We are staying the last two days in the capital. Some are going to get a guided visit to Teatro Colón, others prefer to walk in the streets of Sant Telmo and La Boca neighbourhoods. Some more will just stay at the hotel to work and wait for the final dinner tonight at La Estancia. Sasha and Angel already left to their respective homes. Last hours in this beloved country. We will come back!
We had some breakfast at 9 am and at 10:15 we were going to The Vines, a great resort inside the Valle del Huco.
We prepared all the balloons of the first truck and at 2 pm we enjoyed a great meal, we tasted the Mendoza wine and after that we started to prepare the balloons of the second truck. It was a bit windy but meteo showed a decreasing of it during the afternoon.
At 4pm first balloons started to inflate. It was a quite calm. Finally we did it, all the balloons in the expedition could fly. 15 balloons invaded El Valle del Huco.
All balloons tried to land as close as possible, again to facilitate the retrieve, and at 7 pm all of them where already in the truck. It was missing only one balloon team that decided to do a longer and further flight, they arrived at 23:30 at the restaurant.
Trucks will go to Buenos Aires tomorrow morning. We are all very tired, it has been a very intense trip, but really worth it. We did amazing flights… memorable for all of us.
We did it! 5 balloons could take off to enjoy the Eclipse in the air. We really wanted all the balloons to fly today but finally it was not possible.
Surface wind started to be strong and turbulent so many of the ballons that were already half inflated had to cancel. This situation was disapointing for many of good friends eventhough the fabulous full Eclipse was terrific from the ground as well.
Eclipse balloon has been the first to take off as their rope couldn’t stand the strong turbulences. Aconcagua balloon burnt some low panels of the envelope while inflating and it dragged the basket through 100 meters before he could get up. The other three balloons didn’t had weird complications in their take off.
Once the balloons took off they could stay near to the airport to be as close as possible to the other members of the expedition and of course to facilitate the retrieve as well. 3 of them managed to land in the same field.
The light was really special, many of us where deeply moved by the wonder of the Earth. It has been an unique event. We are so fortunate to have been here.
The launch field was in Aeropuerto Internacional Valle del Conlara, San Luis province, 4 hours from Mendoza. We woke up at 3:30 am, had breakfast at 4:00 am and ready to go at 4:30 am. The bus had a puncture on the road and we had to wait 2 hours to be that fixed. At 1 pm the pick up drivers where almost all at the lunch point, and the bus arrived 40 minuts later. The pick ups went to the launch field at 2:15 pm to start to prepare all the balloons. We prepared almost all the balloons very fast, it’s our fourth flight and we are getting used to download all the equipment from the trucks.
We had a briefing at 4 pm where Josep exposed his plan for the afternoon and he asked for other proposals in order to prepare the eclipse flight the best way. We finally decided that his proposal was ok. At 5pm we should have started to inflate to be ready to go at 5:30. Full Eclipse has been at 5.45 pm.
We arrived at the hotel at 3 am. We are now back to Mendoza because tomorrow morning we want to fly over the Valle del Huco vineyards. Good night!
Today has been a very quiet day. All the members of the expedition had a free day. We all needed it so much.
Josep had to go to talk with the ‘the wines’ manager along with Juani Bravin, our friend in Mendoza, while Roby took care of flight permissions and gas refueling.
We met for lunch some other old friends in Mendoza, the ones that joined Josep, Jaume i Joan’s (ultramagic partners) first expedition in Argentina. Many memories where reminded.
Tomorrow we will have breakfast at 4:00 am. We need to go to sleep because it will be another big day, the eclipse.
The Aconcagua flight has come. We are all nervous. We want to fly but we are aware that it’s a special flight due to strong rotors and turbulences that we can encounter while crossing the range. Andes mountains are very unique and towering.
It took some time to prepare the balloons. We needed oxygen and some of the gas bottles pressurized by nytrogen. The planned take off site was to take off inside the Parque Nacional Aconcagua but finnally we moved to a very special place, close to the road and in the middle of the valley more sheltered.
Finally 6 balloons flew. Josep was the first, he wanted to share this experience with his daughters and his old friend Mario. Climbing at a rate of 4-6 m/s between 12000 feet and 15000 feet found some turbulence, but not too strong. The good thing has been that direction was along the valley while climbing, so not approaching the side mountains and other balloons could climb slower. Some of the other teams experienced turbulences while descending but the metereology was quite perfect, we were so lucky.
It has been a great sunny day with almost none surface wind and with great speed at 7200 meters (the fastest speed arrived up to 185 km/h). We were really prepared to suffer from cold at high altitude, nevertheless we were comfortable during the flight.
The rescue was not easy due to the large distance flight. Most of the balloons landed passing Mendoza and the rescue team could get to them approx. at 6 pm.
We are celebrating the great flight at Antares, a craft bewery. We are very happy, excited that we could enjoy the greatness of the Andes from our balloons.
We could cross to Penitentes. After three hours waiting they opened the gate at 1 pm. That was the main part of the day, the great news that the snow storm was decreasing and the road was not dangerous anymore. We also had some good news from the truck drivers, they were expecting to arrive tonight. They have been driving for the last 2 days, it’s a long way from Calafate to Mendoza, almost 3000 km.
On the expedition program it was scheduled a trekking but it was snowy and foggy. After visiting Puente del Inca we returned to the hostel to relax and start the preparation for tomorrow’s flight. We where distributed to different apartments. It has been a huge work to allocate all the members as there wasn’t enough staff, we have been told that they didn’t came due to the rough weather.
We did a short and intense briefing at dinner’s place. Josep was really focused on the flight plan and stablishing the minimum preparation and equipment required to successfully do the flight. Stefan Zeberli has talked about Andes dangers and some wise advises for the flight. We will probably have to fly over 7000 meters, an unexpected altitude. It seems that 8 teams are interested to fly. Now is time to rest, tomorrow a very challenging flight awaits us.
Today has been a long day. After a nice and relaxing night at Kosten Aike Hotel we went to the airport at 7 am to catch the first flight of the day (Calafate-Buenos Aires). There’s no direct flight from Calafate to Mendoza, so we did Calafate-Bs As and Bs As- Mendoza the same day.
When we arrived to Bs As we had 4 hours to spend to the capital so most of the pilots decided to enjoy a delicious asado. During Calafate days we enjoyed nice vegetarian food but most of us where eager to eat a piece of Argentinian meat. First try was Don Julio but they where full. At the end we split in different groups and we found really special restaurants to enjoy the meal.
At 6 pm we all met at Aeroparque again to fly to Mendoza. Once arrived to Mendoza we quickly organized all the luggage to fit in a big bus and 5 pick ups, 3 of them kindly sponsored by Territorio Yacopini.
On our way to Penitentes we found the road closed, we couldn’t arrive there due to the iced road. The town closest to the gate was Uspallata so we had to reorganize the dinner and the hotel booking for 70 people. It was already 9 pm so we where worried about the situation. Roby, our Argentinian dealer, and a great help to carry out the whole expedition, could nicely take care of the situation. Valle Andino hotel has hosted us for tonight and we nicely tasted a nice ‘parrillada’ in a nearby restaurant.
This morning we split in three different groups. Finally we could enjoy the Fitz Roy mountain really clear during sunrise and after 11 am. During the flight we didn’t had that chance.
The first group decided to do the longest trekking (9 hours) starting at 5:30 am and reaching the Fitz Roy base.
The second one started at 8 am and the goal was Laguna Torre, a beatiful lake at the foot of the same mountain.
The last group started at 10 am and did Laguna Capri, a 3 hours suitable trekking, with Fitz Roy just behind it.
After the trekking we met at Rancho Grande and we went directly to Calafate. We could take more Fitz Roy nice pictures from the road.
