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Pole to Pole

Day 98: The Masai Mara

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWake to a sky of cloud and drizzle, which is unfortunate as we are to begin the day with a balloon ride over the Mara.

It's chilly and still dark when we arrive at the launch area, at the place called Little Governor's Camp. Surrounded by trees and stone-built, thatched cottages with hanging baskets by the doors, it is not unlike an English village green on a wet morning in November. However, the rain is not strong enough to abort the trip, and as a glum sunlight struggles through, instructions are given to fill the envelopes - the gasbags - of the two balloons. The envelopes are made by Thunder and Colt of Oswestry from six and a half miles of polyester fabric, and are thought to be the largest in the world. By the time they are inflated, each with 330,000 cubic feet of air heated to 100 degrees Centigrade, they will stand ninety feet high. Dawn breaks to the roar of the burners with their piercing yellow tongues of flame, and the slow tumescence of the multicoloured giants.

Each balloon can carry a dozen people and an apprehensive mixture of English and Americans is gathered in the half-light. I feel a sharp sting at the back of my leg, and turning to scratch, I notice that everyone else is doing the same thing.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 98
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Mara River
  • Book page no: 216

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