Our story begins with the tattoo of our first African rain on the tent roof. The sailor in me says there should be calm after rain and an old Masai gentleman agreed saying, “Tomorrow you will fly.”
We woke up to a dead calm but very dark morning, if you can call 4am morning. Everything had a deja vu quality to it. I kept wondering if I’d taken care of something, or was that yesterday morning.? You can’t just leave your tent at night. We are actually inside a national game reserve and all night long we hear game walking through the camp, sometimes we even step in the evidence. After we convinced ourselves that everything was packed I radioed camp HQ and they sent one of the Masai to escort us to the waiting land cruiser. He smiled, “Today you fly.”
Immediately our darting headlights scared up several rabbits and soon we left the proper track making our own slightly less rutted trail, navigating from blue flag to blue flag hung every so often from a tree, like a ship navigating from buoy to buoy. It would be so easy to get turned around just like at sea.
We shuddered and bounced to another camp and picked up a couple who, it turns out were the birders of big game driving, ticking the box of everything they’ve seen, and now they’ve moved on to your lesser cats. He had a lens so long the camera looked like an afterthought hanging off the end. I, on the other hand, use an iPhone 12 and Emanuel gets us close.
Darting headlights ahead seem to coalesce at the meeting place with several amoeba shaped dark blobs. We’re going to fly. This pre flight orientation was even better than the last one while the balloon envelope continued filling with cold air. This is called a cold air fill.
There are hellacious looking burners used to heat things up a bit.
Marce and I were assigned a cubby and they tied the balloon basket to a land cruiser. Soon our skipper pointed at us and we hopped up into our compartment and after a few healthy burner blasts you could feel her tugging at the land cruiser.
Suddenly we had slipped the surly bonds of earth, as they say. Skipper wanted to stay low to catch the breeze toward the river. I could hear the basket skimming the tall grass. That’s low.
At one point we hit an old rotten tree that turned out to be a very sturdy old tree. A lady in front said, “I told him there was a tree coming.” Soon we gained altitude reveling in the majesty of the Serengeti
We watch as the hippos form a line and head down stream.
Floating over our breakfast camp we start our descent to touch down near a herd of wildebeest.
We enjoyed a traditional champagne toast followed by a full English breakfast.