Balloon flights: Hot & Cold

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 wadi rum

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…

What do you think about hot air balloons? Love them? Hate them? Want to try one?

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19 Responses to Balloon flights: Hot & Cold

  1. dtravelsround December 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    It sounds like quite the experience. I don’t know which I would prefer, floating for miles or going up, being hot, and coming back down.

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

      Floating for miles! You see so much more…But I’m certainly not complaining about the views we had here. Simply stunning.

  2. Erica December 17, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    That is quite the stark landscape. I love desert. I have a special understanding since I was brought up in the harsh beauty of it. :)

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

      Ooh, where was that? I grew up in between the sea and the hills so am used to everything looking blue-green ;)

  3. Federico December 17, 2011 at 6:22 am #

    Still have to hop on my first….hopefully it will happen this year!

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

      I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. It’s an incredible experience…

  4. Pete December 17, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    The landscape in that last photo looks like something you would see on Mars. Amazing!! I too have yet to experience a balloon trip, and am hoping in the near future to cross it off my list.

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

      It’s the best way I’ve found so far to see the landscape from above…There’s no window or screen between you and the world…And you’re moving slowly enough to really appreciate it. I’ve not been in a helicopter yet, so I can’t compare it with that…Perhaps I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a trip like that in 2012 :) Hope you get airborne soon!

  5. ayngelina December 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out but two hot balloon experiences? I have yet to have one :)

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      Hmm…Perhaps I overemphasised the disappointment part! Both experiences were still the type to make me feel truly alive and overcome with joy and gratitude…(Hope that sentence doesn’t make you feel sick, but it’s true ;) )

  6. Margo December 18, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    The silence is a remarkable aspect. So is the feeling of being in a laundry basket :)

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

      Never looked at laundry baskets the same way since ;)

  7. Stephanie - The Travel Chica December 18, 2011 at 7:39 pm #

    I have never been up in one. It scares me a bit.

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

      It is slightly scary, yes. But I’d still recommend it. It’s the kind of fear you get when leaning over a railing on a really tall building, rather than the adrenaline rush of a downhill slalom or skydive. Not sure I’m helping here…Of the 25 or so people with me on both trips combined, only one person didn’t enjoy it. Everyone else loved it – including me :)

    • Gabriella June 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

      i think this one is my favorite!!!this is the first time i’ve seen a knettid hot air balloon! (unless i just haven’t look hard enough, which is a possability but still this is awesome!!!)=)

  8. Darlene Foster December 23, 2011 at 4:51 am #

    How amazing would this be! I had my first balloon ride a year ago and loved it but to fly over the dessert would be so awesome. Thanks for sharing these great pictures.

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

      Yep, the scenery is just incredible. From the ground, from the air. I loved almost every single second.

  9. Nomadic Samuel December 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    I’d love to try doing this – great views!

    • Abi December 31, 2011 at 1:25 pm #


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