Buenos Aires

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!

Buenos Aires Obelisc (Rokas Kostakevicius shoot)
The moon in Buenos Aires (Chris Meyer shoot)
Last Buenos Aires shoot from Sasha Haim.

Last flight

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.

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.

Eclipse flight

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!

First day off

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.

Amazing views near the vines cellar

Aconcagua flight

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.

After crossing the Andes

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.

Awesome valley near Aconcagua
Ready to go to the launch field
Looking for the new take off site

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.

The Aconcagua (6962 meters)

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.

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Urs and Stefan using oxygen at 7200 meters

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.

Rescued!

Penitentes

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.

In Uspallata
Still waiting for the gate to be opened

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.

Penitentes sunset

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.

First part of the briefing
Angel explaining how to use a flare

Mendoza

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.

Before landing in Mendoza

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.

Amazing costillar

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.

Enjoying the ‘parrillada’

Travelling day

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.

Fitz Roy during sunrise

The first group decided to do the longest trekking (9 hours) starting at 5:30 am and reaching the Fitz Roy base.

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.

Sunrise during the trekking
Fitz Roy viewer during the trekking
Laguna Torre

The last group started at 10 am and did Laguna Capri, a 3 hours suitable trekking, with Fitz Roy just behind it.

Near Laguna Capri

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.

On our way back to Calafate

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.

Chalten flight

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.

Wednesday 12 UTM :cloudy/rainy, cloudy, cloudy, sunny, sunny, snowy, cloudy/rainy, snowy, rainy !!!

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.

Perito Moreno trekking

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.

Sunrise on the road to Perito Moreno Glacier

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.

Crossing the lake

We have been equipped with crampons, a new experience for the most people of the group.

Before the trekking

We learned many things about Perito Moreno origin and behavior. Everyone was excited about being on this huge glacier.

Perito Moreno trekking
Walking over the glacier

Some guides were waiting for us with a nice glass of whiskey and a bombon (a chocolat sweet) for everyone.

Perito Moreno beach

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.

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ULTRAMAGIC FRIENDSHIP BALLOON SCHOOL IN GHANA

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.

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29 March  Accra – Amoma School Inauguration – Techiman

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Just before arriving the park we visit an ancient mosque in Larabanga. The mosque they tell is almost 600 years old. Very interesting.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

ULTRAMAGIC ALPINE EXPERIENCE 2016

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.



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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.

 

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Some nice pictures in the Valley of Chateau d’Oex

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FULL SOLAR ECLIPSE IN SVALBARD

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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FULL MOON NIGHT FLIGHT OVER PYRENEES

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.

 

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CATALONIA TOUR 2015

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.

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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.

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FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL de BALLONS, CHÂTEAU-D’OEX

31 January

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.

 

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28 January

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).

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27 January

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.

 

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26 January

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.

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24 January

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.

 

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DOLOMITI BALLOON FESTIVAL 2015

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.

15th January

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.

 

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16th January

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.

 

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SECOND FLIGHT IN JYVASKILA

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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

AFTER A GOOD REST


Flight has been wonderful. There was not much wind, so we did not a long distance, but 7:30 hours flying over Finland landscape is very special.

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.

 

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LAST FLIGHT TEST ON SATURDAY 6TH AUGUST

Last Saturday we flew with all electronic equipment to test if track and pictures were loaded in the blog at real time. Also were flying with GPS Angel from Kontiki with the Petromiralles balloon and Xavier with the Camins de Vent represented by the Vitogaz balloon.

The tracks were correct. The new flight tag appeared some time later, but all track was recorded and could be seen “on life”  afterwards. Also can be seen the 2 tracks of the other balloons with the right 2D position every 10 minutes and the altitude, except in the landing, of the Aconcagua balloon.

We did some pictures, but those were not included directly in the blog. Afterwards we have seen the problem as we have to stop the wireless connection before starting the Immarsat connection, so the tablet does not get in trouble.  During the afternoon I upload the pictures with the time that were shot and they appeared directly on its right position of the track.

This tag of Flight 1 will disappear and tracks will be included in test flights, so the next tag of 1st Flight will be already in the lake Natron Area.

Starting on 19th August will be possible to follow the track of the vehicle because our  team is going to check the camp sites and TO areas for the flights during the main trip.

ULTIMO VUELO DE PRUEBA EL 6 DE AGOSTO

El pasado sábado volamos con todo el equipo electrónico para comprobar si la ruta y las fotos se cargaban bien en el blog en tiempo real. Tambien volaron con GPS Angel  de Kontiki con el globo Petromiralles y Xavier de Camins de Vent representado con  el globo Vitogaz.

Los tracks fueron correctos . La nueva etiqueta de Vuelo 1 aparecio algo mas tarde, pero todo el track estaba grabado y se pudo seguir en tiempo real. Tambien se podían ver los dos tracks de los otros globos con su posición correcta 2D cada 10 minutos y la altitud, excepto en el aterrizaje, del globo Aconcagua.

