The balloon ride we’d booked on was the lure to drag ourselves out of bed at this ungodly hour, nearly two hours before sunrise.
After coffee in the ship’s bar and a ferry ride in the dark across the Nile to the West Bank of Luxor (quick Egyptology lesson for you: east bank, sunrise, life, temples. West back, sun sets, death, tombs) we got to the balloon launching site, right beside the Ramesseum, one of the main sites in Luxor, which we’d managed to miss completely in our three days in the area.
So instead of standing around watching around 20 ground crew get seven balloons up and running, we nicked off to photograph the Ramses II vanities – the pharoah in a god-like formation, once around 18m high, now the four are headless as time and earthquakes have taken their toll.
We finally got into the last balloon of the morning, a struggle as the wind changed constantly, but ended up taking us across the Nile, a rarity that delighted our pilot. Before us were perhaps a dozen balloons that drifted serenely across the straight-lined canals that run alongside the Nile, skimming mosques’ minarets, past a school that we played havoc with, as every child and their teachers hung out the window in a frenzy of ‘hellos’ to land gently in a field of sugar cane.
The owner of the fields came to greet us on this rare occasion, and welcomed us to his land, even though we had squished some of his young plants. Small boys mobbed us with demands of ‘money’ and ‘baksheesh’ but the consensus was that it would be the pitifully paid ground crew, not the jammy kids, who would get any spare change.
The afternoon saw us back on the Antares, snoozing and lolling on the sun deck.
Brigid delights in the old-fashioned sailor suits, though she laments the straight-leg trousers they wear. “Where are the bell-bottoms?” she wails, debating how they could possibly scrub decks in skinny leg jeans, and during dinner last night, we passed through Esna Lock, the key control on the Nile.