Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Flight Over Montserrat
Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Flight Over Montserrat
Once upon a time, I was asked by a client if I could fly to Barcelona to shoot a short film.
“Sure, why not? What’s the assignment?”
“We would like you to go to Barcelona and do all the coolest and most luxurious things the city has to offer and film yourself doing it? You’d be staying at the Ritz-Carlton Arts Hotel and you’d have your own driver and guide to the city. Oh, we’ll also get you a private helicopter, sailing boat, and you might need to go hot air ballooning over Montserrat.”
The running joke in my head whenever I get such a ridiculous assignment is, “how much do I have to pay you?”
And of course, the best part about it is that I was the one actually getting paid. I pinch myself and then I pack my gear.
You Always Fly At Dawn
This is by no means a complaint, but in order to be in the air for the sunrise, you have to get up way earlier than normal. The last time I flew a hot air balloon in Myanmar, we were up and ready for our pick-up around 5 am to fly over Inle Lake.
My assistant and I had been waking up before dawn the last couple of days to shoot, so luckily for us, a 6:30 call time was nothing. We had a 45 minute drive to our point of departure at Sallent just outside Barcelona, so I found a nice spot to flatten my face against the window and took a mini nap.
It was still pretty dark when we arrived, but our pilot and his team from Barcelona Balloon Flights greeted us with warm Spanish greetings and and an even warmer nod towards the coffee. That was just what I needed to jump start the excitement that kept us both up late the night before.
Where Can You Fly Near Barcelona?
Barcelona Balloon Flights offers flights near Montserrat, Costa Brava, Montseny, and the Pyrenees. It’s 170€ for 1 person and 330€ for 2. You can also charter an entire basket.
The Balloon Is Massive
If you’ve never flown or been up close by a hot air balloon, you will be in for a surprise when you see how big the thing is. Laying flat on the ground, it stretched some 80ft (24m) from one end to the other. Massive.
While we drank our coffee, the balloon is slowly inflated by two fans and hot air from the capsule burners. This takes about 15 minutes and the coolest part was that I was allowed to walk inside the balloon itself while it was inflating. This gave me an even greater perspective to the size of this thing. Massive I tell you.
Up, Up and Away
We wasted no time once the balloon was fully inflated. We all jumped in after a quick safety briefing and before I even knew it, we were off. I nearly missed the take-off shot because it just happened so fast and gently.
And like that, I began to lose my breath.
As we rose over the countryside, there was a morning haze that just created the most perfect light. I chase this quality of light all around the world for the perfect shot and here it was, come out from nowhere. How else I can describe it other than to say that it was warm and enveloping, a light that embraces you. As the balloon turned in the air, we were treated to a 360 degree view of the Montserrat area, blue skies contrasting with that warm yellow sun glow.
Off in the distant, our pilot pointed out the distinctive sawtooth ridge line of Montserrat. It was partially obscured by the morning mist and haze, but its ridge line rose above it all and it was unmistakably the Montserrat I had only seen in photographs.
Take My Breath Away
Down below, we flew over the ruins and what looked like an old farm house and I was overwhelmed by the idea of time. It was neither good or bad, so I just let it pass over me.
A little later, I saw a paraglider below us and had a little fun with filming a sequence where I squashed him with my fingers. A bit of perspective play.
And as if to say, “you haven’t seen anything yet”, the light only got better and I could not help but to turn the focus on my assistant to get a shot of her mesmerizingly staring out over the world below.
And then of course we took some fun selfies, because, it’s only 8:30 in the morning and we really shouldn’t be taking ourselves too seriously at this hour.
Our flight last right about an hour, which was plenty of time to take in the region without feeling rushed. The entire flight went as smooth as you could expect and we had a perfect landing with the customary cava celebration waiting for us below.
Once we jumped out and regained our breaths, we gave the team a hand with deflating the balloon before retreating back for the cava and some jamon. I love Spain for this combination and it’s the reason I plan to move there in 2019. But that’s a different story.