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Up, up and away!

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s one of the weird and wonderful hot air balloons on show at the 40th Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta at the weekend (2 October).

Previous years have seen Spongebob Squarepants, Pepe le Peu and a giant Kangaroo take to the skies, and this year had some equally bizarrely shaped and decorated hot air balloons – with a (slightly creepy) clown, Humpty Dumpty, Darth Vader and an ‘I Love NY’ floating in the air.

Since its launch in 1972, the Balloon Fiesta has grown from just 13 balloons in a parking lot to the largest ballooning event on earth, with 600 pilots from around the world launching 500 balloons across the New Mexico desert. The results, as the images below show, are striking - with hundreds of surreal structures floating in the sky. Whilst we’ve can’t see ourselves taking off in a giant clown anytime soon, these shots are bound to make you want to take a hot air balloon ride - or just sit back and marvel if you're afraid of heights...

ABOVE AND BELOW: A series of rainbow coloured balloons line up, and lift off.

ABOVE: We spotted Darth Vader and a Panda in this cluster of balloons.

BELOW: Some of the more unusual designs - Humpty Dumpty, a carriage, a lizard, a clown, and a balloon with sunglasses.

ABOVE AND BELOW: As darkness fell, the balloons lit up the night sky in a dramatic display.

Picture credits: Rex Features and Getty Images

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