Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Mexico -- is it REALLY part of the USA?

You know, as an ex-expat, one can become pretty jaded.

Been there, done that. Seen it, saw it, did it, done it, and what else could possibly be new?

I'm here to tell you that traveling in the US of A can be just as exciting as pottering about in the tombs of Egypt's Valley of the Kings, or struggling along with my execrable (non-existent) Polish in forest towns rather too near the border of Belarus.

Because, yes! Albuquerque NM offers new and thrilling thrills for those who seek such things.

On a weekend jaunt away, intent on spending quality time with my lovely sister, I came across some amazing sights.

The first came about on Sunday morning.

Albuquerque, home of the magnificent balloon fiesta every October, also offers tourists the opportunity at any time to experience the thrill of floating up up up and away, into the ether, in a hot-air balloon.

IMG_9931, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

Here's a balloon, floating away past us, off to the southwest.

Sunday, about 7am, I was sitting enjoying a cup of joe in M's living room, when I heard outside the deep and resonant whoooooooooaaaashhhhhhh of a nearby balloon. These silken beauties rise up into the clear cold sky from the desert floor, powered only by flaming heaters. The gondolier fires up the heater, and the bursts of propane explode in fiery blasts, heating the air and keeping the balloon aloft.

Yet if the temperature is not quite right, or the winds go wrong, it can all go awry.

My sister and I had discussed this on Saturday.

"Oh yeah," she said. "Sometimes there's an accident. They hit power lines, and the balloon catches fire and dissolves in flames, and the gondola breaks off and tips over. People fall off, and out."

"OMG, no!"

"Oh sure," she continued. "Sometimes people are taking pictures on their cell phones -- people plunging to their deaths, or whatever. Broken bones, you know. Broken necks. It happens. All over the internet the next day."

I sighed. God, the horror.

Whoooooooooaaaashhhhhhh. It was so close now! Impossibly loud, like a dragon sitting right above on the roof, belching out sulphurous, fiery breaths.

I went outside to see.

The balloon that had earlier flown past, high above,

IMG_9931, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

was now coming in for a landing.

IMG_9941, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

I looked up and saw the horrified faces of the gondola passengers as they floated barely 15 feet above the roof next door,

IMG_9943, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

as their gondola was dragged through the center of a young tree at the edge of the property,

IMG_9944, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

as they frantically pushed branches away

IMG_9946, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.

and as the balloon descended too rapidly toward the street behind M's garden wall.

Lord, was I going to be the one taking the photos of the last living moments of these poor souls?

No, thank God. They landed without incident, and as they were Texans they seemed to take it all in stride.

"Yawwww, that wuz excitin'! Betcha y'all see this kinda thang all th' time."

"Actually, no," said M, in her quietest librarian-type voice. And we went inside for another cup of coffee.

IMG_9947, originally uploaded by ehdindigo.



Iota said...

My brother once had a job in his student holidays, driving across the French countryside in pursuit of balloons full of American tourists (generous-tipping American tourists, he always said). It always sounded to me like great fun, and there is something magical about hot air balloons.

Miss Footloose said...

Excitement and adventure in your own home country? Yes, it can happen!

Loved your story, and that last picture with them sitting in the middle of the street should make the papers.

Adventure in my home country of Holland? I fell off my bike. Me a Dutch person, I fell off my bike!

Okay, I hadn't been on a bike for decades because I haven't lived there for ages, and riding a bike in Third World countries is suicide, but still I should NOT be falling off a bike. Ever ever. And I did.

And I lay there in a tangle by the side of the road and I saw the newspaper headline flashing in my head: DUTCH PERSON FALLS OFF BIKE!

Thank gawd there were no cameras around.

Don said...

Miss E- good to have you back in the saddle, so to speak. Have you watched the TV show "Breaking Bad"? There's a side of New Mexico you normally don't see...