Definitely a sonic highlight of this town, the Balloon Fest! Hundreds of hot air balloons gather and float about in the desert air for just over a week, and I woke up in the predawn hours to catch their lift off from a huge field just outside Albuquerque. To inflate the balloon, it is first filled with cold air by large fans. Once it its mostly inflated (lying completely horizontal on the ground) the balloonist gets the good-to-go whistle from the officials and it begins spouting fire into the belly of the balloon. It rises gracefully and gently, until it lifts off from the ground. For an hour, balloons come alive all around the thousands of spectators, who can come extremely close to the balloons. Once in the air and caught in the rising wind, the balloons are the most gentle, quiet, and colourful mode of transportation I ever saw.
Here is a balloonist giving a safety briefing to his 10 passengers, who paid upwards of $200 to ride the balloon. I stayed safely and cheaply on the ground.
Here are more of the sounds of the gas firing into the balloons before take off. Another sound that was extremely common on the field were the sounds of cameras clicking and beeping. I heard a claim that this is the most photographed event on the planet. You may also hear passers by exclaiming when seeing a balloon that catches their eye. The majority of the balloons were the regular bulb-shape, but there were balloons that were ‘special shapes’: Darth Vader, a rooster, 3 bee-balloons, clowns, a dead cat, an old-fashioned carriage, a Pepsi can, a German beer keg, Sponge Bob Square Pants, and a huge cow.
I went to the Albuquerque aquarium and botanical garden, the latter of which I would highly recommend. In the middle of the city, it was fairly well protected from traffic sounds, and on this mainly urban journey, finding trees and crickets is always a welcome relief. There are two differing cricket/grasshopper(?) tracks below. The picture above is of the second track’s singer. I couldn’t find the first one.