The alarm goes (again) at 05:00 AM. Back home I could still be dancing in a club at this hour, especially together with my four friends who are now also slowly waking up, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. In fifteen minutes we all shower, put on our most fancy clothes and quickly get into the minivan of Eco Team Sri Lanka that is already waiting for us. We drive over small bumpy sand roads away from our homestay into the darkness.
Slowly it gets lighter but still we almost don’t see anything, a thick fog is hanging over the road and the landscapes we pass by. But the longer we drive the better the sight. All of a sudden our driver stops on the side of the road, he points out a huge black hot air balloon slowly floating down to the grassland 300 meters further. I try to make a picture but as sudden as we stopped, we drive off again in the direction of the balloon. We stop as close as we can get, jump out and run in a hurry towards the balloon. There is no time to even doubt or feel fear. Four men are holding the balloon on the ground. We quickly jump into the basket and before I even know it, we are going up already. I feel tickles in my stomach, the fresh air against my face and the heat of the fire above me in my neck. Within three minutes we climb up to +/- 50 meters. Locals with bright coloured sari’s and children in their arms are waving at us from the ground. We are waving back, laughing out loud and looking around us with huge eyes, unbelievable. We’re flying over Sigiriya, a bright green landscape with huge brown, orange rocks, Buddha’s and endless trees of paradise. It all went so quick, my mind still has to wrap around the idea that we are actually up in the air. While we fly further and further to the West the sun comes up behind us, painting the sky pastel pink. I think about Abeltje and Up in the Air, fairy tales from when I was younger. Both the main characters fly away in their hot air balloons searching for adventure, a surreal dream world. When we fly through the clouds, I have to pinch myself that this is reality. I look at my best friends, holding on to each other, their long hair waving in the wind, pointing out the interesting sights they see, the excitement on their rouge blushed faces. I feel naturally high.
After what felt like a blink of an eye, we slowly float down. The small dots become tuk tuk’s and waving cheerful people. We float pass palm treetops and we land softly in the backyard of a Sri Lankan family. The whole family comes out of their bright coloured house to welcome us back to the ground. With empty stomachs and sparkling eyes we make a toast with our glasses full of bubbles at 07:00 AM to friendship and the sky is the limit.