Written by Nur Atiqah Bt Khairudin

Its the final countdown. We left the hotel at 5.00 AM (woke up at 4.15 AM), prep ourselves and made our way to the nearest Starbucks store in Ipoh to convoy with our local hero, Devviyah. Waited for 6 minutes, and she still have not arrive. Argh, not again.

We left and took the North South Highway towards Kuala Lumpur. It was an hour drive. We arrived and perform fajr prayer at a nearby mosque. One beautiful thing I realised about this tour is that we get the opportunity to visit different mosques along the way. You get to discover different architectures, ambience and of course people. It gave me a sense of belonging.

When we arrived in SK Chikus, you could see students started to slowly surround the balloon and the enthusiastic teachers came to greet us with their school flag and banners. Upon inflation, I could see how the sky was turning into an orange hue, and immediately I wanted to take off. Like. Right. Now. 

After 10 minutes, we managed to have photo opp with the school students and teachers and Bon Voyage!

Then my feelings came to a disagreement. “You will have a beautiful flight if you fly lower capturing the lush green landscape that’s warmly lit by the sun.” On the other hand, you fervently tell yourself, when else are you allowed to fly at 5000 feet in Malaysia? 

Of course I followed the latter. To my surprise, mind you, the last time we flew this high, it was in Spain, a year ago with a different terrain, no restriction because the area was so flat and most importantly, you don’t feel nervous at all because you could land anywhere. This time, it took me 35 minutes to be at that ultimate height, and looking around the panoramic view, we are surrounded with either huge, tall palm oil plantation trees or rice paddy (flooded) field. The view was spectacular! The speed was also unbelievable, it was close to 40 km/h. God have mercy on us! 

And during the peak height, we saw something we have never witnessed and never knew existed; “waterfall clouds” also known as orographic clouds. 

* Orographic clouds are air passing over a mountain oscillates up and down as it moves downstream. If the air lifts upward and cools through expansion as it rises to its saturation temperature during this process, the water vapour within condenses and becomes visible as a cloud.*

Sea of clouds cascaded down the mountains from the South West and it was heading towards us. Good heavens! I only took a glance as I didn’t want to scare myself and get all worked up. I opted to focus on my rapid descent before the clouds could catch up on us. 

Etty updated our ground crew of our landing intention. Briefed my passengers of the landing procedure. Saw a big staggered baby palm oil trees field, approached the field and we landed there safely though we had funny moments with one particular ‘baby’ palm oil tree. Within 3 minutes, we could see the clouds were moving so fast and coming towards us, Etty got out from the basket to hold on to the crown line. I have experienced this gust of wind situation before in Putrajaya. You have to be quick to pull the rip line; and have passengers like Ajiim and Devviyah to stay in the basket, putting weight on the bottom end. Suddenly, the short burst of high speed wind came to us and Alhamdulillah, we managed to deflate the balloon in time!

Workers came by to check out our deflated balloon, funny story they thought we were an exploding bomb, trying to run from us! Another worker (he looked like Rosyam Noor in the movie, Castello;  with a machete on his back) said, “It can’t be. There are people inside!” Instantly they thought, we were the Sultan of Perak because the field is owned by him. The surprises we get and give through this expedition :D

Nevertheless, the workers helped us pack the balloon while we waited for the retrieval crew to arrive. We use the Glympse Tracker App, it is very good! I highly recommend it. They did a great job in finding us within 30 minutes, looking at how far I flew in the rural area. The excitement on our faces when we were reunited is priceless. Alhamdulillah it was once in a lifetime experience. I learned a lot from it and our priority is always to have a safe flight, and we did just that.