Sunday, March 04, 2012

Up, Up and Away…

…in my beautiful rainbow balloon! Sorry for the delay in posting about my fabulous first hot air balloon ride, a 60th birthday present to myself.
Balloon over CH

I’ve always been eager to photograph the balloons that drift over CH from time to time (as you can see from previous posts), but not so much any more, now that I’ve flown in one that was expertly piloted and never left the West Bank. I now know that balloons can be controlled, despite prevailing breezes. And I wanted to see the sites over there, and not cross the Nile.

I chose Hod-Hod Soliman because they are one of the oldest, if not the oldest, balloon company operating out of Luxor. Their reviews on Trip Advisor are generally glowing. And, after my excellent adventure with them, I have added mine to the reviews praising them.

I was picked up by mini-van at 5:30 the morning of the 21st and taken to the boat landing opposite Luxor Temple. I boarded the launch that was to take us across the Nile, joinng several other people. While we waited for the rest of the passengers, we could have tea or coffee while we reviewed the instruction sheet, which mostly dealt with how to prepare for landing.
Captain Ali then proceeded to review the instructions, complete with an amusing explanation of three different landing styles--American, British and Egyptian--with Egyptian being the smoothest, wherein the basket stays upright! As far as I can recall I have never traveled across the Nile to the west in darkness. It was quite magical!
Once we arrived on the other side, we went by van to the launching area, which is below Deir el Bahri. Many balloons were preparing to lift off, and I was delighted to see that I would be riding in a rainbow balloon:
Our pilot Amer was highly skilled, having at least 950 hours of experience, and it showed in his handling of our balloon. We floated over Deir el Bahri, the mortuary temple of Seti I, the Tombs of the Nobles, the hilltop ruins above those tombs, the Valley of the Kings and north from there to finally land on the Western Desert Road (Amer used the "Egyptian landing" and put us down exactly where he said he would). We could see the Ramesseum and Medinet Habu to the south but did not fly over them. The silence, apart from the occasional whooshing of the burners, was astonishing! Amer did a great job of explaining the terrain. And to view sunrise over the Nile from a balloon was truly breathtaking! With that said, I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Deir el Bahri

Ramesseum (middle) and Medinet Habu (upper right)

Thoth Mountain with balloon shadow
Western Desert Road
End of the line...
This was the maiden voyage for a neat little mini-video camera I had recently acquired. This explains why the three following videos may be a little less than Academy Award material! The first shows the ruins on the hilltop above the Tombs of the Nobles:

With these next two, I attempt to do a 360° tour. I'm not so sure how well I succeeded, but here they are:
And finally, here's a shot of Pilot Amer and me, followed by my official certificate:

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday, Marie! What a splendid way to celebrate


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