"So, these are the views from my office," says Jesús, the pilot, after reaching a suitable height with amazing views over Antequera. Today's flight has 11 passengers, all wearing a face mask, the symbol of the 'new normal'. We are taking a balloon flight over the town and surrounding countryside, the first place in Malaga province the Globotur company from Seville chose to add to its schedule.
The experience of flying in a balloon begins at 6.30am. Javier Benítez, the CEO of Globotur, meets the passengers at a local hotel accompanied by his two assistants and today's pilot. Once everyone has gathered together, we are taken to the place where the balloon will take off. This is never the same, because it depends on the wind.
Today, it is an expanse of land facing Lovers' Rock. The passengers, many of whom are from other provinces in Andalucía, start chatting and getting to know each other. They have come for different reasons: to try a new experience, even a Christmas gift which could not be used before now. The cost of the flight and breakfast is 160 euros per person.
The team starts to put the balloon up: they stretch it out and start inflating it with two big ventilators and gas bottles. Meanwhile, the passengers gaze expectantly at the scenery and film the process with their mobile phones. If help is needed, they are all willing to provide it.
Once the balloon is ready, the pilot, Jesús, starts to explain the journey. "We know where we are going to take off from, but we never know where we are going to land," he says. When taking off, all the passengers have to crouch down inside the basket and hold onto the handles until the balloon has stopped moving completely. "The basket can overturn, it all depends on the pilot's expertise," he says.
It is gone 7.30 and we all start to get into the basket, which is divided into three sections. The pilot travels in one of the corners, and a small wall at hip height separates the section for the passengers on each side of the basket. The gas burner starts to make a noise and the balloon begins to rise.
The balloon's gentle movement doesn't seem to match the speed at which it travels or its height: 400 metres above the ground and 33 kilometres an hour, says the pilot. The views from up here are incredible, and it is a perfect sunny day. "Is that the Fuente de Piedra lagoon?" asks one passenger. "Yes, and over there you can see my village, Sierra de Yeguas," says another.
We start to reduce height, although the views are still spectacular. Seeing an ultralight flying at the same height as you are travelling is an unusual experience. "The balloon is the only form of transport you can't control completely. Some things you can, but not everything," says the pilot.
After an hour, we have to land but the olive groves don't make it easy. Instead, we carry on, followed by three cars on the road, which will pick us up once we have landed. When Jesús spots a large flat area, we start to descend and everyone crouches down.
"Look out, impact!" he calls. The balloon touches the ground a few times before stopping, and then everyone claps. While the team packs the balloon, we are taken for a traditional breakfast at a hotel. It has, everyone agrees, been an amazing experience.