Ever pictured one man flying over the ocean as he hangs onto a massive bunch of party balloons? Well of course you’ve seen the movie where a house is sent a-floating, but funnily enough, Matt Silver-Vallance had the idea first. Or at least that’s what he said at the press launch for the Robben Island Balloon Run, said to take place somewhere between 1 and 27 April. You could imagine that a stunt like this is rather dependent on the weather and hard to pin to a specific date.
Matt is planning to tie himself to 200 helium-filled balloons and fly from Robben Island to Cape Town, all for the sake of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. He used to be a volunteer paramedic and, as he said himself, ‘proper medical care for our children is something very close to my heart’. His plan is to raise R10 million for the building of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg. The hospital will supply medical care to children across southern Africa.
Luckily, Matt isn’t planning to tackle this rather daring, yet very fairytale-like, adventure on his own. He has a team of about 60 people who are, and will be, helping him with the planning and execution. The team at eNews will be supplying him with detailed weather reports so that Mike Howard, his operations manager and the record holder for the highest cluster-ballooning flight, can give the word go. The wind should be very light on ground level, blow in the right direction, and be strong enough at 600 metres above ground to carry Matt from the island back to he mainland.
Since these waters are shark infested, Matt will certainly need someone down there to help break his (possible) fall as well. For that he has a boast crew who will follow in the water, medics and 10 open water swimmers who will start swimming from Robben Island three hours before Matt’s flight in order to catch him when he lands on the mainland.
When all of these are in place, Matt will be strapped to a paragliding harness, which will be attached to approximately 200 four-foot diameter helium-inflated balloons. His ascent and descent will be controlled by either jettisoning ballast or deflating a balloon. The inflating of the balloons will start at around midnight so that Matt can take flight just as the sun rises. This is not only for the sake of some epic photographs, but because the conditions should be as close to perfect as they can be at this time.
International rugby players from around the world have also come to the party to support Matt in his endeavour to raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital. Jean de Villiers, captain of the South African rugby team, along with both New Zealand and Australian captains, has donated his rugby jersey to the cause. These jerseys, which include the Springbok Captain’s inaugural jersey from the Rugby Championship, will be raffled off to raise additional funds. This symbolic gesture of support follows the famous post 1995 Rugby World Cup match gesture of solidarity between Mr Nelson Mandela and the then Springbok Captain Francois Pienaar.
“I think Matt’s crazy,” comments de Villiers with a laugh, “But it’s a great initiative and it’s for a good cause, so hopefully everything will go well and he’ll firstly raise the funds and also get there safely.”
The Balloon Run is further supported by BMW, Afrox, Castrol, the Mount Nelson Hotel, Google SA and Rent Shield. Some of these will be running exciting competitions during the build-up to the event, so keep your eyes open for that.
To follow Matt and his team and stay up to date with the planning stages or donate to the cause, you can follow Matt on Twitter (@balloonbloke), like the Robben Island Balloon Run Facebook Page or visit www.balloonrun.com.
Previous post by Adel Groenewald:« How to spend a summer holiday backpacking in the Wild Coast
Next post by Adel Groenewald:Cape Town markets in photos: Market on the Wharf »