The idea was to get an early morning balloon so that we would already be airborne when the sunrise broke the horizon, but this wasn’t to be, instead the sun had been up for about 30 minutes by the time we arrived at the take-off site.
It was a short journey from our hotel (on the East bank of the Nile) by minibus to the balloon site (on the West bank) and by the time we arrived there was already a number of balloons in the air.
We were escorted over to our balloon, which was still in a collapsed state, and taken through some basic safety procedures. During which time our balloon was unfurled and prepared for inflation.
Once ready we all clambered in to the basket – there would be around 25 of us for this particular flight (from varying hotels) – the captain once again took us through some safety procedures – chief of which was the landing position, which consisted of us all facing away from the direction of the landing, holding a small loop of rope and assuming a squatting position. After this – and some animated, frantic sounding shouts between the captain and the ground crew – the captain let out a few bursts of hot air from the burners and we had lift-off.
As the balloon rose all was smooth, with the only noise coming from the roar of the flame and some chatter from my fellow passengers.
During the flight – we were in the air for about 90 minutes – we ascended and descended (as you would expect from a hot air balloon!), but even though there was seemingly very little breeze to carry us along, it seemed as though we were actually making quite some progress along the edge of the Nile.
At one point it appeared to me that we were coming in to land, only for the captain to give a few blasts on the hot air and we were soaring again. In fact I think it’s at this point we reached our highest point of 2,000 feet in altitude.
There below, in the morning light was the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Ramesseum, and the Medinet Habu. We passed over all of the ruins, some more visible than others due to the morning mist/smog that was hanging in the air below us, but then there was also the mountains, the villages and of course the Nile River to see too.
I was simply too busy taking in the awesome sights (both with and without my camera to my face) to notice that we had begun our final descent, but I needn’t have been worried (not that I actually was), as the landing was so smooth as to be almost imperceptible.
I kid you not. If I hadn’t heard the noises of crushing stones underneath the basket that I was standing in I would never have known that we had actually touched down. The much talked about landing position that we were told about at the start of the journey simply was not needed on this occasion. Thankfully.
It’s been a long held ambition of mine to go up in a hot air balloon and finally I was achieving this goal. Later, Lesley said that if you only go up in a hot air balloon once in your life, you should do it in Egypt. I fully concur with that.
Ambitions are funny things; it’s not just about achieving them, it’s about achieving them in the right circumstances, and this was definitely the right circumstances for me.