Since it’s still early in the year, I can’t be blamed for telling a story from 2020, the worst year for some and the best for others. People all over the world were forced to contend with the new normal: lockdowns, mask rules, economic crises and travel bans. But beside the whole craziness and the challenges that it brought along, last year made us realize what’s really important for us.
For me last year was about hopes and dreams materializing against all odds and about pursuing the impossible.
On 30th December, after we had previously lifted our hot-air balloon several times for tests, we decided to take advantage of a window of perfect weather conditions and fly high in order to break our first Guinness world record.
The “SUSPENDED TREADMILL RUN” is our first crazy record from a series of twelve. If it’s not self explanatory, like I believe, let me explain. There’s a platform connected to the basket of the balloon and a treadmill anchored to the platform. When the hot air balloon reaches 2000 metres I climb down on the platform and start running. After the record I take the dive together with my skydiving brothers.
Early in the morning a crew of twenty met on the field previously decided upon and immediately started the procedures of unfolding the envelope, connecting the basket and the platform under it, filling it with air, basically getting it ready for the launch, under the strict command of our incredible pilot.
Every procedure needs to happen in a specific time frame because the weather is predictable up to a point and the smallest variation in wind, for example, can keep you on the ground. A hot-air balloon is a lighter-than-air aircraft. The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the colder air outside the envelope. So, the colder outside, the faster the ascent.
After the skydiving brief and the last “exit position rehearsal” followed the brief with our pilot and signing the papers.
It really was happening, I couldn’t believe it.
We waved at the cameras and lifted off. Silence. Complete silence. Only now and then the sound of the burners disturbing absolut peace.
One could feel the adrenaline flowing in the air together with the balloon and its record team.
This adrenaline rush took me back to memory lane.
In an instance I travelled back in 2016 when I had my first ever jump. I was standing at the door of the plane, hooked onto my tandem master and being stunned. Firstly with fear and secondly by the beauty I was seeing.
I thought the jump would cure my old fear of heights, but guess what, it didn’t. The mix of fear, freedom and awe made me want to become what I am today.
Back in the hot-air balloon, after no more than 15 minutes the silence was broken by the pilot’s voice and we didn’t hear what we were expecting. The capricious weather wouldn’t let us win that day. The wind stepped up and changed its direction, so the pilot didn’t give us permission to descend on the platform and make the jump cause we wouldn’t have been able to land safely. Therefore, at 800 metres he decided to abort the mission and started the procedures of landing the hot-air balloon.
Although 2020 had messed yet another one of our plans, we were happy for a perfect take off and landing, and for the stunning view. For us it was a good day and it gave us a bit of the real feel of what we are up to. But in 2021 even the weather is on our side and we will execute every single part of our plan.