Jay & Nicole's Adventures
Kruger & Ballooning Trip - April 2004 

(click any picture to get enlargement)

Last December Nicole surprised me with a nice birthday present ... a balloon ride adventure.  Unfortunately the weather did not co-operate and the ride did not occur.  We came back for a second try..... but first we went for a day's drive through Kruger National Park.  This park is a self-drive game reserve where you can look all you want but are not allowed to get out of the car.  The park is the size of Switzerland and has many, many roads.... seeing specific animals is not guaranteed and every drive through the park is a different experience.

In Kruger, spotting animals is a matter of skill and luck ... the animals are there but you may not see them. To the right is a lucky spot of an elephant herd.... if we didn't spot the herd we would never have seen the crossing 
Tough to see the herd 

Excellent crossing shot 

We drove on & then heard
"trumpeting"; a mother and child that fell behind. 

Lone male that strolled behind the main group; not allowed to join them 

Yes, it's mating season... and his "tool" can also scratch his belly! 

Ohhhh.... don't step in that or you'll get stuck!!!!!

Impala staring at us as we stare at them ....... 

At the end of the day we finally see a Rhino! 

Zebra can sometimes be tough to get shots of, as they don't seem to like people (like wild horses).  

These guys were different and actually seemed curious about us; even with having a kid around.

As we drove across a bridge over a shallow river, we came upon a car which had stopped.  At first we were annoyed, but then we noticed what they were looking at....  
our first sighting of a very dangerous crocodile!!!

Hard to see, but he's ....

... just s
unning himself!

And, as always, there are some baboons and monkeys that are entertaining to watch.  These guys were acting normal and then got scared by something, which startled us too. 

After a day at Kruger we returned to the hotel and relaxed.  The next morning we got up REALLY early and headed out to the balloon launch site.  The goal of the flight was to rise above the farmland and forests and float down the valley ... to be picked up wherever the wind decided to take us.......

The balloon was laid out and checked for tears 

Then the burners started filling the balloon up.  

The riders are ready!!
(right) As liftoff occurs, the cars can be clearly seen.

The cars quickly get  awfully small as we rise through some clouds 

The burners in action; they just heat the air and the heated air captured in the balloon makes it rise.  Vents on the side allow steering, but the wind is the only mean of propultion.

As we rose the views were quite nice.  The weather did not co-operate though, and we did not move at all.  The pilot tried going up and down to catch some wind, but there was no wind at all.

We landed and only some folks were allowed out 

The balloon then started to deflate itself....  

... and was set down to be re-packed for tomorrow. 

The ballooning was quite an experience .... we felt quite comfortable, but at the same time quite helpless.  As in gliding, you are at the mercy of the wind.  In this case though, the pilot had to be good friends with all the neighboring farmers, as you never knew where you would come down.... after the flight we had a nice breakfast with the group at a local hotel and then headed back to Pretoria with some nice experiences in our pockets..........

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