I first heard about the Egypt balloon crash after my Mum text me: "Look at the news, how scary is that!" The crash was scary to read about. Just three weeks ago I was in Egypt, and I was the one up in those balloons.
I have a fear of heights, but, for some reason, I like to test that fear at every possible opportunity. There was a small group of us on the trip and nobody else seemed bothered at the prospect of floating hundreds of feet into the sky. Besides, I figured I would get pretty spectacular pictures.
The wake up call was at 4.30am. Outside was pitch black and we'd have to get a move on if we wanted to get to the take off site by six.
Our tour guide wasn't coming, we just had to go downstairs and a rep was waiting to take us. Our hotel was on the wrong side of the river in Luxor, so we took a five minute bus to the boats.
Our boat was full of other tourists all filling out health and safety forms. We had to put our weight, age, our hotel and signature. Maybe other things too, I don't remember. A man had a video camera on his shoulder and every so often would point it at your face.
There was even complimentary tea, coffee and twinkies (I have no idea why).
Once on the other side of the Nile we got back into our bus straight to the take off area. I'm not sure what I expected, but these balloons did not look like the kind you see in cartoons. For a start the baskets were rectangular and sectioned. I have lived my whole life thinking they were square. How could I not have known?
The balloon guys were busy filling them up, when my group and a bunch of Chinese tourists were directed where to go. I don't think they even looked at the weight sheets. Probably a good thing too, I bet everyone lies on those things. I know I did.
There were three to a section; we were right beside the gas canisters and the pilot. It was slightly terrifying because when the fire blows out it sends a draft of heat towards you, making a loud shushing sound. It feels like you've gone temporarily deaf.
From my experience they took our safety very seriously. We got a run down of what was going to happen, and had to practise landing position. Apparently the landing position is very important.
We were still on the ground, and I still felt nervous, even as I watched the first balloon start to float away. One of the girls who was on my trip tried to make me feel better. She said a sentence that has now become slightly infamous among our group: "When have you ever heard of a hot air balloon crash". Now. It happened now.
We were sixth or seventh to take off. You don't even realise until you look down. You just literally float away. It was almost peaceful. I think we were up there for about an hour; the pilot varied our height so we got a good angle as the sun came up.
Just like anyone with a fear of heights I felt slightly nauseous looking over the edge. Watching the amateur footage of the explosion and subsequent crash, however, made me feel physically sick. I have a tendency to think the worst is always going to happen, but for those people it actually did.
My own flight was uneventful, we had an incredible view of the area and now I have photographs that I love, which makes me feel almost guilty. The landing was incredible fun. You crouch down, facing away from the ground and hold onto the handles. You hit the ground and slide a few times before the basket actually lands.
I now have a certificate with my name on it, putting my achievement on paper. I didn't buy the DVD though. I really don't need a physical reminder of what my face looks like at 5am.
I've heard that safety standards have fallen since the revolution, which is unfortunate because Luxor seemed to have a good track record up until now and I didn't notice. I know about five years ago several crashes resulted in several injuries but as far as I'm aware nothing as serious as this.
I'm sad for that man whose wife died when he survived, I'm sad for all the families who lost people, but I'm also sad for the men who will undoubtedly have lost their jobs due to the freak accident, and the fact that this incident can only have crippled the already broken tourist industry in Egypt.Suggest a correction