While on honeymoon in Egypt in April 2011 we were booked to go on a dawn hot air balloon trip over The Valley of the Kings, Luxor and Karnak temples just across the Nile from Luxor. Looking at the news footage, it looks like the same airfield of the terrible accident today.
We got up before dawn and sleepily climbed onto our coach for a short trip to the river bank and then a trip across the Nile. As we neared the launch field, we could see balloons already rising into the air a heard of us, and our excitement and trepidation rose.
None of us had ever been on a balloon flight before and we were all quite nervous and excited. When we reached the airfield we were met with a scene of some confusion, and we spent some time standing around wondering what we were supposed to be doing. I took the opportunity to take some photos of the balloons being prepared for flight.
The noise of the balloons being inflated kept making us jump, and added to our fear and excitement, however as all of this was happening there were also heated arguments getting louder and louder between the air traffic controllers, pilots and tour operators, all in Arabic, so completely unintelligible to us.
Our tour operator was trying to find out what was going on for us, it seemed that the air traffic controllers were worried about the visibility as it was getting quite foggy, and naturally the pilots and tour operators were concerned as were the flights cancelled they would have to refund the £200 per person cost of the flight. Eventually we were ushered into a balloon basket, so we thought we should soon be off!
I was surprised how many people fit into a balloon basket, I counted at least 20. The noise of the balloon inflating was even more scary from inside the balloon, and it was at this point that I started wondering how I would cope with my fear of fire and my fear of heights? There was a lady in our basket who was in tears with fear… I wondered would I be like that once in the air? Our basket started to lift off the ground, and the ground staff struggled with the ropes to prevent us from flying off. Then all of a sudden, our pilot disembarked and walked back to the air traffic control hut.
He returned in a few minutes and gave us the news that our flight had been cancelled due to deteriorating visibility.
We were very disappointed, but at the same time, it would have been a real pity to have paid all that money and not to have been able to see anything.
We returned to Luxor quite dejected, but £400 wealthier, and we got to visit two more temples instead, which were amazing, and some of our group went on donkey rides. Peter had had enough of riding uncontrollable animals already with the Camel rides, and really thought the donkeys would be a bit small for him. Instead we treated ourselves to a carriage ride to the temple of Karnak. I have lots of photos from there too but I will post them another time.
We were shocked to see the news of the terrible accident in Luxor, probably from the same airfield of our aborted flight. We had always hoped to take a replacement trip at some point, but maybe we will take a trip closer to home, the problem being that the weather here in the UK is even more unpredictable.
As for balloon safety, there must always be a level of risk associated with taking a trip in a basket, fuelled by gas canisters. I guess that’s why we were so afraid before our flight, but even though we were scared, we would never have believed that something so terrible could happen as the tragic disaster that happened in Luxor today. Our hearts go out to the families of those who lost their lives, and the other tourists and tour operators who witnessed this terrible accident. Our trip to Egypt was wonderful, and these people have had their holiday and families torn apart. It makes accidents like this so much more close to home when you have visited the place where they have happened. I wanted to share my shock, and condolences with all those affected