Former merchant navy seaman John Kyriakides is no stranger to adventure.
As a young man in the late 1960s, he braved cyclones and typhoons on crossings to the Americas, Asia and the Middle East.
But his latest adventure was distinctly less risky, although equally as exhilarating, when he took to the skies as a 70th birthday treat in one of our hot air balloons.
As the final feature in our celebration of Hero Dads this Father’s Day, we got the lowdown on the experience from John and his children.
A Family Affair
John was joined by two of this three children, Alexi and Pamela, plus Pam’s fiancé Riccardo for the flight.
“I’ve always wanted to do a hot air balloon flight and everything about it was memorable,” said John.
“It was great to experience being up in the sky and what struck me was how silent it was.”
John also found it interesting to see how the balloon was set up ready for its flight.
Daughter Pam, 30, said knowing how much her dad had always wanted to go on a hot air balloon meant it was the perfect present for his 70th birthday.
The Big Kids Had A Great Time Too
Alex, 23, said they all had a fantastic time on the flight.
“It was great fun and surprisingly gentle. I found it really relaxing and peaceful but exhilarating at the same time,” he said.
“The landscape was incredibly beautiful and I’m glad I had the opportunity to share the experience with my family.”
“It was really fun, quite surreal but very serene and relaxing,” she said.
“The most memorable moments for me were flying over the fields where the trees looked like broccoli from a birds eye view, chatting to fellow passengers and zooming in on the pigs!”
Ric, 33, said for him the take off was the best part.
“That memorable first moment when the balloon pulls up, the ground starts getting further away pretty quickly and you get used to being in the air in a basket for the first time,” he said.
“It was so serene. Usually when travelling in the air you’re going fast, it’s noisy and you’re enclosed.
“Here you’re in an open basket with freedom to move around, it’s quiet when the burners are not going and it’s gentle.
“It’s a strange sensation at first but a nice and exciting one. Plus there were great views of the countryside.
“We really enjoyed it.”
No Strangers To Adventure
“We’re all adventurers, especially dad, who has travelled the world thanks to his career in the merchant navy,” said Pam.
From 1967 to 1971, John was spent a year in the British Merchant Navy followed by three years in the Greek Merchant Navy so has had his fair share of adventure during his life.
He also has what daughter Pam calls ‘a knack for languages’ and still speaks many of those he picked up on his sea travels.
“Ric, Alex, Dad and I went to Japan in March this year and dad was still able to hold conversations with people in Japanese,” Pam added.
“He’s very entertaining to travel with and never ceases to surprise us.”
John has another daughter, Lisa, who was too nervous to take the flight in the end but they are now working to get mum Helen in the skies with them next time.
Both Alex and Pam agree that their dad is one in a million and definitely a hero in their eyes.
“He’s been a very encouraging father and has always been loving and supportive,” said Alex.
“He loves travel and adventure and I’ll always remember the amazing holidays we’ve been on together.”
“He’s a very strong character with a kind heart and will always put others before himself,” added Pam.
A Great Pilot
All the family were also full of praise for their balloon pilot, Kerry Coate-Bond, who the newest addition to the Virgin Balloon Flights team, having only joined the company this year.
“He was a good pilot and a good man,” said John.
“He was fabulous, very friendly and approachable and obviously extremely experienced,” added Pam.
Even fiancé Ric thought Kerry did a great job.
“He took some great photos and we had a smooth landing in a good landing spot,” he said.
“He was friendly and happy to answer questions.”
There is still time to treat your dad to his very own hot air balloon adventure. Click here for more information on our special Father’s Day packages and let your superhero really fly.