Another four am start. Another cold morning. Another walk through darkness and another outstanding experience. After years and years and y-e-a-rs of trying to get on board a hot air balloon, I finally managed to get airborne and float across the Pyrenees in September this year. Barely a month later, good luck struck again and the soles of my feet trusted a wicker basket once more to hold me in the sky.
I wrote about my first hot air balloon ride over here, with some of my favourite photos here.
So how did the two compare?
This time, the setting was the raw and rust, rock and dust of Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon in Jordan.
Instead of hay and fresh wet grass, earth like crazed cement lined the floor we waited on. The basket, too, was smaller. Much, much smaller.
In the Pyrenees, around twenty of us flew together, camera in one hand, glass of cava in the other. This time, we were down to five. Myself, three tiny waifs and a black-cloaked giant with an over-excitable way of taking photos. A characteristic, as it turned out, that made quite a difference to the overall journey.
Our laundry basket wobbled, the flame roared above our scalps and then, without warning, the earth was gone.
Take off had been as dreamy and unexpected as that first time in the Pyrenees. Thereafter, however, things were different.
The basket rocked each time the giant moved to take a photo. Scalps singed each time the balloon needed a top up of fire (alright, I’m exaggerating a little here. No actual damage was done.) All in all, the situation seemed a lot more precarious without the stability of a large balloon. Or, perhaps, the illusion from the glass of cava.
As for the landscape, Wadi Rum provides the kinds of views that make you feel lucky to be alive. Shadowy mountains rising from the earth. The palest blue light fading in from the horizon. A firecracker palette of emptiness, save for a few children herding goats. Even the administrative entrance to the park took on a different dimension from above, like a US satellite picture from an action thriller film.
And silence – save for the flame.
In the Pyrenees we travelled for miles, but here we barely moved. Our pilot poured water over the edge to assess the direction of the wind. The droplets fell straight down to earth.
The basket swerved as the giant took another photo and then the pilot shook his head.
“Not enough,” he said. “There’s not enough wind today. We will have to go back down.”
Disappointed, our balloon descended gently, while the sun rose through the sky.
Balloon Flights: Hot Air Balloon Rides in Wadi Majib – Royal Aero Sports Club of Jordan
Tel: +962 3205 8050
Disclosure: I visited Jordan as a guest of Visit Jordan. All words, pictures, video clips, ideas, ramblings, entertainment and whatever else you may find here are my own. As usual. But don’t just take my word for it, check out this post on hot air balloon rides over Wadi Rum by Keith Jenkins of Velvet Escape. Or, if that’s not enough, abseil down the side of Wadi Rum with Traveldudes. That was on my itinerary at one stage but the timing didn’t work out. Yes, that’s what it was, honest…