We returned the pick ups to the rental car enteprise, enjoyed of a great meal at the hotel and we moved to Shackelton bar to listen to some lovely live tango music.
Today has been a great day for all of us. We started at 6:30 a.m. taking the balloons from Rancho Grande to the launch field. We needed the pick-ups to get in because there was a really muddy way to get into the chosen field. The pick-ups needed to make up to 4 rides to take all the material to the launch field.
At 9.00 a.m. all the balloons were ready to blow up. The mountains were covered and the direction of the wind was not clear. The weather forecasts weren’t very helpful as each one showed different results.
Finally, around 10.30 a.m. the sky started to clear up. 12 balloons decided to take off.
It was an amazing flight. We had a superb view of the valley thanks to the slow surface winds.
We knew that if we decided to go higher (3000 meters), we could approach to the only road in order to facilitate the retrieve. During the flight, many of the pilots decided to go higher to find faster winds, around 70 km/h. The flight was really exciting, we were able to see two glaciers, a spectacular lake and different valleys.
We had to fly above the clouds to be able to land in the only road of the area.
Pilots and rescue team did a great job, at 6.00 pm all the balloons were loaded in the truck, even the ones that remained further from the road.Tomorrow morning both trucks have to go as fast as possible to Penitentes. There has been strong snowfalls and we are not sure that they can reach the city in three days.
Now we are celebrating the success of the flight and deciding which trekking we will do tomorrow.
The second day of the expedition has been highly marked by the intense visit to the Glaciar Perito Moreno. On our way to the park, we saw another spectacular sunrise from the car.
At 10.30 a.m. we arrived to Puerto Sombras, the launch field of yesterday’s flight. The boats depart from that port to cross the lake. We were lucky to be part of the very special trekking over the glacier.
We have been equipped with crampons, a new experience for the most people of the group.
We learned many things about Perito Moreno origin and behavior. Everyone was excited about being on this huge glacier.
Some guides were waiting for us with a nice glass of whiskey and a bombon (a chocolat sweet) for everyone.
Once the boat returned us to Puerto Sombras, we loaded the 6 pick-ups with the equipment that stayed on the field during the night. We were lucky enough to fit all the material in the pick-ups as we weren’t allowed to move again the truck inside the park.
Next, we have gone to the footbridge, there we have eaten something for lunch and enjoyed the magnificent views of the glacier from another point of view. Then, we met with the rescue team, they had gone for one of the balloons that we did not took out the day before. They dismantled and assembled the fence in order to access the field to get back the balloon.
Around 3.00 p.m., one of the trucks was on its way to el Chaltén, to make sure that it would make it to the flight programmed for the next day. At 9.00 p.m. we have arrived to el Chaltén and we went to see two possible taking off points.
We are very lucky, the weather is great, and it has not snowed yet, so the access to the field is pretty easy. Tomorrow morning, we will choose which one of the taking off places is the best one. It is 11.00 p.m. and one team are finishing adjusting the burner to the guesthouse’s kitchen, it is going to be a long night.
Yesterday night all the teams joined in Kosten Aike Hotel, Calafate. Josep Ma did a general breafing at 10 pm sharing the difficulties of the few roads and coverage to do the rescue, to advise the drivers in taking care of the iced roads, and planned the perfect flight for the next day. Meteo was not promising and very changing inside the Park, but today was the best chance to try to fly near the glaciar Perito Moreno.
We arrived at the park entrance at 9:00, it was forbbiden to get in earlier as the Park is closed. We could enjoy a spectacular sunrise from there. It seemed it was the perfect day to fly close to the Perito Moreno, but once we got to the launch field it became more and more windy. We shared our thoughts in a first breafing at 11 am, where we decided that it was no safe enough to take off, we should wait.
There were strong turbulences. At last, around 12 pm top pilots decided that it was the perfect spot to take off. The first 5 balloons could take off from Perito Moreno Glaciar. During the inflation of other 3 balloons the snow, wind and the deep clouds invaded the Glaciar. We had to cancel the flight for the other balloons.
We had some difficulties in the rescue team to reach the balloons. It was a great help the use of Yellow Brick and flightpacktracker, an app that keeps the track of the flight and allows you to navigate to the landing area. Amazing pictures were taken during the flight.
28 March Barcelona Accra
Arrived in Accra all the Ultramagic team after waiting one day in Barcelona because cancelation of the KLM flight to Amsterdam.
20 people working in Ultramagic with companions want to beb resent for the inauguration and we are all very proud of that.
All were relocated in different planes, but we joined all late night. We go sleep quickly in hotel nearby the airport to wake up early to drive to Amoma for the inauguration of the school.
Breakfast at 5 a.m. and planned to go 5:30 with some delay, we sit in a comfortable bus to finish our sleep and or watching curious at the window to not miss anything interesting so different from our latitudes.
After 10 hours in the bus, we arrive at the village of Amoma for the inauguration of the school. Our incredible surprise is the welcome we have.
All the village and many vip persons from the region are present to know about this project and why the school was built with the participation of many pilots around the world that flew the balloon Friendship.
Young children dancing, speeches, presents to us, inflation of the Friendship balloon for a tethering and great inauguration.
A plate was discovered placed in the wall of the main entrance to explain about the idea of Andrew Holly with the Friendship Balloon, about Ultramagic and it’s African origins and about why the school in Ghana.
Above all a very nice and surprising afternoon with the inauguration that made everybody happy thinking that the school will be very useful for developement in the area.
30 March Techiman – Mole National Park
After sleeping in Techiman, we start our trip to Mole National Park. This is the most important Park i Ghana where you can see elefants among other wildlife. So even it is far away for the short time trip we think it is worth.
On the way, we stop to see a monkey sanctuary where we walk around for a while sorrounded of big impressive red mahogany trees . Joan can follow the walk sitting in a motorcycle so all can enjoy the viewing of the monkeys very close.
Just before arriving the park we visit an ancient mosque in Larabanga. The mosque they tell is almost 600 years old. Very interesting.
Once arrived at the National Park, distribution of rooms and plan for night game drive. We all want to profit the short stay and it is worth because you never know what can be seen. Also we explain shortly that we plan to do a morning Flight with two balloons: the Friendship and the Tramuntana.
31 March Mole National Park
As we want to profit the maximum, the plan is early morning Flight, breakfast, jeep safari afterwards, lunch, walking safari, dinner and night safari with jeep. We have been lucky enough to accomplish all.
Early get up and meet to prepare the balloons. At 5 a.m. we finally decide to take off from the main road close to the rangers office and the motel, so they know about us and they do not think we are hiding anything. With the balloons already inflated, it seems there was some misunderstanding the previous day, but is too late to stop and we take off.
We can see an elephant in the pool far away, and a few animals during the flight, but we are so excited and happy with the landscape and the flight itself, that it does not matter much. We fly for 1 hour and 10 minutes and we see we can arrive to a “road” near a village already outside the Park. The winds are fair and we alos clloimb to 1500 m to check directions. As we do not have much gas ( Friendship with 39 Kg and Tramuntana with 73 Kg), the plan continue to make an easy flight and join the rest of the group for the safaris. Josep M flies finally the Friendship together wih Pablo so we can hve good pictures, and the Tramuntana is flown by Carles, Neus, Philippe and Yao. We land both balloons very close so the retrieve is not complicated because not many roads and we can point well the landing spot in the road.
Morning safari very interesting because we can have close view of a nice group of elephants as we are allowed to go out of the car and watch their impressive presence. Warthogs, different kind of impalas, etc complete the morning safari.
