I rode a hot air balloon today, and we made an emergency landing in a cornfield. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life (although, riding Superman Tower of Power was scarier, to be honest).
Eight of us left for the balloon field at 4:30 this morning to watch as the balloons were blown up. We got into the baskets, feeling the heat as they heated the air in the balloon. Taking off was really smooth, and soon we were sailing over the earth. It was beautiful, absolutely stunning. We flew over the desert, seeing the Valley of the Kings, and then we went East towards the Nile. We flew up to 1500 feet, giving us panoramic views of the entire region. The basket was deep enough that it came up to my chest, making me feel quite secure. Once we were in the air, the earth began to look like it does when looking out the window of a plane. There is no fear of heights for me then, because it looks more like a 3-D topographical map than anything. However, I honestly preferred when we were flying lower to the ground. When flying low, I felt like we were seeing the world from the view of a documentary camera. I could take everything in as an observer and really understand how the land is used.
My favorite part was seeing the farmland in between the Nile and the desert. The crops grow in little strips, showing the different crops and plots that farmers have. It makes a patchwork of all shades of green. It’s absolutely amazing how fertile the land is there by the Nile, with people farming and living in greenery. We could see a distinct line between the green, irrigated area and the desert. Seeing how people live below was fascinating. They have a very traditional lifestyle, growing crops in small plots and keeping animals in the yard of their home. Many of the houses there do not have roofs, or, if they do, the roofs are thatched and have holes. We dipped low enough to skim over the tops of the trees and, we could count the chickens running around in the yard. We could see down into their homes, watching women cooking and kids running around. It was the early morning, so men were taking their goats out to graze, beginning their morning by collecting alfalfa in the field.
As we passed low over the top of a field of corn stalks (it was so funny when the Greek guy asked the pilot what the plants were, because Sherin and I couldn’t imagine someone not recognizing corn!), and the pilot turned the balloon around for the first time. We found this a bit odd, because we had been steadily working our way South. Then, we got very, very low to the ground, and the pilot was telling us to assume landing position (something he’d shown us before takeoff). We grabbed the handles, bent our knees, and tucked ourselves down into the basket. He landed us in the field of dirt next to the cornfield. At first, we thought that we’d be able to get back up in the air, but it wasn’t going to work out. We were near the end of our 45-minute time slot anyways, so we just sat in the basket until the two passenger vans showed up in the field to pick us up. As we sat there, local kids from nearby fields swarmed around the basket, staring at us and the balloon with round eyes.
We got out of the basket and went home safe and sound. A couple of hours later, we went out to see Luxor and Karnak Temples. They were much larger than I expected! This took the early part of the afternoon, and we spent the rest of the day around Luxor, playing a game in the hotel and going for juice at a local restaurant.
I’m now on a sleeper train for ten hours, traveling back home to Cairo! It’s funny that I’ve already started to miss the city.