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Hot Air Balloon ride over Mexico's Pyramids

Surprise!
We began our trip to Mexico with three nights in Mexico City. Just 25 miles from this fascinating, vibrant metropolis lie the magnificent remains of Teotihuacan. Here, an influential civilisation preceded the better-known Mayans and Aztecs, establishing structured government, religious order and a thriving city of 150,000 in 300 BC.

Seeing it was a must-do so we set off early with our guide to miss the crowds and the rush hour traffic. Actually, we set off very early and we were soon parked by a large, empty field in the dark, with me asking what we were doing this and why couldn’t we have had another hour in bed. Ah, my partner said with a straight face, we weren’t far from the ruins and this was a great place to see the sunrise. Our guide just leaned on the fence and said nothing.

After a while four pickup trucks emerged from the large hangers on the side of the field and raced around like a demolition derby, before parking apart and unloading what in the half-light looked like large boxes. These were followed by huge coloured bags which the crews spread out on the ground. It was not until they fired up the gas burners and began to inflate the bags with hot air that I realised what was happening. The boxes were baskets and the huge bags were hot air balloons!
Hot Air & Champagne
The flames and the slowly rising beautifully coloured balloons were a fantastic and dramatic sight against the dawn sky. My partner was grinning. You know the surprises I mentioned, she said. Well, are you ready for the first one – now?! She had booked us a hot air balloon trip, something which neither of us had ever done, and I was totally taken aback and really delighted. Watching the balloons come upright with the burners roaring was an amazing experience. They were tied down and we were joined by our pilot, who took us inside for a briefing on do’s and dont’s, such as do what he says at all times and above all do not try to climb out of the basket while flying…
View from Above
Our basket was about four feet square with just enough room for three of us and two very large gas cylinders. With a blast from the burner we lifted gently, the breeze caught us and we were away. Then came the second stage of my surprise. Our pilot produced a bottle of champagne! He couldn’t drink and fly so, although it was only 8.30 am, we were forced to finish the bottle between us as we rose to 9500 feet and flew over the ruins that we had come to see. The sun was up and the views were extraordinary. Some breakfast! When you do this, and you really must, try to fly over something interesting. Teotihuacan includes the gigantic Pyramid of the Sun and at the other end of the mile-long Avenue of the Dead, the Pyramid of the Moon. The wind was in the right direction to see them all before, after a 10-mile flight, we descended slowly to land precisely in a field of wild sunflowers.
The Descent
I had always wondered how these balloons and passengers got back home and now we found out. The pilot phoned his crew and twenty minutes later they arrived in the truck on a side road 200 yards away. We got out and watched as he raised the basket just high enough off the ground for the crew pull it across the field to the truck, where they allowed the balloon to deflate. It was detached from the basket and, unbelievably, folded and packed into a much-too-small-looking bag. The basket and bag were manhandled into the truck and we all squeezed in for the short trip back.

The whole operation was amazing. As was the flight. It was serene, quiet and breath-taking, with the champagne breakfast a wonderful finishing touch. We resumed our trip at ground level and walked the ruins, the pyramids and the avenue. But that’s another story.
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