It took six months, strong high-altitude winds, and a whole lot of luck for a little balloon to fly some 2,500km from Ireland to Norway.
But the family who found the balloon tangled in a tree on a windswept mountain on Norway’s western seaboard last month are set to make the return trip in style to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime holiday and collect a host of prizes which were on offer to the person who found it.
After reading the story in the Irish Examiner, low fares airline Norwegian has stepped in to offer return flights for the Taule Leikanger family from Bergen in Norway to London.
Dunmanway Chamber of Commerce, which organised the balloon release as a Christmas charity event, will cover the cost of the family’s flights from London to Cork after approaches to Irish airlines for flights sponsorship drew a blank.
Norwegian Air spokesman Stuart Buss said the airline, whose Irish subsidiary is planning to launch transatlantic flights from Cork Airport, was delighted to help.
“This is a fantastic story so we are delighted to play our part helping the Taule family travel to Cork,” said Mr Buss.
“If a balloon released in southern Ireland can make it all the way to western Norway, the least we can do is to help the Taule family fly in comfort with Norwegian and enjoy an easier journey to collect their prizes.”
The story began next to Dunmanway’s live crib on the Green on December 19, 2015, when the balloon was released, with a note attached listing a set of prizes sponsored by local businesses, and Catherine Crowley’s contact number.
Whoever found the balloon was in line to win a stay for two in Galvin’s on the Green B&B, a box of chocolates from Deirdre Kelly, a gift hamper from For Goodness Sake health shop, a voucher from Connollys shoe shop, lunch for two in Marnies Restaurant, and a wash, cut and shave, and a bottle of champagne, from Ms Crowley’s Boyz to Men barber shop.
Locals hoped it might find its way to Skibbereen, or maybe even over the county bounds.
But as the days, weeks, and months passed, most forgot about it — until the phone in Catherine’s shop rang just over two weeks ago.
Catherine said she was stunned when the woman on the line, Linda Taule, told her she’d found the balloon.
She was even more shocked when Linda told her she found it while out hiking in the mountains with her son, Magnus — in Nausdal, in western Norway — 2,500km away.
Dozens of businesses and locals have offered meals, days out, accommodation and gifts for the family.
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