The walking safari has been very interesting. It is still hot at the start because it is 15:30 hours, but soon the armed guide follows the track of an elephant and we all follow behind. When we see this great animals in the bush and we can follow them close and seeing how they are moving, drinking, dusting, eating, etc. it’s an unforgettable experience. Overall is for many of the group being the first time they see this animals free. It is a wonderful experience for all of us and we come back happy at the hotel to rest. Just arriving an African storm arrives, so we can be happy to be back on time.
Dinner and night safari. We sk if they have cancelled because of the rain, and they tell us program follows as planned. So we go for it. We can see some small animals, owls, genet, and maybe the most interesting a puff adder snake just besides the road. First half hidden ( I don’t know how they can see it), but being near the road, we can take a picture very close because moving very slow.
Back to the hotel, but still soon, we make open again the bar to ave our last beer in the park to comment all the day personal experiences we have felt.
1 April Mole – Accra
We have a long trip back, so we decide to get up early, have breakfast, and start travelling so we can have some stop in the way.
Near Techiman, just close to the road there is a waterfall that we profit to visit and have a bath.
Twelve hours in a comfortable bus, with a couple stops, one of them for dinner make the trip reasonably good as this main road is quite in very fair condition.
2 April Accra – plane to Barcelona
The plan is to do a tethered flight in Accra. Unfortunately is sufficiently windy and without having a good area to inflate the Friendship balloon, after looking several places, we decide to cancel the flight.
We visit all Jamestown that is the fishing market village in Accra where we can see the difficult conditions is working a lot of people.
After a visit to Mokole Market, the main market in Accra, relatively calm but still very interesting, because is holiday, we go to an area to buy some souvenirs to take home for our families.
Having lunch including birthday cake for Constança and resting for a while in the swimming pool to wait for the return plane to Barcelona after a compressed week unforgettable for all of us.
Coming to the Inauguration of the school in Amoma many people working in Ultramagic and relatives or friends, has made this trip very special for all of us.
With this trip the project of the Friendship Balloon is finished, but the balloon still will be flying in the meantime is airworthy, so more pilots can fly this special balloon.
7th May Flight in Antsirabe and back home
No coffee at 4:30 when we get up, so we go directly to the launch field to check if all equipment arrived. Unfortunately the truck is not there and for the information we receive, it will not arrive early.
So we have to manage to fly as much Balloons as possible for the equipment we have.
At the end can fly 6 balloons with not much gas, but enough to make a wonderful Flight again. We have to use the pingouins so more Balloons can fly and pilots know they are special Balloons that they have to take care even more. The landscape is very diferent and all pilots appreciate very much the Flight .
We go back to hotel relatively soon to have a full breakfast and we do the picture of all group now that we have some time left.
We go with the buses to Tana like sardines in a can, but we are all happy at least most could fly.
A short stop on the way to have a taste of the excellent “foie gras” is made in the area and when arriving Tana, all the group stays for a couple hours in the center .
Later we go at the hotel near the airport to have a farewell dinner and we accompany all the teams to the airport to go back home.
We believe it has been a wondefful experience with both groups and we feel satisfied everybody has acted as part of the group to help in what was possible for him or her. This gives us energy to think in another Ultramagic Experience in the future, but this will be another story.
6th May Travel to Antsirabe
We have breakfast at 8 a.m. and we know the missing team will arrive around 10, so we wait for them in the main road, to avoid them the 20 minutes of bad road to hotel. So all team is joined again and some stories with the porters, trucks, pick ups, etc. Come out. We make 50 km and one minibus is broken and we have to wait for ovver one hour the replacement. Then we realize how lucky we have been with so much vehicles and very few stories.
We see again the Balloon designed in the hills surprisingly.
A nice lunch at half way make the trip to Antsirabe easier and then we can take some pick ups so we can all go more comfortable in all vehicles.
Waiting to make the convoy for the unsafe area for more than two hours and different problems with cars made us arrive at 1:30 a.m. at the hotel. So the vehicle’s story has changed a little bit.
We will see then how many Balloons arrive at the take off site and we will share them in the best way. Friendship Balloon still not arrived in Bekopaka.
5th May Return to Morondava
After having a good rest, we start organizing the come back to Morondava. The Kon-tiki team starts to move with the rest of equipment from the landing point to reach the aerodrome where can arrive the truck to load it. By 12 a.m. we know all is there, except a Basket and some cylinders that are in te Tsingy parking as was planned before.
The pick ups loaded with all equipment there in Bekopaka with all teams moves back to Morondava.
Exceptional good lunch before the big ferry and arrival at the evening in Morondava . All equipment except Friendship Balloon is coming, but unfortunately the ferry in the night stops and team Kon-tiki have to sleep in the village.
Comfortable evening in the hotel with cold Beer and relax as we plan not to fly the next morning. Then we know all the equipent of the 7 teams together is arrived to Bekopaka but the Friendship Balloon not yet.
4t May Flight over Tsingy and retrieve
We drop a balloon at 5:15 and the winds at low altitude are not much as predicted, but we trust that in altitude will be from N-NW so we decide to take off as we thi nk it is safe.
Low we go NW but as soon as we start to climb, we find a layer going NE so it is perfect to enter the Tsingy. It is so vaste that we can fly there easily. When we are deep in, we descend to be close to the ground needles and we have one of the most amazing flights ever. This is the sherry in the cake and we have done it. This are some of the pictures that make a little justice to what could be seen. We ill never forget.
We continue flying low direction NW to go out of Tsingy with the idea when we are west enough to climb and go SE. Then we see village in the “track” of the map where we are pointing and as we are all balloons nearb we decide to land near there. We hhave thought that if we are all together, the retriieve, even difficult, can be easier than if we are spread climbing and going south East because at the East of Bekopaka also is not easy landing.
After landing there and the villagers start to come and help, we take all the equipment to a good shadow so we join all the teams there except two. One comtinued far away north and the other is in the previous village very near, so we meet later.
Once known th situation they tell us the road is not anymore ther and even cannot arrive the zebu chariots. So we start negotiation with them to carry all the material. The village is not big enough to have people to take all equipment, but we start to move until another village that there are chariots. 6 or 4 people for the envelopes, one for the each cylinder and 4 people for the baskets. They are very strong and go faster than us even with bad tracks.
We arrive at 4 p.m. to that village, but no chariots. Start negotiation again as it is getting dark soon and we are in straight line to the take off site at 5.5 km . We all dream witth a cold beer in the hotel and this speed us to the Tsingy park site where we took off in the morning and we have the pick ups. I don’t know how they do to carry a basket in the night with just one lamp in front and the porters behind seeing nothing, but they do even the track is really not flat at all.
Miquel, Carles and Joan have stayed in the first village to be sure all is taken and they will sleep there because there are not enough porters to do it today.
Anyway the day has been full of stories for everybody and we are all happy to be back safe even the retrieve is still being complicated.
3rd May Tsingy visit and sleep at take off site
As there is no flight, we can get up later. Around 9:30 we start for the Tsingy. To do the full visit walking there to have a look and to camp for next morning flight if possible.
After more than two hours to arrive the parking site, we organize several groups and check the take off spot. It needs some villagers to cut a big space for the balloons, and theye tell me will be done when we come back of the visit.
It is one of the most interesting places visited and walking up and down is very amazing. No other place out of Madagascar has this impressive landscape.
After arrival, we check and prepare all the balloons staying to try. We are 8 teams staying there and the good surprise is that we have tents and a nice dinner prepared by a cook there.
We go sleep early because we want to be ready for next day.
2nd May Flight in Baobab Av. And travel to Bekopaka
Breakfast at 4 a.m. and departure at 4:30 with all lugagge so we have not to return to hotel when we finish the Flight and then we can continue in the same road to go Tsingy.
Finally some balloons could take off before sunrise. Wind direction to N-NE at a nice speed.
