Every morning, hot air balloon pilot Cary Crawley gets out of bed three hours before dawn, when the sky is still dark. But it’s worth forgoing a lie-in for the spectacular views across the Atacama desert in Chile or the ancient city of Bagan in Burma as the sun rises – depending on where he’s flying that day.
Now 59 years old, Crawley, from Mid Essex, first flew in a hot air balloon shortly after his 27th birthday. It was love at first flight. “It changed my life,” Crawley tells The Independent. He’d never been one for a conventional job – prior to ballooning he worked in Australia as a safari guide in the Northern Territory, then as a commercial tuna fisherman in the Southern Ocean. But when his ex-girlfriend spotted a vacancy ad in a newspaper for crew members to join the famed hot air balloon pilot Buddy Bombard in the French region of Burgundy, she knew that Crawley would be interested.