enough to carry 6 people plus the pilot, don’t want to leave him behind!
- Manufactured in Bristol, Engand
- Whole setup is 65 foot-tall and weighs a whooping 900lbs – basket 600lbs & envelope 300lbs
- Burner pumps out 40 million BTU
- We flew at 2,000 ft above sea level
- Flying speed around the Okanagan Valley is under 10km/hour. Although it can fly in higher winds in farm land areas.
- Balloon has 2 rotator vents, the flight direction is determined by wind. The height is the only thing the pilot controls.
- Okanagan Balloning flies all year round. The view of the snowy mountains from the air would just be spectacular!
Visit their website to book your own flight.
Until next time…
John & Renee
Is going hot air ballooning on your bucket list, or have you already been? Spill the beans in the comments below.