A lot of Baobabs in the area that makes the Flight again unforgetable. We stay low because direction up is the same, but with more speed.
Landing of balloons is spread, and we pass over a very nice field near a lake and a road that after we blame we have not profit. Just a couple km away we have to land and the retrieve takes a couple hours more. It’s a good advise for Tsingy.
After refuelling in Baobab Av. We start driving to Bekopaka. An interesting route with a couple ferries that make the trip very varied and absent minded.
We arrive around 9 p.m., we have a nice dinner and ready for next busy day.
1st May First flight in Avenue des Baobab
Target has been to take off before sunrise. We have coffee at 4 a.m. and departure at 4:15 to have enough time. Again has not been possible because we have had to distribute the equipments and we had just 4 fans. Tomorrow we will try again…
Anyway the flight wonderful. This landscape with the baobabs is incredibly special and we are all very happy to be here to fly. The forecast has not been precise, and we can fly in any direction, so the flight is relatively comfortable.
Youngest and oldest participants in the Madagascar Ultramagic Experience have been flying together enjoying both with their particular sensibility.
Baobabs coming out of a light fog makes a so special place to fly that we are all astonished. Also the rice fileds, some lakes, palms and villages make the flight unforgettable for all.
All land in different locations, but all have a good retrieve. Drivers already have experience and they are smart to know the landing place is not too complicated. So we are all for breakfast time and after we do refuelling for next morning flight , already much better organized the equipments and we will try again a take off before sunrise…
In the afternoon we have gone to Morondava to see the sunset having a drink in the beach, relaxed. We have taken nice pictures, even sunset was cloudy.
A nice dinner and ready again to get up early for tomorrow flight.
30th April Travel to Antsirabe
As we know the trip is long, we get up relatively early and we start travelling at 8 a.m.
We can see the beauty of landscape as most of travel is in day light and It changes often. No power lines make them more attractive for the beauty and also for pilots.
We stop for lunch at half way, so it has been a pleasant trip even we arrive a little tired after more than 10 hours.
Arrival at hotel continues with the same bad road, but is compensated with a nice dinner and some beer before doing the briefing to prepare the flight of next morning.
29th April Group 2 arrival and travel to Antsirabe
All teams arrived safely even tired for the long trip. We have slept in the hotel and in this morning again examination to new pilots by Civil Aviation on Madagascar Air Law and Tropical Weather. They passed all the theorical test and have been given a certificate.
As we enjoyed the Lemur’s Park yesterday, we have gone again today because the travel to Antsirabe is reasonably short and there is time.
A good lunch in the way , with arrival to hotel just after sunset, has permitted us a relaxed day.
28th April GROUP 1 BACK HOME
Today we could sleep well in Antsirabe as there is a “short” time to Tana. We profit arriving early to go visit the Lemur’s Park just 25 km from Tana. It’s a nice park that even not totally free, the lemurs go around and you can see them quite close. We think is a good option so we can take some close pictures.
We made a picture there of all the group. We enjoyed a lot being together and doing 5 wonderful flights in Madagascar. Everybody was very helpful and solving any problem by themselves and helping others. A 100 % satisfaction.
We have had dinner in same hotel that they arrived the first night and that the second group will be lodging tonight. Farewell in the airport and ready for the new challenges for the second group.
27th April Last Flight Group 1in Avenue des Baobabs
As we knew the area, we thought could be nice to take off just before sunrise… We got up very early, at 4 a.m. so we had enough time, but takes time to prepare all and was late when we left for the site.
Anyway, wind was nice to the North and we probably relaxed a little bit. Low fog after taking off and some speed to the North. Landscape of course again exceptional so we could fully enjoy it . When we were descending, the speed was about 12 knots near the fog, I was a little worried to not find a Baobab in the way.
Fortunately the fog was a little high and even you could see the ground, was difficult to see in front and the distance to ground.
After passing the fog layer, that it was high enough, we checked for a track and seeing other two balloons ready for landing we took same decision near a nice lake. All retrieves were more complicated than other days, and it made us the travel to Antsirave to arrive late including the caravan with soldiers to pass an area not too safe.
26th April Returning to Morondava
After doing a nice Flight yesterday, we plan to arrive early back to Morondava. We need to fill some gaz for next morning and we decided to make 3 groups so the return is scaled and not to have to wait too much in the Ferries and also in the mud areas.
Anyway starting to move between 6 a.m. and 7:30, we arrived the last group around 7 p.m., but again with a nice lunch on the way. We have prepared all the gaz for next morning Flight and now a good dinner and to be ready for the last Flight with the group 1.
25th April Wonderful flight in Bekopaka
We get up early in the morning and first thing is to check if the truck arrived. Fortunately the second truck was sent , arrived at 3 a.m. even it coul;d not take all the equipment because it was smaller.
Anyway helium was there and we could dropa balloopnb and Stefan told us about the different layers, so it was possible to return to the launch field or nearby. This cheer up everybody to fly as it is a complicated area. So we took off from the football field and at about 400 m we were heading to East to approach the Petit Tsingy.
The landscape was very nice and we could see the gorge of the river that was some km East.
The flight was challenging because very few roads, but 9 balloons managed to come back to the launch field after one hour flight. We were all satisfied of the flight as we had lots of numbers in the lottery that the truck could not arrive. Our truck is still stocked in the mud and hope it can be soon out of it, but as the truck cannot go around the muddy areas because it is too big, for the moment is there.
We could well relax and in the afternoon we went for a visit to the Little Tsingy. All we enjoyed as it is a very spectacular and unique landscape.
24th April “Relax” day in Tsingy
It had to be a relax day. We have had breakfast around 8 a.m. to be ready to go to Grand Tsingy at 9 a.m. to make the visit there and have a look to find good spots to Take off and landing.
After a couple of hours waiting to have the guides, we started to move with some difficulties because some drivers were putting troubles to come there. The road is really bad and at the first difficulty, and get stocked in the mud, some teams decided to go for a good rest and go back to hotel.
The rest we continued with a lot of stops because some 4×4 cars and drivers were not good enough and were getting stocked quite often. The last 2 km to the entrance of the park we went walking under a quite shining sun.
So we arrived too late to make the full circuit, but we had the possibility to have a look at this wonderful and incredible landscape . We learned a lot and was quite useful to know what is possible to do or not.
In the meantime the truck that did not arrived the day before, was stocked when coming with the gas, fans, some envelope and the helium. Vincent was taking care and wew were sure he find a solution for tomorrow we can fly.
So the decision was clear to Take off next day from Bekopaka to try to approach the “Samll Tsingy” if the wind conditions were helping and the truck arrives.
23rd April Flight in Morondava – Tsingy
Today we could arrive earlier at the take of site. The place is so nice that it was worth again. Also as it is in the way to Tsingy we decided to have early breakfast and take all the luggage with us.
We all took off at the same time and we could take very nice pictures. Thre idea was to return to take off site after the Flight as soon as possible, so some landed there having done a perfect elbow. All pilots leave there the cylinders and started travelling to Tsingy as soon as possible.
Jaume, Joan and myself flew together again in Africa and we were very happy we could do once more in this so beaiutiful landscape.
The way to Tsingy has been a small adventure with some cars stocked in the mud, so we arrived around 9 p.m.
22nd APRIL FLIGHT IN BAOBAB AVENUE
Night was short but it was worth to get up early again. Breakfast later than ordered and truck with fans and some balloons just arrived 6:30. So Take off was finnally at 7:15.
Wind layers were very good so several pilots were able to return to field and continue for a nice Flight over the baobabs till the road of the hotel. It was good also because arrival road to hotel needs some repair and everybody liked the idea.
