By Polly Crossman, of 101 Holidays.
A 5am wake-up call is unreasonable at the best of times – not least on holiday – but by the time a perfectly round, orange peel coloured sun popped up over the Atlas Mountains as I rumbled through the Marrakechi desert, sleep couldn’t have been farther from my mind. Waiting patiently for our red and green balloon to fill with hot air, I soon realised how “in the middle of nowhere” we really were. It had taken a number of attempts and a lot of radio-to-radio babbling for our driver to locate our take-off point, carefully selected in this rocky expanse of nothingness according to the morning’s wind direction.
After eventually clambering inelegantly into the huge wicker basket, a roar of the engine and a blast of heat (threatening to singe the hairs on the back of my neck) signalled the start of a bumpy take-off. Clashing along the ground, I grabbed for the edge of the basket with a slight panic, but almost without realising we were flying, rapidly distancing ourselves from the ground. Within minutes we were soaring at 1,000 ft, safe in the hands of our pilot, Maurice, who has 30 years experience of ballooning.
We cruised for an hour through the early morning light, watching the sun cast its warmth over the mountains as Maurice charmed us with his story and thick French accent: he’d dreamt of flying since the age of three, and has made it his life here. Above the clouds and with 360° panoramas of the desert and mountains, the only other sounds came from birds chirping and a distant cockerel welcoming another Moroccan day. A couple of children, herding their precious sheep waved madly as we passed over them, their excitement adding to the scene.
Though we interrupted the serenity of the experience by squealing madly as we crashed back to earth and our basket tipped over on its side – a landing that soon gave way to a lengthy fit of giggles – this has to be the most peaceful way to catch a slice of the real Morocco.
Balloon flights can be organised in Marrakech through our tailor-made program. Get in touch with us here to find out more.