Balloon trips are the `big thing to do’ in Cappadocia so while we were there we weren’t going to waste the opportunity to let off some hot air…….

The weather had been superb, clear and sunny, but getting a little chilly in the evenings. On our first evening in Goreme, we climbed the rocks to watch the sunset and see the change of light on the eerie landscape. But we were also treated to a fantastic display of skill from a hot air balloon which floated low over the town, and then flew up the side of the rock face, between two fairy chimneys and down the other side into the valley.

Each time it seemed less than a meter from hitting either the ground or a rock chimney!

Balloon trips are the `big thing to do’ here, but after seeing that we thought – no way, that guy’s a maniac!!

However, the next day after a `team’ talk off we went to `Kapadokya Balloons’….and were relieved to be told that the flight we had seen the night before was just a training flight – no paying passengers. The pilot we later found out was Mike from Dartmoor. He had given up his career in England to learn ballooning with the company which is run by his Aunt, Kiali and Lars More, a Swede, who has in the past trained Richard Branson.

It was going to cost an arm and a leg, but after a little negotiation we all agreed it was a once in a lifetime thing and to go for it on the Monday morning, to be picked up from our pension at 5.30 am!!

At this time of the morning, like the sun, the wind was getting up, and this causes problems when inflating the balloons and trying to take off, not to mention the fact that the balloon will then fly very fast, so it was starting to look like we’d be cancelled. There were about 37 of us in total, and we were going up in three balloons. The first group to set off consisted of 17 Americans (who quote `didn’t care if they didn’t see much, they wanted to go up today…as long as it was safe!!’) plus 2 Turkish. This group had paid for the shorter and less attentive 1 hour flight, in a huge `Coca Cola’ balloon, piloted by the Belgian `Gee’ (who looked about 16!)

The remaining 18 were split into 2 groups of 9. We were in with Peter (English) and his partner Malek (Turkish), 3 Japanese from Tokyo, a Turkish man and his girlfriend Indira from the Dominican Republic. Our pilot was Lars, himself. Ferit and Omur had signed up for the short flight too, but it seemed that they had been `upgraded’ to the long flight and were going with Kiali, along with 5 Japanese and a Turkish man and his son.

This, we felt, was much better than being crammed into a small basket with 17 Americans – nice as they are of course!! The sunrise was beautiful, and we soon found a small bowl in the land which was calm enough for the balloons to be inflated, side by side. This was quite an experience to see and hear, the canopies are first filled with air from large propellers, and then the hot air jets are put on and up they go. The heat and noise is incredible.

Although still concerned that it was getting a bit windy, we all got in, and were soon airborne. You are very much at the mercy of the wind speed and direction when it comes to where you go, the pilots were extremely skilled at the up and down side of things, which meant that we were able to scale the sides of the valleys and just skim over trees and the fairy chimneys. You don’t feel any breeze while your up, as you are moving with the air. We’d covered a fair amount of ground, but had got split up from Ferit’s balloon. Lars and Kiali were in constant radio contact, and it seems they had been forced to land, as the wind was getting too strong. We too were (according to Lars) experiencing a bit of turbulence and a few spots of rain, so he decided that we should cut short our flight and find a suitable landing site. We’d been up about an hour, but the flight was supposed to last nearer 2. After being pushed hither and thither by the wind, as we tried to avoid a vineyard and a shepherd with his flock, we eventually set down in a perfect landing.

Soon the ground crew were on hand and we helped to deflate and store the balloon, while a small table was set up, champagne corks popped and the balloon basket was decorated with flowers. After the toast and some cake, I was man handled by Ismail into a firemans lift and deposited onto of the balloon to try and force more air out of it and get it into the bag! Cheeky buggers!! Soon all the other girls from our basket were similarly picked up and chucked on!

Our friends and the rest of their companions then turned up as well, and we learned that they had experienced a much more exciting landing, where they’d had to adopt the crash position and were dragged about 70 feet along by the balloon, before coming to a stop! Omur was not very impressed with that!

It was an excellent experience, the scenery was stunning and it was well worth the money. We met some very interesting people. We were delivered back to the pension and by 9.30, enjoying a Turkish breakfast and exchanging stories.

For more information see www.kapadokyaballoons.com

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