Waking up anywhere cold is hard. When you wake up and see your breath as steam, it is usually not a good sign. It was that kind of morning my girlfriend and I woke up to on December 30th in Jordan. We were on our last full day in Jordan for our winter break and would be heading off to Beirut for New Year’s celebrations. Despite the frigid temperatures, we had high hopes for the day.
Now, adding to this morning chill, was the fact that it was 5:40am. We made our way downstairs in the small guest house we were staying in. The thoughtful staff had laid out a breakfast of falafel, eggs, pita and Nescafe. We ate and went outside to wait for a driver to pick us up. He arrived late. Very late.
We were headed to Wadi Rum to float over the famed desert landscape in a hot air balloon. To get us there on time, our driver drove at breakneck speeds down the King’s Highway. In Jordan, most service cars have an alarm that rings if the driver goes over 120km/h. We went from speeding to squealing as we went over the numerous speed bumps. Our driver looked at me and with a grin said “You see these bumps? In Jordan, we call them sleeping policemen.” So for the better part of an hour we listened to the chime of the speeding alarm and squealed over sleeping policemen.
We finally arrived in Wadi Rum (and on time) and joined a couple from Austria while we waited for our balloon to be inflated. The crew busied themselves with preparations and began to inflate the balloon. Huge flames roared while fans blew in the hot air and soon it began to rise.
Once the balloon was hovering above the basket, we climbed in. Within seconds we were off, soaring into the morning sky. As we lifted off above the ground, the great jutting mountains of Wadi Rum grew smaller and smaller. We looked in every direction, stunned by the beauty of sunrise over the Martian landscape. Between photos, I held my hands to the flames to keep them warm. Unfortunately, it was not to be for my feet, they were frozen blocks inside my shoes at 9,000 feet.
After an hour and a half in the sky, we began our descent. The crew who’d helped prepare the balloon were trailing below us in a truck, towing a trailer. Our captain landed the hot air balloon right on top of the trailer, we jumped out and the trip was over.