Sunday, 25 December 2011

Turkey – The first hot air balloon ride

December 20

Hello everyone!

Many of our conversations out here in Turkey have revolved around bucket lists. For those who are confused, a bucket list is a collection of things you want to do or achieve before you…well…can’t. What you want to do before you die, basically. Today was all about ticking off one of the items on both mine and Justine’s lists – to ride in a hot air balloon.

You’ve seen the scenery now. It’s pretty impressive from ground level, but imagine it from the air…it must be spectacular, right? Luckily, many people here agree with us, and scores of companies are at hand to offer you the trip of a lifetime over the rocks and valleys of Cappadocia.

A 6am wake-up led to us being in a bare field before sunrise, warming our hands over a fire whilst our very large balloon was laid out carefully on the floor. I’d never seen how a hot air balloon is set up, so I’ll quickly give you the low-down. The balloon is laid out on the floor, attached to a surprisingly small wicker basket lying on its side and tied to a truck. Numerous ropes connect the two, and the balloon itself is soon beginning to inflate from the power of two fans. Once sufficient air is inside the balloon, fire is shot into the balloon’s vacant space to cause the air, and the balloon, to rise from the floor. Soon after, sufficient heat is in the balloon to cause it to rise and the wicker basket to flip over to its correct starting position. This is when you get in and get excited.

Sway to the left…sway to the right…sway…and up we go! The feeling of leaving the floor is incredibly powerful, leaving you helpless and at the whim of the elements. Our excitement, however, quickly turned to concern. Other balloons are being inflated simultaneously, which can lead to a lack of space. Our balloon, no sooner than leaving the floor, was careering towards a stationary balloon on the ground! Fire on full blast, and holding on tight, we lightly bumped the top of the balloon and were soon out of harm’s way. Back to feeling excited!

It truly is a magical feeling to soar from the floor with such speed and grace. It is almost regal how you float along over the obelisks of rock before descending into the valleys of Cappadocia.

Of course, the elements dictate where you travel to. As it turns out, we travelled further – and for longer – than most trips. Not that we were going to complain, though. It is a very relaxing way to spend an hour, and wonderful to serenely saunter across the stunning natural sculptures early in the morning. So over an hour later, we bumped back down to Earth, where we were provided with champagne and waited for our bus to locate us.

This was a busy day for us. Having flown over them, we opted to explore the rocks at close quarters, even climbing into some of them. We also visited Göreme’s overrated open air museum, which consists of a few churches that weren’t as old or well-preserved as others we had seen the previous day.

Kebab count – now up to three in three days. A different style of kebab, however, as it was cooked and served in a clay pot and covered in juices and vegetables. The waiter has to hit the top of the pot with a small tool to separate the two parts before you can savour the food inside. I would call it a stew more than a kebab, but it was still very enjoyable.

We’re now moving on from Cappadocia, heading north and east to the Black Sea. I have to say that I have really enjoyed the tranquillity and serenity of Göreme, and the attractions of the Cappadocian region as a whole. The people have been warm and friendly, the food fantastic, and all in a surreal, magical setting that I have never laid my eyes upon in the world before. All capped off with a hot air balloon ride over this most unique of landscapes. Consider that ticked off the bucket list!

Love you all


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