Clive Edwins

Austrian Ballooning Trip

Milton Keynes 4×4 where invited to take part in the Austrian balloon festival in the capacity of balloon retrieval crews. The organising was carried out by Jon Anderson. All people interested in travelling had a get together one evening, and the route and ideas of what to take or expect were discussed. The group consisted of Clive & Keith Edwins in a discovery, Rob & Ant Parr in a 90, Richard & Anne Edwins in a 90 & Jon & Terrina Anderson in a Range Rover.

On Wednesday 17th Jan in the evening we all met up at South Mimms service area and travelled down to Dover stopping in a hotel, so we could have an early crossing. We left the hotel at 6am and travelled the short distance to the ferry, where we boarded almost immediately, high on our list of priorities was to sort out breakfast so we all made our way up to the restaurant. Where we confused the staff with our free breakfast vouchers as we had more than we were entitled to. Leaving the ferry we all set off in convoy heading down the E 40, we passed through Belgium and into Luxembourg and eventually stopped at Chur in France, about 300 miles from Dover, Keith and I had a walk to a local shopping centre to by some supplies and we all met up in the bar for pre dinner drinks. (this seemed to become a habit during trip) after a nice meal, although no one really knew what they ordering apart from wine we turned in for the night.

We set off at a more reasonable time in the morning, again with the idea of covering about 300 miles as Jon had pre booked the hotels and we were staying in Switzerland. While drinking in the bar I took note of the room numbers and decided to have a bit of a wind up! At the end of the evening we all went back to our rooms, I decided to dial the room numbers and pretend to speak in German at them sounding more and more cross as they couldn’t understand me! I dropped in “land rover” and this got a good response! After sounding like a very cross German and slamming the phone down! I thought I had better own up, other wise I could see Jon spending the night in his vehicle, as he seemed quite worried! They all had the same treatment and I think they all enjoyed it.

Next morning we left the hotel again with about 300 miles to do, but today on smaller more scenic roads instead of motorways, after not believing the “road closed” sign only to find the barrier down due to snow we had to turn back. Faced with a two-hour drive round the mountain range we stopped at an information centre, and we were told of a train that would take our vehicles, after looking at two rail stations that definitely would not take vehicles. With out pulling the doors off and winching the vehicle in, we found the right one and drove on to the train which took us through the mountain which saved us about two hours, although it took an hour to find it! We eventually arrived at Filzmoos a small town with skiing it main activity; our apartment was fairly close to the centre of the town and Rob & Ants on the outskirts.

There was a meeting in the morning of all the balloonists and crew, it wasn’t too early so we all attended, Keith and I both teamed up with a balloon crew and so did Rob and Ant. unfortunately the weather for the whole week proved not to be too good for ballooning! There were daily weather meetings and it seemed that Bill the organisers message was “if you fly, you die” so not many balloons actually took to the sky.

On the edge of the town was the “launch field” people seemed to meet here, one morning we a single seat balloon up which a few of us actually went up in. this field was ideal for tobogganing and also skiing for beginners, Keith and I hired a set of skis and boots and much fun on them. Jon decided to give then a try, this was most interesting, twenty feet! We have the photos! Due to the fact the balloons weren’t flying we had a lot of time to ourselves and we enjoyed sight seeing, Wer Fen castle, “where eagles dare” was interesting along with “Hall-stat” Austria’s prettiest village.

Jon wishing to try his snow chains, eventually fitted them on and drove to the top of the balloon field closely followed by Rob without any chains. Towing the sledge behind the Range Rover seemed quite good fun. But not as much fun as hiring a sledge and taking it to the top of a ski run! On a ski lift, standing at the top looking down on the village below with a sledge in my hand I did wonder about my sanity, but this proved excellent fun, a twenty minute sledge ride at about 30mph with hairpin bends! Great fun, it needed to be repeated.

There seemed to be plenty to do in the evenings with various meals organised and one evening was “the glow party” where all 48 balloons were put up in the field and a bar and disco with free gluvine. There was also an evening when we all had a horse drawn sleigh ride of about 4 miles to a restaurant. Saturday we set of on the route home stopping the night at Koblenz in Germany. The whole trip was very enjoyable and we drove a total of 2150 miles covering, 7 countries including France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Holland, and would recommend the trip to any 4 x 4 enthusiast.