Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hot Air Balloon Ride over Cappadocia

I have always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon, but the cost has always stopped me. As I have traveled SE Asia, I have had opportunities but everyone I met told me "No, wait to hot air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey." So, I arrived in the Cappadocia region ready go up in a balloon. Ethem told me he could arrange the flight for me and the price was similar to what was posted online. I decided to pay for the balloon that would not have more than 16 people in a 24 person basket. I wanted some space and was glad I had done so. My hot air balloon ride was over my budget but I had saved the money from Asia to allow for this splurge ($175). I booked and anxiously awaited for morning when I would be picked up by Air Kapadokya Ballons for my sunrise balloon ride.

I awoke and got dressed. The van arrived at 5:00 AM. I was shuttled to the office for a light breakfast.  As I signed in, I noticed I was in a group with 10 South Koreans and a couple from South Africa. I was happy to see only 13 of us on the list. We had to wait about 30 minutes later than expected due to high wind conditions. Finally, we were given the all clear and we were shuttled to our take-off location. As we arrived at the sight, the ground crew had already started inflating the balloon.

We were grouped together for a few photos. It was funny to watch the photo frenzy of the Korean group. There was pushing and shoving to get photos of each one of them with the balloon and basket in the background. This sight allowed me to bond with the South African couple as we planned our strategy. We were going to wait as they all rushed to enter the basket and then get on last so we could be at the ends. It worked perfectly as we watched them push and shove their way into the basket. We waited and crawled in last. The Koreans were not happy they had to move to the center but our plan worked! We got the locations we wanted. 
The ground crew took photos of us before take-off. I was ready and excited.Once everything was in place it was time for liftoff. The captain went through instructions and made us demonstrate our landing stance. Then it was time for lift-off. I heard the sound of the flame and we slowly started to go up...away from the ground crew as they wished us well. We floated up into the sky to join the other balloons as we all floated across the valley.
It was an amazing feeling. Nothing like flying in a plane. We slowly floated across the sky. You do not feel the wind since you float with it. We floated over homes and villages.
Over the gorges and valleys. The captain expertly lowered and raised the balloon as we floated.
He moved the balloon so sometimes I faced to the back and then we would drift and the balloon would turn and I was facing the front. All of the valleys were beautiful but my favorite was the Rose Valley. The pink color was vibrant in the early morning sun.
The flight lasted about 75 minutes. Everyone was quiet and in awe of the beautiful landscape and the sight of balloons all around.
I tried to count how many balloons were flying. I counted 72 balloons on our flight. After we passed over this ridge, the pilots started looking for a place to land the balloon. We flew for another 15 minutes and then prepared for the landing. We saw an Air Kapadokya  truck and trailer pull up. The captain prepared us for a rough landing. Oh, no! We got in our landing position, squatting as we were sitting in a chair and held onto the ropes on the inside of the basket. We came down and slightly bounced on the ground and onto the trailer! It was amazing. We basically landed on the trailer. We each climbed out of the basket and watched as the balloon was deflated. Then it was time for the celebratory champagne.
The captain gave a toast to a successful flight and a wonderful morning.

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