Hanging silently but for the sporadic rush of flame heating up the air in the balloon, I didn’t have any epiphanies as I surveyed the awesome Cappadocia landscape from the expansive Turkish sky. Yes, I guess being so high up is a reminder that we’re all small in the grand scheme of things. But I don’t need a hot air balloon to make me remember that. Instead, floating across the sky showed me just how much of this incredible area I wouldn’t be able to see on this particular trip! Philosophical, I am not.
I’d booked the balloon flight for the second day of my five days in Cappadocia in case of bad weather postponing the flight. I needn’t have worried, though, as it was a beautiful morning the day of. Herculean effort to get up at 3:45am wasn’t really necessary as I didn’t sleep much that night. As such, I was easily ready for my 4:15 pick up. The company I had chosen was Butterfly Balloons, one of the best hot air balloon companies in the region, and it was just down the hill from my cave hotel. This meant that it was only 4:30 by the time I was finished checking in, assigned a pilot, and started my attempt to eat breakfast. I could never understand how people can eat before 7am!
The ride on the way to the starting point was filled with getting to know our pilot, Mustafa. He went over the safety rules rather humorously but it was hard not to think about the accident that had occurred a couple weeks ago in Cappadocia with a different company. Once we arrived, we were directed to our balloon and watched as it was prepped for lift-off. Surprisingly enough, for a pretty sedate activity, one has to be fairly nimble to go ballooning – getting IN to the basket itself can be tricky, otherwise. Once everyone clambered into their quad, employees who stayed behind on the ground did the photographic rounds and then it was, “Everyone, hold on tight!”
My particular balloon had 15 people, 4 in 3 quadrants and 3 in the 4th. I got lucky and was in the 4th – a little more freedom to move about for my photography. When the three of us realized that we were only three and that we all spoke English, we agreed that we’d rotate about in the quadrant to allow everyone the chance to experience different vantage points. International cooperation at its finest.
Ballooning is a very odd sensation in how there is a lack of actual sensation. It can be so quiet and so still, you almost feel like you’re just standing up in the middle of the sky. Very odd yet very cool – must be how Superman feels whenever he surveys the world below from an airborne standstill. In total, we were up in the air for a little less than an hour and that was actually long enough. Our pilot explained that he could control how we go up and down but moving left to right, that was all up to the winds. As such, there was a valley in which he tried to get us but couldn’t. It was okay, though – getting all these expansive vistas of the Cappadocian landscape was more than enough to make me happy. The close ups will come with the hiking.
Speaking of hiking, one thing about going up in a hot air balloon a couple weeks after finishing the Camino Frances, when I looked at all that gorgeous sprawling landscape, I couldn’t help but think…I can walk that!
When we were back on Earth, we were treated to champagne. By then it was about 7am so I certainly shattered my “how early is too early for alcohol?” record I’d set in Guyana (9am). We were also given flight certificates to commemorate the morning and then we were dropped back to our various lodgings. And if you are like me, it wasn’t a drop off for a morning snooze – it was to get ready for exploring on foot what was just seen from the sky!
Tip: If you don’t get enough of your ballooning experience by going up in the sky, don’t forget you can also wake up about 5:45am and watch the balloons take off for the morning in the skies of Goreme. One reason to ensure you pick a hotel that has a roof deck so that you have a good vantage point!
Accomplished Life List #8!
How was your experience ballooning in Cappadocia? Anywhere else in the world you’d recommend that warrants a balloon ride?