The Baobab Avenue is one of the top symbols of Madagascar and it is very much reasonable when you arrive there.
Today we had the opportunity to fly Joan, Maricarmen and Monica from the factory, so it was a very special flight after 20 years working in Ultramagic.
Here some pictures of the flight, but everybody has some anmazing one’s.
After breakfast and refueling we had time to relax and go the afternoon to Morondava.
21TH ABRIL FIRST FLIGHT IN MADAGASCAR
This morning after coffee at 4:30 a.m. we decided to follow the forecast and go the theTO site in the lake Andraikiba. Nice place with a big take off field and thinking we could take already there nice pictures.
Flight was much better than expected as we had winds up to 20 km per hour not too high and in the good direction. Wind was following approximately the main road, so we could do a wonderful flight without trouble in the retrieves, even we had some to talk to farmers to carry out of the field the balloon because near the road, does not mean that the car arrives to the field. Pictures I hope make justice to the flight as we were all very satisfied. Here are some of them, but for sure there are a lot that will make all think we were lucky to be there.
As the program was tight , we could just refuel 8 balloons, and then after a nice breakfast and a picture of all the team, we left for Morondava. 10 hours with a nice landscape, but all happy that the Madagascar Ultramagic Experience started well. After so much months waiting for this, we are all happy.
We arrived quite late to Morondava, but we have had a nice dinner all together. Now sleep for a few hours and let-s try for the Baobab Avenue. The totem landscape of Madagascar.
20th April. ANTANANARIVO – ANTSIRABE : Preparing for the first flight
We are all excited that tomorrow we hope we can do the first flight in Madagascar. But before that, this morning all pilots had to pass an examination of Madagascar Air Law and Tropical Weather. All went well, even we were all tired because all pilots arrived from their homes the day before after a long trip. Including a delay to get the luggage due to some technical, we arrived at the hotel after 2 a.m. A welcome with the banners used for the Press Conference in Tana were at the entrance of the hotel.
So we started our trip to Antsirabe. Landscape is nice and interesting from the start to get out of the capital. It takes a lot of time because of traffic and high extended population, but with the buses , we were comfortable. Stop for lunch half way and taste of “foie gras” and magre de canard helped us to continue the road.
All pilots looking at the landscape and searching for landing spots and tracks for the recovery while admiring the beauty af the area.
A technical stop to buy some peanuts and apples made it shorter the trip.
After arrival and having the rooms at hotel, we have gone to prepare the balloons. With a little bit confusion on the cylinders and equipments, after a couple hours we manage to have all loaded in 10 pick ups and a big truck.
Evening dinner at the hotel has been quiet and we have made a briefing with some information for tomorrow. Wind forecast is for a slow winds from the East early morning, but we will get up at 4 a.m. to see how accurate are the web pages we check.
We celabrated also the 30th anniversary of Neus with a delicious big cake.
PROLOGUE 16th April
Soon will be arriving one group of balloon teams to participate in the MADAGASCAR Ultramagic Balloon Experience. We are sure will be an incredible experience in this wonderful country very unknown for most of us.
Now finishing with the preparation, thanks to Hans Rambelomanana and Vincent Dupuis, all is being orgainzed in detail also with the cooperation of the Authorities of Madagascar who are helping to what we are sure will be a succesful event. Yesterday we had several meetings with the Authorities to coordinate the Balloon flights and all the trip.
Today we arrived Antsirabe to check the balloons, test the gaz and organize the equipment. We checked the general GPS that will be following all the trip with points every 3 hours since the 20th.
Tomorrow we will look for take off places in this wonderful area and check one of the GPS that will be active just during the flights with points every 5 minutes that will allow us make easier the retrieve and that will be possible to follow in the other map with a smaller area.
Landscape is incredible and I prefer just to put one picture (not the best) to not advance what will be a very challenging but at the same time enjoying experience.
Friday we did as the cherry cake, a very nice flight in the morning where we could take again a wonderful picture (with a good Olympus camera) of the Eiger, Munch and Jungfrau with the ULTRAMAGIC Jaguar/Land Rover balloon
This year we concentrated in Chateau d’Oex. Weather has been quite good up to now, but a little bit strange. Even there is still snow, the temperatures have been quite high and we have flown very comfortable all days.
We have flown the Magic Tekno 70. With 2 people, 3 titanium cylinders of 25 Kg (12.5 gallons). With consumption of 1 cylinder per hour, we have made different flights in the area including flying to Zweisimmen going at 8-9000 feet and with the comfort knowing have an endurance of more than 3 hours.
Finally this Wednesday we could do a really nice flight, heading East with a good speed.
Taking off three EcoMagic balloons together: Sintermetal, Vitogaz and Aconcagua, we did a flight to Silsersee near Saint Moritz. It has been for us one of the most amazing flights over the Alps, as we could fly over the Mount Munch that is between Eiger and Jungfrau.
We could steer the balloon easily and the speed at FL 130 was about 30 knots which is a speed leaving enough time to admire the landscape and it allows to go relatively low over the mountains. Once crossing this wonderful mountains, you have to follow during some time the mountain chain as there are not much places to land because the valleys are narrow and deep with some powerlines on them.
With the EcoMagic balloon you fly with the confidence that consumption will not be an issue. You can go up and down any time if you want reduce the speed to admire better the landscape or go higher to increase the speed or change direction. With the Aconcagua N-180, 3 persons on board, 145 Kg of gas and staying much time at 15.000 ft, we spent 95 Kg of gas in a 6:07 hours flight from 10:05 to 16:12. So still we had gas for at least three hours more, even it had been dark earlier. Basket was C-10 and double MK-32 with one side vapor+oxygen pilot light. Even was not necessary, we like to test the equipment when possible. The radio+transponder worked perfectly and Ultramagic Flightpack App allowed the retrieve to be there in a reasonable short time, besides making easier the navigation.
Landing was in lake Silsersee. We arrived to the valley some km south and we could follow the valley heading Northeast to land finally in the middle of the frozen lake. Before landing , as there were some people walking over it , we could ask them if ice was enough thick to support the balloon. Recovery till the main road was done gently by a snowmobile.
Dinner in a nice restaurant besides the lake and returning after directly to the apartment closed this memorable flight we will keep forever in mind.
Some nice pictures in the Valley of Chateau d’Oex
20 MARCH 2015
Finnally the full solar eclipse. We were ready this morning, after checking again the weather forecast and seeing that was a similar weather from yesterday, we decided to start near Longyearbye in the Adventalen Valley. Also as we had to carry the 360 º GoPro 6 cameras and the rest of the team had no snowmobile, has been the best option.At 9:30 we were ready for inflation, but our decision was to take off at 10:30, so we have been waiting for some time, even is difficult when you have good weather and think that maybe later will be more windy. Anyway at 10 we start the inflation and at 10:20 we are ready to take off. With all equipment ready, we take off at 10:30 and we climb slowly to 3000 ft. As we are near the airport , we comunicate with the tower, even we do not expect big planes taking off or landing. All people is waiting already for the eclipse.
At 10:50 , as planned we start to climb to 10000 ft, previous authorization of the controler of Longyearbyen airport, because this was the planned altitude to look at the full eclipse. We climb slowly because the small 42 balloon with 3 persons on board and 2 x 30 Kg cylinders, even the cold temperature (-20 ºC in the ground) , does not permit to climb fast.
Landscape is wonderful , but when it comes the full eclipse, we are all three astonished. Nobody talks and we all try to keep in the deep memory this 3 minutes that we can’t stop.
It has been a happy day for us and we are conscious of this privilege. This incredible sight we will remeber forever. After finishing the full eclipse, we think again that we have not excess of propane and we need to finish to pass the mountains to make an easy retrieve. So we stay still high enough to have a good speed and direction and looking at the nice landscape.
