By Kevin Pohlmann
|View from Above|
But would you ever consider riding in a hot air balloon and soaring majestically over some of these ‘must see’ places?
Being a tour director I get the opportunity to visit many amazing attractions but soaring over the West Bank of Upper Egypt as well as the Nile River just as the sun rises brilliantly in the east is a moment in time I won’t soon forget.
On one recent trip to Egypt I was able to accompany a number of my guests on a hot air balloon ride. We had planned to go on this trip the day before but due to wind conditions it was cancelled at the last minute as it could not be guaranteed where exactly we would land (not a good thing you would agree especially with another 20 or so of the tour waiting for us at a designated meeting spot). We were game to try again though the next day for one last chance.
The next day the winds were working in our favour (or was it the Pharoh’s) and at about 04:30 we left our hotel (the lovely Winter Palace once belonging to King Faruk) and we crossed the Corniche (exotic word for road adjacent to the Nile) to the awaiting boats.
With great stealth (it was of course, pitch black) and with the help of neon type flashlights held aloft from invisible hands we stepped into our small boats and started to cross the Nile to the West Bank. It was like we were an armed armada of marines planning a dawn attack on the enemy. In reality we were just a bunch of very civilized tourists about to be offered morning tea and biscuits and so these grandiose thoughts were soon washed away.
We made if safely to the other side and were transported in a few minutes to the waiting hot air balloon. There were about six people total ready for departure.
The baskets actually held about 18 people and after a few ungracious moments our group (male and female, big and small) were hoisted aboard. We had a brief yet informative talk about lift off and landing and before I knew it our young Egyptian captain slowly got the gas flowing and we were aloft with not so much as a bump or grind…
The talk about the landing made me ever so slightly nervous as it seemed the odds were still not in our favour and we would in fact not land where we were supposed to. But we were up in the air and there was no going back. How late would we be for the rest of the waiting group I wondered aloud as I saw the gasps of excitement from everyone aboard. Oh well…
The way this young fellow handled this huge balloon was simply amazing…Just as we started to sink and see the ground coming at us, at what seemed to be a fairly quick pace, he would increase the gas ever so slightly and we would rise graciously again over the ruins and temples of the just awakening countryside below.
I must also mention that rural homes in this mostly poor and agricultural part of the country are built without a roof and have some sort of open inner sanctuary, so we were literally able to see life stirring as we flew by.
Then unexpectedly our captain asked one lady in our group, “Would you like to kiss a palm tree”?
Her answer was ‘uh okay’ and I am not even sure if his question registered. So in response to this challenge, he then proceeded to descend to within touching distance of the lush earth below and then with great stealth he maneuvered the craft with great precision and we slowly rose right through the welcoming leaves of an adjacent date palm. It was so silent and unexpected and before we knew it the rustle of leaves had brushed right past us with just the softest of caress to our skin and basket.
The rest of the trip was just as lovely and rewarding for all onboard. Landing was smooth and effortless although, as expected, we did manage to land somewhat ungraciously in a farmer’s sugarcane field with the only spectator an uninterested mule.
Have you ever kissed a palm tree? I have.