Morning came early today. The shuttle to the hot air balloon launch site was picking me up at 5:00 a.m. Also, I needed to check out as well by 5:00 in order to catch the train to Aswan leaving at 8:50. So was up at 4:00 a.m. this morning.
Was a long process getting the proper paperwork completed and transported to the marina where we took a short boat ride to the West Bank, then another shuttle to the launch site. I was very excited (and maybe a little anxious) to get in the balloon and up in the air.
As we arrived to the launch site, we could see other balloons getting ready for lift off. Really very interesting how the balloon launch process works and so very beautiful this early in the morning. I also got a picture of the sunrise.
We assembled in groups of 4 with 5 partitions in the balloon’s basket – 4 for each group of 4 and the 5th was for our pilot. We each climbed in the basket, and within minutes we were up in the air.
The sun started to rise in the sky about the same time we started our assent and we saw the shadow of our balloon on nearby hills. Two of the temples we saw this morning I visited the day before – an interesting perspective seeing these temples from above.
Difficult to describe the sensation of floating in a balloon. Perhaps a little like skydiving and paragliding where you could feel a little lift from the ground while in flight. And it was so quiet. Everyone on the flight were all smiles from start to finish.
I helped the ground crew and the pilot round up the passengers, busy taking selfies and wandering off. Was just like when I was working. (Herding the cats.) We went up to 650 meters and could see over into the Valley of the Kings and several miles of the Nile. So free and effortless.
The flight was timed about right. Just when I was thinking if probably was time to find our landing spot, the pilot announced that we were going to start our decent.
We were given instructions (pre-launch) on how to position ourselves during landing, but the pilot said we could remain standing as he guided the balloon to a very soft landing. As the balloon settled on the ground, the pilot received a round of applause from all passengers. It was a trip of a lifetime! Something I had been planning for several years.
As I returned to the hotel it was time to meet up with Hussein and leave for the train station. We weren’t sure if the 8:50 to Aswan was going to leave on time, but I didn’t want to take a chance and miss it. We got to the train station with minutes to spare though ended up waiting for an hour for the train to arrive from Cairo.
Once on the train, it turned out to be a slow (but a very comfortable) ride to Aswan. There had been a train accident the day before and it caused many delays between the Luxor and Aswan. It was okay, I was offered some food and coffee and enjoyed the view along the way. When I arrived at the station I was to meet Hussein’s cousin who had been engaged to drive me to the various sites for the next few days.
Our train was delayed getting into the Aswan station and was held up for almost 20 minutes – just a hundred feet or so from the platform. Before we started to move again, Mostafa (Hussein’s cousin) appeared at one of the open side doors of my car and welcomed me to Aswan.
He maneuvered my suitcase through the station and into his car then offered to stop and get some coffee. He said he was not very comfortable with his English and wanted his friend (who worked in the coffee shop) to help translate. As it turned out he English is fine and, with a little encouragement, we had a good, productive conversation and now there is no need for a translator.
I was interested in going to Abu Simbel while in the “neighborhood” and tried to get a plane ticket on-line but couldn’t find the right times that were available. As it turned out, the EgyptAir office was just across the street, so after we finished our coffee we went over to EgyptAir and Mostafa helped me select the right times. I’ll go down and back to Abu Simbel in about 4 hours tomorrow morning.
Below is the cover of the Life magazine that I read when I was about 10. It covers the story of moving these historical treasures before the Aswan High Dam reservoir (Lake Nasser) swallowed them update upon completion of the dam (1970).
Mostafa then drove me to the marina where I would find the boat launch to the hotel, which is located on an island (Elphantine Island) in the middle of the Nile. It is a very large resort and the views of the city are very nice. Not sure what I’m looking at, but enjoy what I see nonetheless.
Below – view from the boat ride to the hotel.
View from my room (below).
Not quite hungry yet (almost 9:00 p.m.), but after I finish this update I’ll go down and get something to eat. I’ll be up early again tomorrow to meet Mostafa for a ride to the airport. Tomorrow will be another busy day, but I’m loving it.