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TRAVEL Q&A

September 06, 1992|By New York Times News Service

Q: Can you inform me of any hot-air balloon festivals taking place this fall in the Northeast? How does one get a ride in one of the balloons?

A: Here are some balloon festivals. At all of them, those who attend can arrange private flights directly with the balloonists. The length of flights is usually 30 to 60 minutes.

The Adirondack Balloon Festival takes place Sept. 17-20 at the Warren County Airport, in the town of Queensbury, just south of Lake George, N.Y. One hundred balloons are expected, including the Santa Maria, owned by the Forbes family (the festival will be dedicated to the late Malcolm Forbes), and balloons in the shape of the head of the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, a pink elephant, a polar bear and Mickey Mouse. The cost of private flights is set individually but is generally $125 a person or more. Festival admission is free. Information: (800) 365-1050.

In Mansfield, Mass., about 30 miles south of Boston, the Mansfield Balloon and Car Festival will be held Sept. 25-27. There will be 50 balloons taking part and about 800 antique cars will be displayed. Balloon rides will be $150 a person. Admission is $5 a day; $2 for those 16 and younger. A three-day family pass is $15.

The Shawnee Balloonfest is Oct. 16-18 at the Shawnee Inn at Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pa., at the Delaware Water Gap, with 25 balloons taking part. Private rides are $175 a person. Admission Oct. 17 and 18 is $8; $6 for seniors and $3 for children 4 and younger. On Oct. 16, when there is only one balloon launch, at 4:30 p.m., admission is $3; $2 for those 4 and younger. Information: (717) 421-1500.

The Fox 43 Balloon Classic takes place Oct. 17 and 18 on the Chocolate Field by Hershey Park in Hershey, Pa. The event features flights by 51 balloons and a display of 300 antique cars. Rides with the balloonists are $150 a person. There is no admission fee, but parking is $3 a vehicle. Information: (717) 845-3288.

Q: I would like visit Patagonia and do some hiking and camping (but not mountain climbing). When is a good time of year to do this? Are there organizations that organize such trips?

A: Trips to Patagonia are best made in the summer in the Southern Hemisphere, which is winter here; in our late fall and early spring, the area is less crowded with vacationing South Americans and conditions, though cool, are still suitable for hiking. Here are some companies that offer hiking trips there. Each trip's cost, for one person and based on two people sharing a room (or tent), includes accommodations and all or most meals.

Mountain Travel Sobek, 6420 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito, Calif. XTC 94530, (800) 227-2384, arranges two all-camping (except for lodges at the beginning and end of the trip) tours. One, 17 days, includes a 10-day trek in the Torres del Paine National Park, on the Chilean side of Patagonia, with three days' strenuous backpacking (otherwise, gear is carried by horses). The trip starts and ends in Santiago, Chile, and the cost is $2,395, not including air fare between Santiago to Punta Arenas on Patagonia, which is about $250. Upcoming departures are Oct. 16, Oct. 30, Feb. 5 and March 5. The other, rated moderately strenuous, is 16 days, and features three days of hiking each in Torres del Paine park and, on the Argentine side, Glacier National Park; gear is carried by horses. The cost is $2,295 a person. Departures are Oct. 23, Nov. 6 and 20 and Jan. 22, Feb. 5, Feb. 19 and March 3. The company also offers a 23-day trip, $3,395, in which participants stay in lodges and have the option of day hikes. Departures are Oct. 23, Nov. 20, Jan 15 and Feb. 5.

Wilderness Travel, 801 Allston Way, Berkeley, Calif. 94710, (800) 247-6700, has several Patagonia itineraries. The basic trip, 24 days, consists of 12 days of camping -- including five each in the Torres del Paine and Glacier National parks -- and the rest in hotels or lodges. Upcoming departures are Dec. 6, Jan. 7 and Feb. 11, and the cost is $2,695, including air fare between Buenos Aires, where the trips begin and end, and Punta Arenas. A backpacking trip to Patagonia, in the Torres del Paine park and a section along the Tyndall Glacier previously closed to travelers, is 16 days, with departures Nov. 20, Dec. 5, Jan. 1 and Feb. 2. The company also schedules an 18-day natural history trip with all nights in hotels, with departures in September, October, November, February and March. The cost is $2,295.

R. E. I. Adventure Travel, P.O. Box 1938, Sumner, Wash. 98390, (800) 622 2236, offers shorter trips, 12 days. Included is five nights camping in Torres del Paine National Park. The cost is $1,595 a person, not including air fare between Santiago and Punta Arenas. Departure dates are Dec. 16, Jan. 23 and Feb. 17.

Overseas Adventure Travel, 349 Broadway, Cambridge, Mass. 02139, (800) 221-0814 or (617) 876-0533, organizes a 16-day trip that includes a variety of conveyances and accommodations. There are six nights of camping in the Torres del Paine National Park, plus rafting on the Rio Grey, and a cruise of Last Hope Sound with daytimes exploring the forests and glaciers and nights on the ship. This season's prices are not yet set; the cost for 1991-'92 was $2,895, not including $250 for air fare between Santiago and Punta Arenas. Departure dates are Nov. 21, Dec. 19, Jan. 16, Feb. 6 and Feb. 27.

Q: When is the big antiques show held at Le Bourget airfield near Paris?

A: This year's Foire Internationale de la Brocante et des Antiquaires will be held at Le Bourget on Sept. 17 and 18, with about 600 dealers taking part. Admission is free with a carte d'acheteur (buyer's card), which may be clipped from La Gazette, a weekly magazine about antiques.

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