Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Up, Up and Away...

...in my beautiful, my beautiful ballooooooon. I just couldn't get this song out of my head on Friday morning as I was sailing across the desert in a hot air balloon. The adventure began on Monday while I was cleaning out our desk drawer and I came across a gift certificate for a free hot air balloon ride. Where did this come from? I wondered. A quick dash into my memory bank reminded me that Matt had bid on this prize at a silent auction almost a year ago! I quickly checked the expiration date - we had four days left! We placed the call immediately and booked a slot for the upcoming weekend. Great! Then came the bad news: we needed to be there at 5:15am!

There are a few good reasons to be up at 4:30am, so far I've catalogued 1) catching the sunrise over Masada 2) going on a morning game in the Masai Mara 3) or of course, having stayed up until 4:30 from your bachelorette party and having breakfast at a 24 hour diner in NYC...I was hoping that I could add hot air ballooning to the list!

With our early start, we then headed an hour out into the dessert of Al Ain, about 100km from Dubai. When we arrived it was just us, the goats, the camels and few Bedouin villages. I can't say that I was that nervous, but for the record I hadn't floated above the earth at 2,000 feet in a basket before, so I was cautious. Then our excitable pilot came over to introduce himself, "I am Hungarian, and my name is Attila...just like the Hun." Oh boy, now I was nervous.

Once they puffed up the balloon with hot air Attila warned us that we would have to get in quickly because we would need to weigh the balloon down before it floated away with him in it. When he gave the order "go, go, go!" it was a little crazy. Everyone started running towards the basket and flipping themselves in, all while stepping on everyone’s fingers and toes. I may have thrown a few elbows, but hey I wanted a good 'seat'!

Then we were soaring. It was awesome. All the while Attila reminded us that we were never actually flying taller that the newly opened Burj Dub...errr, Khalifa. We saw a glorious Arabian sunrise over the desert (definitely made the cut for reasons to wake up) and got an amazing bird's eye view of the serene dunes.

One expected twist: the landing. Just a word of caution, make sure that you are really comfortable with the person behind you. What we didn't know is that a hot air balloon basket needs to land on its side so that the balloon doesn't collapse on top of you, which means that you have to stand in rows of twos in the compartments and when you finally hit the ground and tip over you are flat out lying on top of another person. I wonder how many relationships begin this way? So she was lying on top of me at the end of a balloon ride...

1 comment:

udjim said...

Beautiful - Definitely add this to that short list of things worth getting up early for.