4am is way too early for me but this is the time you need to get up if you want to see the sun rising out of a hot-air balloon. We’ve made a pretty good deal by paying only 375 Egyptian Pound (62 USD) per person which is the cheapest hot-air balloon ride I’ve ever seen. The four of us who did the ride were picked up at 4:30am. Since there is no bridge connecting the eastern and western bank of the river Nile right in the center of Luxor, we had to take a boat to cross the river. The only other alternative would have been to drive 12 kilometers down the river, cross it on a bridge outside the city and return 12 kilometers on the other side. I’m wondering why they do not build a bridge in the city. Probably they fear that it will have a negative impact on the nearby historic sites or the boat owners fear to lose their business.
At the takeoff point we watched the inflation of several hot-air balloons by a massive fire. As in any other aircraft the pilot explained the safety procedures to us which mainly consisted of the request to not loosen any parts of the balloon and a description how to move your body into the “landing position”. For this position you basically bend down in the basket with your back facing the direction of travel so that you don’t fall on your face.
The basket of our balloon fitted twenty people separated into four compartments. The pilot was standing right in the middle controlling the flow of fire into the balloon. We travelled approx. 100 to 150 meters above the ground watching the sun rise over Luxor and the river Nile. The descent was a bit bumpy. I don’t know what exactly happened but the pilot was not landing at the expected point but in the middle of a sugar cane field. The farmer of the field was obviously surprised such as an UFO landing in the middle of your city. After a while some more locals arrived, pulled their mobile phones out and took pictures of us. We waited approx. one hour until enough locals had arrived to move the basket out of the field to the next dirt road.
In the afternoon we went to visit Karnak temple one of the largest ancient religious sites in the world. Our guide was very much detailed oriented and explained every piece of the temple to us. Interesting to know is that some of the stone engravings were intended to be in 3-D format by repeating the outside shape of the figure several times.
In the evening some of us went by minibus to the downtown area to have dinner at a small restaurant. The chicken and freshly pressed lemon juice was very delicious. During dinner I was betting with Daniel, one of the drivers, that the truck will experience a break down until Nairobi. In case this happens and Daniel is not able to fix the problem within five minutes he’ll need to run three times naked around the truck in the middle of Nairobi allowing me to videotape the show and publish it on the internet. In case of no breakdown over five minutes I’ll pay Daniel 50 USD. Actually, I have experienced a breakdown on any of my previous overland journeys so I’m confident that the truck will experience some kind of breakdown during the next two months.
After dinner I wanted to go to a nightclub but everybody else was tired. One of our guidebooks recommended the visit of an Egyptian nightclub were belly dancing is performed from 12am to 5am. However, Tony the receptionist at our camp was not recommending a visit since according to him those places are somewhat dodgy. In Arabic countries it’s also not advisable that women go on their own…