Friday, April 2, 2010

Egypt 24: Up, up and away

So, we were headed out of town in our van early in the morning on our way to Abydos when I spotted some hot air balloons across the river.   I casually pointed them out to the rest of the group because I thought they would enjoy seeing how serenely the balloons and their passengers were floating over the Nile valley.  To my surprise, Mike got all excited and demanded that Mohammed, our local tour guide for Luxor, find out how much it would cost for us to go for a ride.

 After many phone calls, Muhammad reported that our cost per person would only be 125 US dollars--and, we could do it the next morning but we would have to get up early.  "How can we not do it?" Mike asked.  Of course, we were all in, so early the next morning before sunrise, we found ourselves out in the middle of a field on the west bank of the Nile watching our balloon being inflated.

Soon enough we were loaded aboard and rising gently away from the ground.  Our pilot had four separate burners available to him, all of them were lit as we lifted off.

Then the sun came up.  I never thought I'd be able to capture a sunrise over the Nile quite like this.

We were lucky to be the first ones off the ground that morning.  Each balloon holds 20 people.  Some in our group had worried about hanging in the basket with nothing between us and the ground.  Others worried about becoming airsick.  There were no problems on either count.  I was the tallest by a lot and I felt perfectly safe the entire time.  Unlike an airplane, the balloon is quiet except for the occasional burst from the burners as the pilot adjusts our altitude.

Up here, there were no arguments about how to interpret the symbolism of what lay before us.  I was amazed, though, at just how large the area of excavation is.  This is just one small hillside of many.  These hills certainly have stories to tell us.

Here's our pilot, I never did catch his name.  He was very good.  His arm is resting on our propane tanks used for fuel.

We floated over fields and villages.  Notice all the unfinished houses.  That became a standing joke for us.  Muhammad just shrugged.  "That's what we do here," he'd say.

Here's a wider view.  (I cannot tell a lie, I loved my lens up there.  Wide angle to telephoto with the twist of a wrist.  No need to fumble with multiple lenses.  Sorry for the digression, I get carried away sometimes.)

Notice how clear the line is between fields and desert.  That desert extends over 3,000 miles west to the Atlantic ocean.  There is lots of haze in the air, even early in the morning.  All that dust from all that sand.

Here's our group.  Melony grabbed the camera away from me and took this photo.  It's probably the only one with me in it taken on that trip with my own camera.  Sheahan on the left, Mike in the back, John, Markus, with me in the front.

We are up about a thousand feet, here.  Looking west as the sun comes up.  The valley of the Kings is to our right behind these hills.

Then our pilot took us low over the fields.  I loved floating just above the corn.  If you ever get to Egypt, and you end up in Luxor, I strongly encourage you to put a ride like this on your agenda.  It gives one such a wonderful overview of the area that is available no other way.

Next time:  What goes up, must come down.

Continue on to Post 25: What goes up must come down by clicking here.


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