August 26, 2010

Crash Landing

I soared through the air. This time I had taken flight willingly in a hot air balloon and not because I was at the mercy of a Chinese driver. Hovering thousands of meters above the earth, I surveyed the majestic scenery of Yangshuo below. Jagged peaks dotted the landscape as far as the eye could see. I sailed up into the clouds as the wisps of air evaporated around me, just barely out of reach. But the beauty of the clouds also posed a threat. The skies were becoming overcast, an ominous portent of things to come. Soon the first drops of rain started to fall, quickly picking up strength until it transformed into a full scale shower.

It was time for us to land but we were not near our base camp, having floated away in the opposite direction. We started our descent, but there was no chair to put back into upright position or seat belt to buckle up. After soaring at high altitudes for nearly an hour, the balloon was now only several hundred feet above the earth. We hovered over paddy fields and then drifted over to a nearby town. A spotter ran through the narrow lanes until he located an opening. He beckoned us towards an apartment complex with a basketball court. My trip to the troposphere became even more memorable as the pilot gracefully guided the hot air balloon on to the court. A few bemused spectators who had come out of their homes watched me breath a sigh of relief as soon as my feet touched the ground.


"They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one." ~ Alan Shepard