When we are already over the valley, we descent and wait or sme minutes flying near the ground to savour a little bit more the flight with this landscape. With 12 % on each bottle after 1 hour and 35 minutes, we land safely with Jacob, our guide for all this days on the side.
It has been a very special experience that we will remember forever.
19 MARCH 2015
With a good weather forecast with wind from the north, we decide to go at half way from the valley of Adventalen to the valley of Reindalen. Visibility was perfect and it has been a good test for tomorrow during the eclipse. Today we could manage to fly over some mountain and also to fly near the ground in the valley without the problems from yesterday. As we had a good sunshine, there were some shadows that were helpful to see the distance from the ground. So no problem to fly low, even the power from the burners was low because we did not pressurize. With a 42 and the new burner was good enoug to have power also for a distraction, that there wasn’t today. A lot of filming, pictures, etc. because we had time to fly and admire the landscape with all the beautiness of this area. The retrieve were below the balloon before we landed, so it was an easy exercise today because the forecast was accurate to the reality. Let’s hope tomorrow is similar. We have already planned the flight for tomorrow and we hope we can be in the air during the full eclipse.
18 MARCH 2015
Arrived yesterday afternoon to Longyearbyen with all equipment as passenger luggage, today we have had the pleasure to make our first flight in Svalbard. Arrival here with all equipment, has been complicated, but we succeeded. So yesterday after being installed in the appartment, we went to fill our 2 x 30 Kg cylinders of propane. Here propane is expenive as it has to be brought from mainland and at this time of the year, very few ships are coming. So the M-42 Double layer top 40 % was the right balloon to bring. At this temperature (minus 20 ºC) we thought we could fly with the 2 30 Kg cylinders and 3 persons on board. The Tekno CT-01 (0,8 m x 1,00 m) with the cylinders outside was our choice and after the first flight, we think it was a right decision.
The wind today was forecasted to not be strong, so anytime could be good, but at around 12 was expected to have poor visibility and in fact it happened.
We moved with the snowmobiles to a big valley south of the town, so not to disturb in the airport and also to have a wide nice area to fly. Counseled by Jacob , our tour guide who has solved several important points so we can fly, we drive to Nordenskiöld Land National Park . We prepare the balloon with some wind and we fly. It looks simple, but really we were lucky that the day after arrival we are flying with the balloon in a wonderful valley. It has been a flight so our guide knows how works the balloon and also we get familiar with the landscape and the balloon.
We could not find the appropriate conection for the nitrogen tank, so as we had already tried already in Switzerland the new burner MK-32 without presurization and worked quite well, we decide to fly anyway. With a small balloon M.42, we do not need much power, but flying at this temperatures, you need a minimum power that has been proved to be safe.
It has been a short flight of about half hour and we had the time to admire the special landscape of this latitudes. We were very happy to be flying here and we consider it as a privilege we can do and lucky enough to meet with the good weather.
Angel and Miquel from Kon-Tiki have a good experience also as they have flown in Greenland and advised specially to be carefull with the altitude as it is very dificult to know the distance when you are near the ground. Even that, because the visibility was not good, we had a ground touch without advertising any of us and taking it as a bad surprise. Fortunately all was OK and we continued our flight without problem. We asked the snowmobile to be near under the balloon and it worked well, but at the landing, which was a little windy, again we hit harder than expected, but at least this time we were all ready.
It has been a good test as with 3 pax on board with the 42 we just spent 20 Kg of gas including inflation, so we think we can do, weather permitting, longer flights in this wonderful laandscape.
On 6th March 2015 we have done a night flight over the Pyrenees with full moon. This has been a very nice experience that has taken some time to prepare. In fact we were in the same place, Vall d’Aran one month earlier and we discarded the flight. The reason was too windy and even was possible to fly we thought the time over the Pyrenees had been too short to enjoy.
So one month later, this last Friday 6th March 2015 , we go back again. As we had all work till late, we decided to go direct after dinner at home, without much sleeping.
The Valley of Aran is not very wide, so powerlines, river and villages do not leave much places for take off. Also we did not like to disturb too much the people sleeping as with the fan starting at 4:15 is not nice. So it took us more time than expected to find the right spot to take off, but it had it’s premium. A nice snowed field enough far to not disturb the night to villagers in Arties. Also was enough big in case of changing the wind direction some degrees. So we had time to prepare well the take off. We were all excited and after being all ready we started the flight at 4:41 a.m. . As the wind was not strong, we could manage to go a little down to the valley approaching Vielha looking around as we were climbing gently. The landscape was wonderful and the pictures do not show the clarity we had on our eyes with the full moon and the snow reflection. This has been a mistake to not repeat. Before we need to prepare the cameras and take some shots at distance, so we check the pictures are good enough. Anyway we were climbing steady at 4 m/s until we had clear any rotor could not take us on the mountains. At about 3500 m we level the flight and we look at the beautiful scenary having the Aneto and Biciberri not far at our right and other wonderful mountains and lakes around. We took off with the Adriatic M-105 balloon with double layer up to 40 %, so with 6×25 Kg titanium cylinders, we knew we should not have any trouble for the consumption.
After passing the Pyrenees, we start to climb to high altitude up to 21000 feet to test the new MK-32 burner. One side of the burner with the pilot light on vapour and oxygen and the other side with the standard liquid pilot light. All went perfectly, though we had to descent fast as we were approaching the TMA of Zaragoza , and still no radio contact with Barcelona tower. Before entering TMA we could contact and put a transponder code, so we were well controlled during the rest of the flight.
Sunrise was another beautiful scenary. As you are high, you see a very large horizon with light. Very few clouds started to appear in the Pyrenees , but we could do the flight out of clouds when we were over there, so the light of the moon over the snowed mountains was incredible.
Balloons have this interesting particularity: You never repeat a flight. This makes all flights very challenging and surprising, as you have to change your mind many times and improvise according the new situation. That is part of the balloon appeal.
We could see the smoke of some factories not too horizontal, so we were expecting a nice landing. Fortunately we could find a good place near a highway exit, so the retrieve was not too late to arrive when we landed at 8:39. With a 105 climbing at more than 6000 m , and remaining more than 1 bottle of 25 Kg, so with a consumption of 125 Kg including inflation, we think was a good performance for the balloon. Adriatic M-105 is the recycled envelope form the older Aconcagua N-180 after being found in the Adriatic sea 10 days after sea landing. But that is another story.
Week from 23rd to 27th February has been organized by Kon-Tiki a Tour by Balloon in Catalonia for some of its best scenaries .
The weather has not been very helpful, but Angel and Miquel have squeezed their knowledges to profit it at most. So it has been a memorable week with 12 participants from different parts of Europe that have enjoyed this fantastic flights through out the country.
Thursday 26th February
Tuesday and wednesady have been relax days. Too windy to fly. As the group was in Ager, the teams profited to do some walking excursions around.
Morning of 26th weather forecast is good and the direction interesting to follow some of the natural corners of the area. We missed enter the canyon, but most of the balloons they did. It is a very deep natural gorge with high walls both sides, so you need to be careful when entering. After passing Ager area, we decided to continue as we had enough gas (2×40 Kg+ 1×20 Kg) with the double layer Aconcagua balloon to make a long flight. So we could arrive to Igualada in 4 hours and 10 minutes and could avoid returning by car. A very nice flight that I am sure all pilots enjoyed.
