HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE OVER MARRAKECH
Flying high over Marrakech
By Alice Morrison.
I woke up with a jump as the alarm went off at 5.00 am for my pick up. My first ever hot air balloon ride with Ciel D’Afrique. I was excited but slightly nervous, my Mum’s message had been, “Have fun, but remember balloons can pop!”. Any qualms I had were calmed when I met our pilot, Hicham.
“It IS fun,” he said about his job, “but it is also a matter of responsibility. I am not only a pilot I am also the first Moroccan balloon flight instructor.”
Hot Air Balloon Launch
Our launch point was about a half hour’s drive from Marrakech, towards the little mountains, the Jibilat. We had stopped to pick up the guests including James and Ashley who were on their honeymoon and expecting their first baby. Seven of us clustered round and watched the miracle of the balloon unfold. It was like a scene from a modern Rembrandt as the glow of the propane lit up the faces of the men working and then the magic of the balloon billowing and filling above us with its bright red and green stripes.
We clambered in and it was time to go up. Hicham let loose the propane and we gently, gently started to rise. It was so gradual that I got a shock when I looked over the side and saw how high we were.
Magic in the air
Everything you imagine about a balloon flight is true. It is a magical experience, drifting over the surface of the earth in the cool of the morning air, silent except for the wooosh of the propane. We could see the lights of Marrakech burning bright in the distance and then slowly fading as the sun rose in a perfect yellow ball over the Jibilat.
Ciel D’Afrique had provided champagne and we toasted Ashley and James and their new life together. Extra magic.
The wind was light and we moved lazily towards the little mountains for sunrise, then changed direction and over flew some tiny farms. We could pick out every detail below in the sharp morning light; olive trees, a flock of sheep, a well with a water tower beside it, clusters of date palms and even a magpie scurrying along.
In the distance, the Ciel D’Afrique vehicles were following us, ready to pick us up wherever we landed. I thought the landing might be a bit of a bumpy, jolty affair but it was a lot smoother than most Easyjet flights. We came down next to a Oued, a dry river bed, near one of the farms we had seen from above.
Flying definitely creates an appetite, and we were very happy to see the Berber breakfast laid out in one of the tents at the landing ground. Local honey and olive oil with freshly-made crepes and Moroccan pancakes, teamed up with salty, black olives, eggs and mint tea. The perfect end to the perfect morning.
This article was by Moroccan-based Adventurer, Alice Morrison.