Benedict Savio

The Balloons Are Coming!

Pollachi Balloon Festival

Pollachi is where’s it all happened this January. We were in for a unique visual treat thanks to the Hot Air Balloon festival. A balloon festival of this nature is a new concept to most of us Indians. Elsewhere in the world countries like Mexico, USA, Belgium, New Zealand,Germany and Malaysia  have successfully conducted mega events with the main focus being the hot air balloon festival. Thousands of people flock in with families to take in the stunning sights of  hot air balloons taking flight.

Global Media Box is an international air adventure sports company. They have successfully conducted hot air balloon festivals in several countries. Considering that their main offices are in Tamil Nadu , it was but natural that they wanted to showcase a spectacle of this nature on their home turf. In this regard they went scouting for places that were ideal not only from a technical flying point of view but also one that was scenic and had much to offer by way of touristic appeal.

Pollachi with it’s pristine landscape made up of coconut groves ,dense forest cover and friendly people seemed like the perfect location.

In 2014 Mr. Benedict Savio and his team from Global Media Box conducted the first ever Tamil Nadu International balloon festival with five international pilots. The event was held in the last week of January and proved to be a huge success. The festival consisted of tethered flights and free flights at Pollachi ,just after sunrise and before sunset.

Ben representing India at León,

The supporting event was held at Coimbatore. This was a sound and light show featuring the hot air balloons. Not wanting to miss this unusual experience , a few of us made plans to take part in the action. I’m not sure if it was us the adults or the children who were more excited! On reaching the crowd filled KCT grounds the excitement increased.

Passengers on the Angry bird balloon over Pollachi

The air reverberated with adrenalin infused vibes. The hot air balloons were just being inflated as we neared the show space. That by itself was quite a sight. The sheer volume of these balloons took one’s breath away. That’s when we realized that hot air ballooning was serious stuff indeed. The man power required to hoist these beauties is quite considerable. The licensed pilots take their job very seriously. Despite the work involved ,being the cheerful sort ,they did manage to share a bit of banter with the crowd.  As the balloon was being inflated , one could feel the heat of the flames , even at a distance. The cane basket which carries the pilot and  passengers is large enough to fit about 3 adults and the mandatory LPG cylinder. It’s also a great deal more sturdy than it looks.

The one balloon that caught all our fancy was the angry bird balloon. We watched in fascination as it went from being flat on the ground to being plumped up with air until it swayed in the mild breeze,pointy beak and all. As dusk fell , the music came on and these balloons were lit up in synchronization by their respective pilots. Boy, did the bird look red hot angry !!! It was quite an unforgettable sight. For this show , space constraints  dictated that the balloons couldn’t lift off the ground . Despite that it still proved to be a fun evening.

Balloon in flight over scenic landscape of Pollachi

This is what makes these hot air balloon festivals so popular. It’s not only about the flying . It’s a fabulous spectator sport. We were in awe of watching 5 hot air balloons. This year they plan to showcase 8 hot air balloons in total and oh yes , the angry bird is definitely a part of that entourage.  At Pollachi , last year they offered two types of flying experiences, which is the plan this time as well. The sponsors for the festival are al lowed ‘free flights’ , which meant that the balloon’s course was chartered by the wind. The pilot can make the hot air balloon rise and descend whenever required but  cannot decide the course. He will at all times be in contact with the ground staff , who will be following the voyage in a motored vehicle. The landing of the balloon at various spots has given many a happy surprise to the locals.  Children rushing out to witness this amazing object just adds to the thrill of this sport.

In addition to this ,people can pay to participate in ‘tethered flights’. This is done where the balloon is anchored to the ground and is taken up for a height of 100 feet and brought down. To view the landscape from such a height is when one learns to appreciate and be grateful for all that nature has bestowed upon us. Many people in and around Pollachi went on these flights and are eagerly looking forward to doing so again.

Hot air ballooning is an event which respects the landscape and adds much to the economic development of the place where it is conducted. The hospitality sector , local craft and unique lifestyle of the people are focused upon to ensure that this activity is mutually beneficial to all.

Enthralled crowd watching a pilot prepare his balloon for flight
Special shaped balloons at Pollachi

The positive outcome of last year has led to the thought of making this an annual event in Pollachi during the harvest festival. The Pongal festival is deeply rooted in the customs and traditions of the land owners and farmers who call Pollachi their home. To share these time honoured customs with visitors gives a sense of pride and belonging. The future visualization is to have people from all walks of life thronging to this quiet hamlet ,around the middle of January. It’s a great way to discover a land that is far removed from the regular tourist route.

The Angry bird Balloon In flight

I have no doubts that guests will find such a package irresistible. . Not only does one get to soak in the festive village atmosphere but also to participate in a fun event that is truly global in nature How often do we come across easily accessible destinations that feed our soul?. Pollachi will do that for you and will have you coming back for more.

We have already explored the locations in Karnataka and Pondicherry for our next level of Hot Air Balloon expansions. Soon we will start our Balloon ventures in Hampi and Pondicherry.

Benedict Savio

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