This is the point at which I tell you;
a) I’m terrified of heights,
b) On Sunday 2 April, a hot air balloon caught fire in Mexico City and three people died; and
c) My mentality is that adventure is always a good idea so…
I decided to book a hot air balloon ride in Mexico City, specifically sold as flying over the Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan at sunrise. It’s the kind of madness I indulge in when travelling solo. I’ll do something and then tell friends afterwards. Fear is contagious and I did think it was a bit risky to go in a hot air balloon 5 days after one caught fire but that was one of the reasons I was heading to Mexico City, aside from the food and culture etc etc. I was not going to let fear win and in any event, the hotel concierge said there was only one seat left. It felt like Fate. Yes, I can feel your eyes roll as you read this.
Sunrise may be at 6am but you have to leave the hotel at 4am to catch it. That second mezcal cocktail was a mistake but I was on holiday so hey ho. You need to wear layers, it is cold even in Mexico City at 4am. A lot of these companies that offer the hot air balloon ride or try and do the hard sell, videos, photos etc. They clearly haven’t come across many jaded South Londoners solo travelers. I am not a morning person and am not interested in buying photos, videos etc.
The hot air baskets are big. It holds 20 people and you need weight. We had a good mixture of ultra thin and those who looked solid. Each basket section held 5 people. I was placed with two couples. We were given a safety briefing by the captain and away we went.
What I hadn’t appreciated was that hot air balloons are like boats with sails, they go where the wind takes them or at least that is what we were told. It appears the sales people consider the area as Teotihuacan, whereas the tourists are thinking of the actual pyramids. We didn’t go anywhere near the ancient site but it was quite magical and hypnotic being in the balloon. It is a very smooth ride and you feel as if you are gliding.
Then the moment was hijacked as the young man standing next to me proposed to his girlfriend. The poor thing was in shock and started to cry and say yes. At first, I thought isn’t that romantic? Then, the cynic and jaded South Londoner thought hmmm she’s trapped high in the air what else is she going to say? The rest of the ride became about them. The balloon landed and we were greeted by three crew members holding up a well worn plastic banner saying congratulations I think, it was in Spanish so I am not sure.
Would I recommend going on a hot air balloon ride?
Absolutely. However, really think about the location of where you do the ride. It really is a one and done type of thing. Also, safety is everything so ask where the hot air balloons are made. The best are made in Bristol, England which is what the company in Mexico uses. You get what you pay for, so do not skimp.
After the ride, we had free time at the ancient Teotihuacan site. After Chichen Itza I thought hmm, I prefer the Maynans to the Aztecs. There is absolutely no shade and at 10am it was roasting hot. Take a hat and do not forget your water bottle, it is a huge site.