On the last day of the Balloons Over Waikato festival, Waikato News reporter Danielle Zollickhofer was invited to take a ride in the Abel Tasman balloon and filed this report.
The wind decided that we were heading to Ngāruawāhia that day - you can only influence a hot air balloon's altitude, not direction.
Ballooning is an elegant and peaceful experience. It is mostly quiet, the only noise comes from the CB radio and the gas burners, when the balloon is firing from time to time to produce more lift.
The annual balloon festival brought colour and lots of fun to Innes Common at Hamilton Lake and the sky over Waikato.
I'm sure many of those watching from the ground dreamed about taking off into the sky and flying away with the pilots, observing Hamilton and its surroundings from a bird's perspective.
Pilot Carsten Buschkuehle, who brought the balloon from the South Island for the event, said: "My favourite thing about ballooning is the silence. There is no motors, no noises."
Amazed, I was watching the massive crowd at Innes Common become smaller and smaller until they resembled an ant colony.
If you ever get the chance to go for a hot air balloon ride, absolutely go for it! It is a very cool and unique experience.
A passenger I spoke with earlier in the week, Helen Morgan, said: "I always wanted to try ballooning because it is adventurous but not too risky." According to my experience, I can only agree with her, feeling very privileged being in the basket.
In fact, ballooning used to be a royals-only experience in the 18th century, although these days there are some unglamorous and even crazy sides of riding in a hot air balloon.
As the last festival day was clear and sunny, the view over the Waikato was stunning. From below the few clouds, we could spot Te Rapa racecourse, Fonterra, Mainfreight, the Waikato River and Te Awa cycle bridge - and lots of other balloons.
Most of them were landing and deflating but it looked like one of the balloons was on a mission to go over the Hakarimata ranges.
Carsten decided to bring the balloon down before the mountains and we landed in a farmer's paddock. We got to know the unglamorous side of ballooning: because the paddock was so small and we wanted to avoid the electric fence, we had a controlled but hard landing, with the balloon basket tipping sideways.
"But this is completely normal and can happen quite often. Don't worry, not all landings are like that though," says Carsten.
Remember the crazy side of ballooning I mentioned earlier? There is a tradition called balloon baptism, also known as propane and champagne.
After a person's first hot air balloon ride, the pilot lights a strand of the passenger's hair on fire, symbolic of the fire that let them fly. The strand is extinguished with champagne, recognising the fact that ballooning used to be for royals only. For the final step, the pilot puts a tuft of grass or sprinkle of soil on the first-time balloon rider's head, usually from the ground where the balloon ride ended.
Despite the horror stories I heard before about balloon accidents, I felt very safe in the basket, which was surprisingly not shaking a lot despite the four people in it. Unless you are scared of heights, riding in a hot air balloon is rightly on many people's bucket list.