Originally published 7 September 2011.
And this morning was… the Great Balloon Ride Extravaganza! Up at 5:00, picked up in a van with a bunch of people I don’t know, ate a little, not so wonderful pre-packaged muffin and instant coffee, and then it was time to get into the balloon! It looked like mass chaos to me, but somehow all 300 or so of us were distributed fairly evenly into the balloon baskets—each of which can hold up to 36 people! The pilot for my balloon was from Michigan, believe it or not! He was an airplane pilot for 20 years, parachute pilot for several years, started parachuting, and at some point about 6 years ago he parachuted out of a balloon and decided to start flying balloons! So here he is, flying balloons in Goreme, Turkey! He said he’s been here since March and will be here till October or so. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me! He said the conditions here are incredible because the winds change as you go up or down—faster, slower, change directions, etc. The balloons they use are the largest in the WORLD, and they’re all within 100 meters apart from each other, but they’re all going different directions and not running into each other. Amazing!
Speaking of wind conditions, an interesting side note is that the Fairy Chimneys and interesting rock formations were made because of wind and natural erosion and such—not man-made except for the houses inside! Super cool, folks.
So there we were, flying high in the sky and gazing down at the rocks below… and before we knew it, we were floating AMONG them, not above! So cool! We could see for miles (or kilometers, depending on who you ask)! Off in the distance we saw a volcano with the sun rising over it, in the other direction we could see Uchisar Castle (a rock-cave Castle on a hill!), and all around us was blue sky with NO CLOUDS! Love it.
There is something fun thing about landing a balloon… all passengers have to turn backward, squat down, and grab the rope handles provided. Yes, it is indeed a semi-controlled crash, no breaks included! It was fun, though! Once we landed (in the road, against a dirt bank), our pilot actually “floated” us up onto a flatbed truck, and we were driven down the road a ways to be picked up and escorted back to our hotels! It was just an all-around fun experience. And at the end we had a traditional champagne celebration! Apparently, after the first hot-air balloon flight, the fliers landed in some Frenchmen’s field, and the field owners were NOT happy! But never fear—the fliers had some champagne in the basket (for just such an occasion), so they poured some for the farmers and everyone was happy, so now it’s a tradition to have champagne after a balloon flight. Luckily, they also served cherry juice, so I had that instead.
And then I came back to the hotel for breakfast! This afternoon was less of an adventure, but I got to try out my Turkish Coffee and the famous Cappadocian rice pudding! The coffee was gross, the rice pudding was AMAZING! I like exploring new places through their food. What a day! Looking forward to tomorrow!