Hicimos algunas fotos, pero no se pudieron enviar correctamente en el blog. Despues descubrimos que había que parar la conecxion wireless antes de iniciar la conexion con el satélite de Immarsat para que el tablet no se hiciera un lio. Durante la tarde cargamos las fotos via satélite directamente en el punto que se tomaron gracias a que se puede poner la hora en que se hicieron y por tanto se sabe donde estaba el globo en este momento.

Esta etiqueta de Flight 1 desaparecerá y los tracks serán incluidos en los vuelos de prueba, así que la próxima etiqueta de 1st Flight será ya en el area del lago Natron.

Empezando en el 19 de Agosto será posible seguir el track del vehiculo porque un avanzadilla del grupo va a visitar la zona para escoger los sitios de acampada y de despegue de los globos para el viaje del grupo internacional.

ENVIAMENT DEL MATERIAL/BALLOON SHIPMENT

Divendres dia 29 de Juliol ja s’han enviat tots els globus cap a Tanzania. Son 10 paquets mes els equips d’oxigen que van marxar ja abans separats per una questio de logistica. Esperem arribin a finals de la setmana vinent.

ENGLISH

Last friday July 29th all balloons were sent to Tanzania. !0 parcels besides the Oxygen cylinders parcel that left before due to a logistic matter. We hope they arrive by end of next week.

New flight test

On 30th July we have done a new flight test. Now the 3D is woking well as you can see. Also the appearance of the page has changed and there will be tags for every day flight on top and one that will join the test flights. Anyway still on test.

ESPAÑOL

El 30 de Julio hemos realizado otro vuelo de pruebas. Ahora ya funciona el 3D como se puede comprobar. Tambien la apariencia de la pagina ha cambiado y habrá etiquetas arriba por cada dia de vuelo y tambien una que recuperará todos los vuelos de prueba. Recordar que aun está en pruebas.

EUROPEAN BALLOON FESTIVAL track test

Durante el EBF se ha realizado una prueba para ver los tracks en 3D. Si clicáis encima del globo en el lateral aparece o desaparece el track de aquél globo. Se hizo con todos los globos  en el vuelo de prensa que es el jueves dia 7. Los demás tracks son más pruebas con uno solo. Todos estan aún con la altura fija, pero ya se puede ver en 3D. Habrá una pestaña para cada día.

También hemos hecho pruebas de enviar fotos via satélite. Falta aún que se haga de una forma automática la colocacion en su sitio del track y se hace de forma manual de momento, pero nos han  hecho ya un script que  manda directamente la foto hecha con un tablet Iconia a la web, sin tener que copiar, pegar, etc.

La empresa Racetracker es la que desarrolla el software para poderlo ver en 3D y Verasat Global junto con Immarsat nos proporciona la cobertura via satelite para mandar fotos,etc. Gracias a todos!

ENGLISH

During the EBF the tracks have been tested  to see them in 3D. If you click on the right side on the balloon, then the track of that balloon appears or disappears . We did the Flight of the Press with all balloons  on Thursday morning 7th July. All other tracks are from one single balloon. It still is with a fixed altitude, although it can be seen in 3D. There will be a different tag for every day flight.

Also we have done tests to send pictures via satelite. Still needed to be done that is placed directly in the track, but for the moment it has been done a script so from the tablet Iconia, we can make and it is sent directly the picture to the web without having to copy, paste, etc.

The Racetracker company is developing the software to see it in 3D and Verasat Global together with Immarsat cover the sending of pictures, etc. via satellite.  Thanks to all of them!

KILIMANJARO BALLOON ULTRAMAGIC EXPERIENCE

This coming August Ultramagic has organized a trip to Tanzania mainly to over fly Kilimanjaro. We will be going with 7 balloons with 2 pilots each, from different parts of the world and we will also be accompanied by a number of friends.

We have thought to share this trip with a blog called Ultramagic Experience and we hope it will be interesting for you to follow the journey.

There will be a live track throughout the trip to know the location where we are at that particular moment and also another track of the flights that you will be able to look at with Google earth in 3D.

It is the first time, as far as we know, that this has been done in an area of such difficult communications, as all needs to be done via satellite and through a complex system of GPS and there will be a number of different companies involved.

To start the blog we have placed a track already of a flight we did as test last Saturday 2nd July. Next Thursday 8th we intend to do the same with 7 balloons. Just one track will be in 3D and the others will copy the altitude as it is too expensive to make all 3d GPS via satellite.

Text will be mostly written in English, but you can also use Spanish, Catalan, German, French or any other language. I hope you agree with that.

We will try to keep the blog updated at least once a week before the trip and daily during the main part of the travel.