One impossible thing before breakfast

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I didn’t actually intend to go hot air ballooning in Cappadocia. It seemed really expensive and touristy and I was already booked on two all-day tours of the surrounding area that I thought were going to eat up all my time. But then I met single-serving friend - Tania (a New Zealander) from the overnight bus, and she staying at my hostel, and she was doing it. And it turned out that it all happened so early in the morning that I could do the ballooning and still get back to the hostel in time for breakfast and a hot shower before my tour started. Before I knew it I was forking over €140.00 for an hour of time floating over Cappadocia’s unique landscape.

The unique landscape I was talking about – they call the funny rock formations “fairy chimneys”

And so the alarm went off at 5:15am, time enough for me to roll out of bed, get dressed, splash some water on my face and run some gel through my hair (to little effect), and bundle up to wait for the minibus. I borrowed a warm jacket from one of the nice guys at the hostel, and was very glad I had it. I would have been happier still to have a pair of gloves and a toque, but the strictures of light packing mean that things the “might” be needed are left out, so my gloves and toque (and long underwear) are stuffed away in storage in Winnipeg. Let’s just say it was a chilly wait.

We eventually made it to the staging area, where at least a dozen balloons were preparing to fly. Hot air ballooning is THE thing to do in Cappadocia, so there are a lot of companies that do it. There probably wasn’t a moment during the whole flight when I couldn’t see five or ten other balloons. Though this didn’t really detract from the experience.

Many many balloons, getting ready

Both Tania and I were alarmed at the number of people the good folks at Balloon Turca planned on getting into the basket – I think I counted twenty heads. But it turned out that we all fit reasonably well, and it looked like everyone had a good view. The basket was divided into five sections – 4 around the edges for passengers, and a space in the middle for the pilots and gas canisters. Dividers kept everyone corralled in their section, presumably to keep people from charging back and forth around the basket and upsetting the balance.

The burners, or jets, or fire-spitters, or whatever they’re called.

We got some simple instructions, which I tried to help translate for some uni-lingual French folks in the next compartment. They boiled down to this:
  1. Stay in the basket. Do not leave the basket until the pilot says you can leave the basket.
  2. When we are about to land put your camera away, grab onto a handle with both hands and crouch with your head below the edge of the basket. Do not get up until the pilot says you can get up.
  3. No really, stay in the basket.

And then we were off. It was an odd sensation because there was, in fact, no sensation at all. There’s no stomach-churning leap into the air, no rush of wind, no sense of movement. It’s incredibly gentle and pleasant. And of course because you're moving in the wind, you can't feel the wind, which is really good, because as I mentioned, it was chilly.

Balloons, weird rocks, sunrise. It’s the whole package.

We spent some time moving at low altitude through the fairy chimneys. Apparently it’s a mark of a skilled pilot to be able to manoeuver very close to the ground. Ours must have been pretty good, though one or two trees got a trim, and one fairy chimney was forcibly eroded by our passing. As advertised, it was a great way to see the rock formations close up. And it was also neat seeing all the other balloons too, and watching the sun rise over that incredible landscape.

A close up look at one of the rock formations, with some really nice carving

This shot gives an idea of just how many rack-cut dwellings there are in the area. There must be thousands, and that’s not an exaggeration.

And because I promised Rob – a people picture. Me and Tania (Smart girl - she had a hat and rabbit-fur lined gloves from Firenze! Why didn’t I buy rabbit-fur lined gloves in Firenze???)

The flight was supposed to last an hour, but we ended up being in the air for closer to 75 minutes. The time must vary according to how long it takes to find an appropriate place to land. The landing itself was funny. We were all crouched down, so it was impossible to tell how close we were to the ground, then suddenly about six guys appeared over the edge to pull us down to the ground. It was a bit startling.

After we landed, the pilot and the guys on the ground actually guided the basket right over to the trailer and landed it exactly, ratcheting it down into place before we were allowed to get out. There was even a little treat on the ground!

Our pilots, pouring out a little sparkly beverage at the landing site

Naturally I took one or two pics. In fact, there are about 130 photos of the whole experience over at Flickr. I’d post more here, but I’ve got better things to do than sit here all night uploading photos to a blog post. There’s a mama-cooked Turkish supper in a few minutes, and there will be HOME MADE BAKLAVA. So if you want to see more pics, go look at the set called “Ballooning in Cappadocia”. Oh, and in case there is any doubt that I really did this, read ‘em and weep:


kathryn said...

Pam, those photos are fantastic - what an amazing experience. I am officially jealous.
One question - uh - did they get the year right on your certificate? Or just bad handwriting? (hee hee)

Ian Timshel said...

The colours are very beautiful. Exotic light for an exotic adventure. Home made you say... yum!

Anonymous said...

Grammy would be proud...and VERY JEALOUS!!


Lisa said...

Well worth the 5:15 rise time!

Nigel said...

Pam, just catching up on some old posts (trip to Canadia interrupted everything!) and am awestruck by the crazy rocks.

I'm also struck by my inability to find any dirt on you and the Athens Maraton... am I a bad reader or are you being shy?

Keep having fun for all of us,

Nigel (of sunny Edinburgh)

Unknown said...

Nice people pics.

Please to include them in all blog postings.

The baloon trip looks like it was well worth it.


Arlo said...

Fantastic photos. Next photos should be of undersea turtles . . . or did I miss those. ;)

Nigel said...

D'oh! I eat my earlier marathon-related-question-words. Maybe I shouldn't be surfing when tired...

Anyway, congrats on the run. Glad it brightened by the end. Shame about all the commerce.


TheWordWire said...

Whoa! Fairy chimneys are cool! How surreal to see that scene from a hot air balloon. Thanks for sharing!

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