It’s early morning but that’s not why my normally exuberant group of fellow travellers is so quiet. As the hot air balloon fills at Wadi Rum our nervous anticipation expands as well. All eleven of us (including our Jordanian tour guide) are hot air balloon virgins. We don’t know what to expect. But I suspect I’m going to grit my teeth and will be thankful when it’s over.
On its side, on the ground, the balloon is so huge a game of football could be played within its silky walls. The pilot uses a fan to blow a flaming blast of heated air into the stadium-like balloon. The balloon has to be big because the wicker basket can hold around 16 passengers, and if it is 20 Celsius outside, a cubic foot of hot air that is 100 Celsius can lift only about 7 grams of weight. I stop doing the math because it is making me even more nervous, plus I’m terrible at math.
As we ascend higher and higher over the red desert, I’m surprised that my fear evaporates and is replaced by calm. I’m instantly addicted to this new sensation. The group whispers “wows” and “ahhhs,” like a crowd at a fireworks show, as we lean out of the basket on all sides. I don’t want this ride to end.
Hot Tip: If you’re going to Wadi Rum as part of your Jordan holidays and you want a hot air balloon excursion, make sure you book in advance with a Jordan travel agent, or Jordan tour operator. There’s only one big balloon in all of Jordan.
post and photos by Kirsten Koza, author, adventurer, journalist