06.10.2010 - 06.10.2010 35 °C
On our last day in Egypt, we rose again at 03:30, and were taken to boats for crossing of the Nile to the Westbank. Even though it was only a short trip, we were kindly offered tea on board.
With mounting anticipation we arrived at the launch site, to see about 10 enormous balloons laid out on the ground, and starting to inflate. The carnival colours in the pre-dawn dark, the bright flames, and hissing gasses was quite a surreal experience - and we hadn't even boarded our ballon yet. This candy-striped one was ours, and the bright colours glowing in the dark were a thrilling sight!
The ground crew helped each of us into the basket, which held 16 plus the pilot.
We were reassured that the pilot was fully qualified and experienced. He gave us brief instruction on how to brace for landing, before we lifted gently into the cool morning air.
Interestingly, we experienced no fear or discomfort, looking over the edge of the basket, so we could relax and enjoy the scenery stretching out before us. It was silent up there, except when the pilot fired up the burner periodically to gain some height, which made one heck of a racket and was head-scorchingly hot to boot! We could clearly hear donkeys braying and roosters crowing as the sky lightened with dawn. It was entrancing! While we drank it all in, the pilot gave us fascinating insights into Egyptian life, and interesting facts about the temples we were sailing over.
Our pilot then homed in on a village, and we sailed low over it. It made us feel like peeping-toms as we could see how the local people really live, but they cheerily waved to us from their cool and airy beds on the rooftops. Many houses seemed to lack roofs altogether!
All of a sudden it was over; we received the command to brace, and without any further warning, landed with several hard jolts on a narrow road. The ground crew was there to meet us, and quickly packed up the deflated balloon. Tips all round! We were each presented with a personalised Certificate of Flight!
This ride, and the Nile trip, was our 30th wedding anniversary to ourselves, and we loved every minute of it. The balloon ride was definitely the cherry on the top! The hour spent in the dawn sky was worth every penny of the 75 pounds [sterling] we each paid. In fact it was so awesome, we hardly spoke for a while afterwards, just savouring the incredible experience of floating in the sky like a flamboyant bird of paradise.
All that remained was for us to pack up, dish out the week's tips to the staff on board, and fly back to Manchester. We picked up the van late that night from the long-stay carpark, and set off back "home" to Livingston aka Hotel Bernie and Estrelita. At about 02:30 we stopped for fuel. To our shock, David's debit card was rejected, and so was his credit card! We now had a full tank of diesel, no cash, and an unsympathetic garage attendant! Rather stressful, but the situation was resolved by waking Bernie, who once again came to the rescue, by giving us her debit card details, with which to complete the transaction. Phew!