At Cascada, we believe in making sure that the programs we provide are the best, which means trying them out for ourselves! For this adventure, our USA Account Executive, Keila Jimenez, shares her experience flying over the Atacama Desert at sunrise with our "Atacama Sunrise Ballooning" extension program, available as an add-on for Atacama programs.
I call this adventure "Floating over the Atacama", which is the driest desert in the world!
On April 16th, the adventure began when the transfer van for Balloons over Atacama picked me up at 7:10 AM from my hotel. I must say, I was a bit nervous. Our destination, Ayllú de Tulor, is one of the usual places used for hot air balloon takeoffs and landings. Cary Crawley, our flight pilot and host, was waiting for us at the site. Next to him, the crew, all of them local Atacameños, were in charge of putting together the breakfast, as well as inflating the balloon.
First, they offered us a rich breakfast, with "medialunas" (croissants) fresh from the oven, and coffee. While we ate, Cary gave us the safety talk and explained how the whole activity would work. Then, everyone began to unfold the fabric of the balloon to proceed with inflating the balloon, which was a show not to be missed! I took a croissant and I went with my camera to capture the roughly 15 minutes "balloon inflation". This part was very exciting, witnessing how this great fabric would become our ship.
Once this imposing red balloon was ready in front of us, it was time to take off!!!
The sun had just appeared on the mountain range when the pilot invited us to climb into the basket, following what was learned in the safety talk. There were 14 of us, and one by one, we all entered the basket and prepared our cameras... and suddenly, without realizing it, we were floating over the desert at a height of about 400 meters ... which is a lot for a person who suffers from vertigo like me! We all watched in silence, marveling at this landscape that we rarely enjoy from above.
From the sky, it was possible to see the beautiful desert landscape below us, full of colors that changed as the sun rose. The flight was smooth and very relaxing; it gave one the feeling of floating and I easily forgot my fear of heights! During the 50 minutes that the flight lasted, the pilot explained details about the elevation, wind, direction of the globe, etc. He also acted a tourist guide, showing us the town, the mountain range of the Andes, volcanoes, and the beautiful Salar (salt flats)!!
When we reached a height of about 700 meters and we have all taken thousands of photos, the pilot started the descent near Coyo, another Ayllu near the Valley of the Moon. The landing is far the most QUIET experience I could have imagined, the pilot was so delicate that it was alsmot impossible to believe. Here, we found the crew with champagne and juices to toast and finish off this great experience! The most beautiful thing is that, at the end, the pilot gives you a Certificate of Flight with your name and your signature, to help you rememeber this memorable moment! Cute, right?
Finally on land, I feel like doing it again a thousand times!