5 am Thursday in November
Standing in a field of darkness in Kenya, great experiences await those who arise at dawn in the bush. We climbed aboard our comfy Range Rover, Lepeta wrapped us in woolly red plaid blankets and gave us warm muffins and steaming coffee. We briskly made our way through the savannah to a flat hot balloon attached to an upturned oversize wicker basket. A small crowd gathered on the dewy short grass, people stretching and beginning to wake up.Men hovered around the flat stretched out orange and yellow balloon, checking tethers and then the flame bursts with a brilliance in the dim dawn light. The silky balloon begins to billow with each blast of heat and red hot flame. It doesn’t take long as the chamber rises and opens to reveal a colorful bright cavernous tunnel large enough to walk through, not that anyone does.
I’ve done this once before in the bush, but wasn’t rewarded with much game life on the ground. We climb into the wicker basket and stake out a corner for our gentle ascent. It’s a magical experience to float in the sky, the quiet and calm punctuated by blasts of hot flames, keeping the delicate balloon aloft.It’s a dream, gentle gliding, weightless – the drivers and tire trails begin to disappear and we spot herds of giraffes, zebras and a few stray hyenas. I tell Susan, look for watering holes for hippos; or a kill, as lions will be about. We spot both!Drifting quietly above the busy wildlife scene below on the flat open plain. The sun begins to rise up from a line on the horizon. Earth edge kissed by a pale pink glow.Captain calls out, we will soon brace for a gentle landing, the basket will bounce and slide a bit across the wet grass and we will come to a stop on the dirt road you see ahead – as predicted, we slide to a gentle stop.Kenyan Magic!