4am Wednesday 28th November
Trip Start Nov 19, 2007
18Trip End Dec 03, 2007
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The minibus from Karnak travel picked us up from the hotel lobby, took us to the Corniche, where we boarded a small motor boat, which took us to the West Bank, having a spot more coffee on the way there.
Ismael, who was our pilot for the trip, gave a safety lecture on the way over, he has an excellent sense of humour, which is surprising for someone who rises at 3am on a daily basis, amid the humour of his briefing he exuded confidence and professionalism, so everyone was feeling fairly relaxed. On arrival at the West bank, there were more mini buses waiting for us, after a few minutes ride we got off the buses and walked to the take off area, we were not the first arrivals, already some balloons were fully inflated, others had already taken to the skies, just being there in the pre dawn light gives you a sense of anticipation of what is to follow, as your moment of adventure will soon be upon you
Making our way to the balloon, at first it is amazing to see how immense they really are, this is followed by another safety briefing when we are all in the basket, there were another 10 people in with us, plus Ismael.
Ismael immediately takes control, turns up the gas, before you know or realize it, your contact with mother earth is broken and you are floating inches above the firmament, slowly ascending, (difficult to estimate) maybe a couple of hundred feet, we slowly but surely head off downwind, Ismael loses altitude, to bring you down and you brush the tops of the sugarcane, growing on the fields. Taking us back up, we get a fine view of the Ramesseum and Hathepshuts temples, upwards over Gurna, peeking into the Valley of the Nobles making altitude all the time so we can get a good look into the Valley of the Kings, Ismael spins the balloon around so everyone can get a good look at all the sights, the two Memnons, Medinet Habu, Dier el Medina and the workers village is clearly visible, it's time now to pass over the Western hills and wend our way over the barren desert, losing altitude in preparation for our landing.
Seeing the sunrise from the balloon was a splendid sight, gliding silently over the ancient places is something to be savoured for a long time, Ismael, professional till the end, brought us into land on a whisper, the handlers on the ground, grasped the basket, it was over
For those of you with a faint heart, take the plunge, you get no impression of height, you soon forget where you are, if you are fortunate to have Ismael as your pilot, you will have a truly great and memorable day
I should mention, that although we booked through Karnak Travel, the balloon company was Sinbad, a very professional and competent organization.
I also realize, no flight can be guaranteed as perfect, not when it is down to the vagaries of the wind and weather, our flight may not have been the longest, (about 45 minutes), but I am pretty sure it was the highest, the quality was without a doubt beyond reproach.
Would I do it again? without a doubt, twice a day if I could afford it.