Monday 23rd February
After an evening dinner all together on Sunday, we get up early in the morning to fly in Cerdanya because in this area the weather forecast seems good enough. We had a pleasant preparation and take off and with a nice speed and direction towards the coast at approximate 120 º direction, we fly over a part of the Pyrenees and nice landscapes till near the coast. When you fly at 5000 m and ground is at sea level , it takes about 20 or 30 minutes, so at a speed of 80 Km/h if you start your descent 5 minutes late and you want to land near the coast, maybe you are in the water. To be on the safe side, we start our descent about 20 Km before the coast line, and when we see also that the smoke near the ground is going inland, we can be sure we will ot end on the sea.
As we were approaching Saturday, the weather forecast was improving for the morning. We had decided to leave already on Saturday, because Sunday again is to have snow, so we took the M-42 Double Layer to make a short flight in the valley. The morning has been wonderful and with a clean sky we took off at 9:30, so we could descend on the valley to Gruyere. As was all so snowed, the landscape is incredible. We pass Montbouvon at a nice speed as usual, avoiding the rotor in the neck bottle. Then we go up to check if the winds not too high were enough to fly to Zweisiemmen. As we were with a small balloon and I did not want to overheat, we went up just 1500 AGL but we could not get the wind enough fast to go back. Together with the intention to go home same saturday, we decided go down again and land in Grandvillard. Retrieve was already advanced there using the flightpacktracker, so we could pack all and leave just when started to snow again around 3 p.m. One hour and half with a 42 with 2 people and still half of the 70 Kg gas we took on take off, is a good performance for so small balloon in this conditions.
So the week in Chateau d’Oex was finished. For the bad forecast we had previously, at the end we managed to do 5 flights all with particular interest , so we were satisfied to have come again to this magnific winter event.
Finally we have had a nice day. Medium clear sky and not much wind. With a good forecast, we decided to take again the Vista basket with the Aconcagua N-180 envelope. So we could stay in the air with four cylinders as much as we wanted. Again testing burner, also a new instrument that will soon come out and practicing again with the Vista basket, was an enjoyable flight. The first idea was to go down to Gruyere and then with the upper winds to go to Zweisiemmen. The catabatic winds did not take down the valley, so we stayed for some time around Chateau d’Oex and once we could know the different winds, we decided to go high and move East to Gstaad. Playing up and down and looking at the time left, we decided anyway to arrive to Zweisiemmen which we did easily following the valley from Saanen. The track shown does not arrive to the landing point as I had it set for “short” flights, so you do not forget to stop it after landing. For long flights you can set the track not to stop and then it had been the full track. We landed with some wind , so I put the basket backwards and we had a nice landing near the Heliport. A comfortable flight with nice landscape, music, champagne, some biscuit with salmon and serrano ham made the day very enjoyable and worth the trip from Igualada.
With the Flightpacktracker, I could see also the balloon of Chris in the team umalps, so it helped to know each other the winds at different altitudes looking at both tracks. By the way, soon available in Ipad and Iphone as we are already beta testing.
After a 3 hours and 58 minutes including inflation, with 3×40 Kg + 1×30 Kg tanks we landed still with a lot of gas that could keep us up for another 3 hours. It’s quite comfortable to know that you can fly without being worried for the cgas, but only for geting dark and if not possible to land in a place, still have gas enough to climb and get into another valley (weather permitting).
Weather unstable, so we decided again to use the small M-42 balloon double layer for the flight. The winds were good so we could manage a nice flight going first down to Les Moulins and after going up, to follow direction to Rougemont and Gstaad. We did a flight of 1 hour and 40 minutes taking of and inflating with a 1×40 Kg and 1×30 Kg. We still had gas at least for another hour, but as we were near Gstaad we decided to land after the aerodrome of Saanen in a nice field. The snow was high and we could not enter with the car, but with the light Tekno basket and a M-42 was not a problem to put all back in the car.
With the snow starting to fall just after the briefing, we decided to fly with the M-42 with 50 % double layer and the Tekno 50. We have taken 2 cylinders (1×40 Kg + 1x30Kg) and we have flown for 48 minutes as we had to land before Payerne because it is a military area that were training with drones today. Not a good place to be around with a balloon.
It has been our first time to fly snowing, but we felt very safe. Not much wind and with the clouds in the top of the mountains was a good choice to have a small balloon. With 2 persons, including inflation we spent 20 Kg. which is not bad. So we landed with enough gas to fly for 2 hours more at least.
We could drop quite well the marker in the target of Les Moulins, but we forgot them in the Vista basket. Next time we will be more aware with the checklist.
After Montbouvon in the valley to Gruyere, the wind increased, but we had the chance to get a nice field. We forgot to keep the radios, so were with some snow afterwards as we dragged some meters on the snow. An interesting flight profiting what was possible to do today. We expect bad weather tomorrow, but will be at the briefing in case forecast changes.
First day and a nice flight with the Vista basket on a M-145 double layer envelope. Passengers enjoyed the flight because were very comfortable and at the end we could do a nicer flight than expected. We climbed at 1200 m AGL having a nice view of the mountains, even was not a sunny day. We had cava on board for the passengers and a couple of biscuits with smoked salmon and “bellota” ham. Pilot had to wait for the brindis with the passengers after the landing.
We went down the valley and after climbing and going backwards we could manage to fly again over the launch field. A soft landing over the snow with light winds, permitted to carry the basket with the balloon inflated on the trailer.
A precise organization as we are used to have here, with excellent information on weather, traffic control, etc. which all pilots apreciate when coming.
We have participated again in this wonderful event. We arrived Wednesday 14th January in the evening ready to fly next morning, weather permitting. We knew that on Saturday the weather forecast was bad, so we were ready to profit the next days.
After a morning briefing prepared by Gunter Binder for the meteo, a group of friend pilots was ready to fly in the valley and some across the mountains.
We agreed with Ramses Vanneste he would fly the Aconcagua N-180 with 40 % double layer and we would fly the Adriatic M-105 also double layer profited from the previous Aconcagua….
We did a nice flight of just about 100 Km because the next valleys were foggy with few possibilities to disappear during the afternoon. Anyway was a flight to get in place with all the equipment and trying also prototype burner in altitude and different combinations.
With the M-105 we flew heavy as we were three passengers, quadruple burner, 3×40 Kg. cylinders and 1 of 30 Kg, oxygen, equipment, etc. and climbing up to 5000 m. We could not climb higher because we had no clearance from Wien airport. Anyway it was a good flight and we were all back at 8:00 p.m. for dinner after a 2:56 hours of flight. Consumption was 100 Kg. including inflation which was not bad for high climbing and a little heavy loaded balloon.
At briefing we were told conditions were good for long distance flight. Other pilots had been flying already several alpine flights, so we were the only team ready for a long distance flight. As we were told maybe bad weather could arrive in the afternoon, at 10:10 we took-off, this time with the Aconcagua balloon. We did send the flight plan and talk by telephone with Milano airport and after TO and trying to reach altitude directly, we started moving fast NE, so after trying during the climb to contact Milano, we were already in Austria. We contacted Wien Airport and we were told to stay maximum at FL 145. At this altitude we were drifting 60 º at a speed of 100 Km/h . So we were happy to be there as we were seeing, even that area was covered, that we could reach easily out of the cloud area in less than an hour. Unfortunately my transponder batteries were not well charged and we had to stay below FL 145. In the other hand, was enough height to not get the turbulences of the mountains, and after one hour we could admire a very nice side of the Alps. We kept flying until we could find a good spot for landing. That was after 270 Km and 4 hours flight which was enough to enjoy a fantastic flight together with Josep and Darwin. This time we knew we had more than enough gas :3 x 40 Kg + 1×30 Kg. We spent 80 kg (2×40 ) in the 4 hours flight including inflation, so we had remaining 70 more Kg, which means 4 hours more at least. More than we could need before sunset. We could have made a very long flight, but we did the best part in the Alps, so we were very satisfied of the flight. We waited the retrieve having a nice lunch in the nearby village Halltal after a ride given by a friendly villager.
