This year is the 25th anniversary of the company that I work for. Last week we celebrated the occasion with a team-building weekend starting with a party on Friday night. The celebrations continued on Saturday with activities, lunch at a Parador and an evening meal at the old Moritz factory. The activities were a closely guarded secret, however the 6 o’clock start caused some speculation. The only other clue was the fact that we were told to dress comfortably and bring a light jacket.
Come Saturday morning the combination of a free bar and less than three hours sleep had clearly a taken it’s toll on some members of the team. Even so, spirits were high during the short drive from Barcelona to Vic. After a hurried breakfast of do-nuts and coffee we were divided into groups of 8 and boarded 10 brightly coloured hot air balloons for a 90 minute flight over the Catalan countryside.
We took off at about 7:30 and conditions were ideal, visibility was good although slightly hazy and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Apparently hot air balloons can fly when it’s windy but the landings are a bit bumpy. I was amazed how stable the balloon was. The fact that you travel at the same speed as the surrounding air means you hardly notice you are moving. Only the occasional roar of the gas burners breaks the tranquillity.
I’d never thought of taking a hot air balloon ride before but would recommend it to anyone. It’s definitely on my list of things to do the next time my family comes to visit. The views are superb and it’s quite a remarkable feeling. On the one hand you really feel that you are flying, much more than you ever do in an aeroplane. But at the same time you feel really safe. Three of our group claim to be afraid of heights, but all three of them decided to give it a try and afterwards said that they had a good time.
Apparently the mountains which circle Vic make it one of the best areas for ballooning in Spain. At 1800m, the maximum altitude we reached during our flight, you could see Mt. Tibidabo and Montserrat to the South, Montseny to the East and the Garrotxa volcanic region to the North.
Even though the only control that you have over a balloon is altitude. The skilled pilots made use of the fact that the wind blows in different directions at different levels to steer a circular route before landing among the wheat fields a short distance from our point of departure.
During the flight our pilot Jordi explained how he controlled the balloon and that the longest trip he had done was 120km trip across the Pyrenees mountains. He told us that the flight lasted 4 hours and that they only took 4 passengers because of the extra gas cylinders needed.
After approximately 90 minutes we landed on a farm track where we helped pack the balloon into a large valise which was then loaded onto a trailer for the journey back to Vic and a second and more relaxed breakfast with Cava (Catalan sparkling wine).
The flight was organised by Ballooning with some additional balloons provided by other local companies. Based in Barcelona, they offer balloon rides in Catalonia including Cardedeu, Osona, Vic, Montseny, Sierra del Cadí and the Pyrenees.