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Unforgettable hot air balloon landing ceremony

Unforgettable hot air balloon landing ceremony

The exhilaration of lift-off, the warmth of hot air and the breathtaking view of the Akagera National Park created memories I will cherish for the rest of my life. From the sky, I saw wild animals wandering in the sprawling Savannah. That was a sight to behold.

When we landed, I joined the Royal Balloon Rwanda crew and fellow tourists for an unforgettable landing ceremony. This tradition dates back to the 1780s. Around the world, hot air balloon pilots offer champagne to their passengers upon landing.

The first hot air balloon flight took place in 1783. When co-pilots Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes landed safely, they popped champagne and celebrated their historic feat. Their successful maiden flight was a ground-breaking science experiment.

The earliest hot air balloon flights scared the onlookers. Legend has it that some villagers thought the balloons were strange, and possibly dangerous, creatures from another planet. In addition, landing on crops didn’t sit well with farmers, some of whom used pitchforks to attack the "alien invaders."

The people’s hostile reception was eventually dissolved by a toast of champagne. This offer of goodwill served as an apology for disturbing the peace and proof that the balloonists were not only human beings but also good people.

As mentioned above, 21st Century tour operators offer champagne to their esteemed clients, keeping the tradition alive. In some parts of the world, they raise their glasses after reciting a balloonist prayer.

Our champagne-toasting landing ceremony was followed by bush breakfast, but that is a story for another day. Stay tuned.

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