We were back at Hotel Rosengarten in Dobbiaco at 2:00 a.m. As the weather forecasted for Saturday unfortunately was correct, we decided to come back home same Saturday.
Congratulations to Ramses Vanneste brilliant winner of the Dolomiti Balloon Trophy as his team flew 330 Km last Monday.
Last night we did a second flight in central Finland. It has been very different from the first one and again very interesting. We were fortunate to see the sun in the sunset and in the sunrise. The colours of the sky and in the lakes were wonderful and here are some pictures to show them. We recommend to go some time to fly in Finland as it is very special. Few power lines, not much air traffic, big wilderness , and an amazing countriside. Don’t think all is the same because landscape varies quite a lot and flights are challenging you to decide when and where to land.
Today was a little warmer and we were loaded heavier. We were carrying 230 Kg of gas and flying 3 persons heavier than the day before. Even that, we spent in the Aconcagua N-180 170 Kg. without inflation flying 8 hours and 7 minutes. That’s a different flying when you burn after more than one minute.
Here finish our Finish Experience. Thank you to Markku Sippinen and all his team that made possible this amazing story. We will come back again to fly in this wonderful country.
The balloon was flying light, so consumption was good. We spent including inflation, 140 Kg. of gas. We were 3 pax on board and with 200 Kg of gas, so for sure we could fly for another 3 hours. It has been a very nice experience. All “night” with daylight , even the sunset. After more than 20 km without a spot in the forest (we were not looking for it), we found a good one that you can see in a picture.
Now we had a good sleep. Still not sure we fly again tonight, but we are ready. Depends also on meteo forecast.
Today we got up snowing. Forecast was more snow during the day and just a possible window to fly on Sunday. As it was just a possibility, we decided to return today home.
Yesterday was raining all the day, so we had a good rest day visitin Chateau d’Oex and Gstaad and buying some of the excellent Gruyere cheese from the region.
With the Flight on Thursday, we close the season in the Alps. Here just one picture taken from the Sinmetal Double Layer balloon. To fly in the Alps with the Aconcagua balloon is a pleasure.
We have been very lucky. Arrived evening 30th and next day very good for long distance.
Thanks to Stefan Zeberli and Chris Meyer that were preparing the Flight that evening, while we were looking the football match Real Madrid-Barcelona, we had the chance on the 31 to make a wonderful Flight.
We had a nice speed of 50 Km/h at 10000 ft and up to 120 Km/h when flying at FL 170. So as the speed was high we had to mantain a bit separate to avoid turbulences.
We flew together with Sintermetal Double layer balloon for 3 hours while crossing all the mountains. We had the oportunity to see quite well Matterhorn (Cervino), Monte Rosa, Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau a little further and Mont Blanc quite far, but with good visibilty due to an excellent clear morning.
Here are some pictures that speak for the Flight. Help first from Chateau d’Oex, and trafc control from Switzerland and Italy made the Flight very pleasant as also temperature was quite high (just -10 ºC at 5000 m). Also Chris and Stefan from the other ballon were opening contact with controlers, so I was not so busy with that.
Again radio and transponder worked well, so it makes much easier the Flight. Unfortunately the new yellowbrick GPS was stoped after Milan, when we were still flying, I need to check what happened.
The descent was easy, but we had some fog for the last 300 m close to the ground. As it was not windy we could descent very slowly , knwing by the GPS Compegps the ground altitude all the time, so the distance to the ground.
We flew 4 hours and 20 minutes, spending 130 Kg of gas including inflation. 5 persons on board and 160 Kg of gas. So we left gas at least for another hour. We could approach moret he coast, but past experiences decided us to descent a little far from the coast.
Weather forecast for 1st and 2nd February seems not good, but we will wait and see.
Weather forecast for today was bad, so we decided to go back home. We had 4 wonderful flights and we will come back the last days to the Semaine des Ballons de Chateau d’Oex to fly if weather is good enough.
Briefing at 8:30 and forecast good to make a a Alpine Flight. So we prepare clothes, hook the tràiler and go to the launch field. We got stocked in the snow and after trying during some time to move from there, finally we got the help of several friends and could move to a spot to inflate the balloon. Wind was down to the road ad we had a power line behind far enough we thought. Balloon is inflated with no wind and when we were almost ready to take off a strong gust oposite to the direction of inflation, approached us to the wires. Fortunately again with the help of several people we could fix te balloon after it touched the power line slightly. No damage, so we took off as soon as we could to avoid any other gust.
Scenary was wonderful and much more clear sky than we could expect. So with this nice mountains we start to drift North. To stay some more time over the mountains, we climbed up to FL 125 after got authorization of Wien Info, so we changed direction to about 40º.
We stayed for 2 hours at this level to arrive East of Linz, so we crossed the Danube river when it joins with Enns river.
We had most of time clear sky and also mostly we could see the ground n the direction we were going, so we were flying very comfortably all the Flight. Dark color in the picture is the shadow of the higher clouds.
After passing the Danube, we started our descent and fortunately near the ground was calm. When approaching for landing, some unexpected gust changed sudenly the direction 180 º. We were aware, so it was not a problem and we could land safely in a big field. Retrieve arrived just after packing the balloon, so we could go alltogether to have lunch in a nearby restaurant.
Consumption after a 2 hours and 34 minutes flight with 5 persons on board and 180 Kg of gas was 52 Kg. Always including inflation and waiting time.
Afternoon was to drive back to Salzburg to have th time to visit Hangar 7 and after have a nice dinner with Rudolf Schneider and family.
Track was cut during the flight. This is the complete one but you can’t interact.
The forecast for tomorrow is not good and also we will be travelling to Filzmoos. So we decided today to go for a long Flight.
Main direction has been from 300 º, and we have pointed to go Ljubljana and further if conditions were good.
We have crossed a very nice part of the Dolomites approching some sumits because wind in lower altitude was about 10 knots. So we took our time to do this wonderful part of the Alps
After contacting Padova we requested permit to climb to FL160 and we have been authorized. The speed at that altitude was about 45 Knotts so it was enough to make a long distance Flight.
We have stayed at this altitude for several hours, crosssing Slovenia and entering Croacia. Radar and Info controlers from Ljubljana and Zagreb have been very kind to not put any trouble to our requests.
After admiring for some time the cover of clouds, we could see the Adriatic Sea at some distance to not forget a past experience 2 years ago.
We have started the descent near Karlobag and we landed in a very nice village called Lesce where we found much expectation for the ballloon arriving. People has been very kind to help packing the balloon and translating to the Police about what were doing there passengers from Barcelona and Japan.
Retrieve took some time as it was a complicated landing point. We arrive late in Dobbiaco thinking we have profited well this 3 flight days.
Today we flew just 3 persons: Masa Fujita, Jaume Ordi and myself and consumption has been 100 Kg. For a 4:50 hours Flight. We flew very light but we stayed for moret han 3 hours at 5000 m, so performance were good with Aconcagua Balloon. We landed still with 80 Kg. Gas.
Today we had another wonderful flight. Windspeed about 25 knt (40 Km/h) and direction 310 º above 100 FL.
Most of the flight has been sunny, so we had a view of the mountains all around. We took off flying low for some time to go East and after we climbed to take this 310 º. Landing near Udine and easy retrieve as we were back to Dobbiaco at 7 p.m.
We were 5 on board with 180 Kg. of gas. Flight time 3 hours and consumption including inflation and half hour waiting to take off was 70 Kg. Still plenty of gas at landing.
Here are some pictures that speak better of the flight.
Can you find the balloon?
We had some time to celebrate with a cup of cava