Tuesday, June 02, 2015

An Early Morning Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia, Turkey

Today was a painfully early start at around 4 am, but it was for a good cause: a hot air balloon ride! The balloon company HQ was only a like a block from our hotel so that was nice. Butterfly Balloons started us off with a nice little breakfast and then we all packed into vans and headed out to the countryside.

They started the baskets off on their sides while filling the balloons with hot air, then tipped them over once filled. The basket was divided into five compartments, one in the middle with Eftal the pilot and the propane tanks, and four filled with 4-5 tourists each. The pilot gave us the two rules: rule one was stay in the basket, and rule two was to get into landing position when ordered. That pretty much involved holding onto the ropes and bracing yourself. He gave the handle attached to our jet engine a few tugs and then we were airborn.

It was a lot less scary than I had imagined it would be. It rises so smoothly that you hardly notice you’re moving. It seemed silly but I was most worried about dropping my phone over the side of the basket. I did my best to not extend my arm over the edge while taking pictures just in case. The swarm of fellow balloons in the air was almost as interesting a sight as the actual landscape.

I asked why the heck this needed to be at 5 am or whatever time it was at this point. First they wanted us to see sunrise which I will admit looked pretty awesome. More importantly though the pilot needed that cool air to better control the balloon. If the air gets too hot then it’s harder to get the balloon to descend when needed.

Our pilot Eftal was super nice to me. He let me pull the jet engine lever a few times and we had a good chat.

I'm not sure why I'm making this doofus face. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

He told us to get into landing position like 1 second before we hit the ground which was surprising. I still don’t really understand but for some reason he was upset with the landing. Something about the ground being wet or something. Anyway it took ground crew a few extra minutes to pick us up. Later we were each given a 10 Euro refund for our trouble. Sounds good to me! I honestly wouldn’t have known the difference if he’d just acted like everything was normal.

Getting the air out of the balloon was fun. That circle of fabric on the very top of the balloon is retractable, so he pulled a rope and it opened up and the balloon immediately started sagging. Once the balloon was laying on its side we all tramped on it to get the rest of the air out.

Once that was taken care of we all had a champagne toast and some strawberries. Many of the other passengers were Muslim and didn’t drink or were just scared so I did a few extra toasts for them.

The field that we landed in had lots of interesting grasses and flowers.

You might think, “wow that was enough adventure for one day, time to go home and rest.” Nope. Time for a day long tour!

We met back up with Angela’s brother Josh and his lady friend. Our first stop was sort of the king of all cave dwellings. I believe they were calling it a fairy castle. We played around there a bit and then continued on the underground dwellings. Some people looked at the folks living in weird caves and thought to themselves “that’s way too normal” so they built underground mazes of rooms that go several stories down. It was like an ant hill. One cool fact was that the cave people had to build air vents that went to the surface so they disguised them as wells so bad guys couldn’t find them.

Best mailbox ever.

There was a church, winery, livestock pens, and all the things you’d need if you ever got angry at the sun for several weeks at a time.

These giant rocks could be rolled into doorways to seal them. The passages were constructed in such a way that you'd only be able to roll the rock if you were on the right side of the passageway. This way they could trap invaders and kill them real good.

I walked with Lydia to get a coffee afterward.

We had lunch at a tourist restaurant that had a fun touristy food: a clay pot full of like chicken stew stuff then sealed up, baked, brought to our table and set on fire then broken open with the dull end of a meat cleaver. It was a very violent lunch.

Josh's lady friend Natalie and the flaming chicken pot.

Lydia got to do the smashing.

Definitely the worst part of our tour was a trip to this tourist trap jewelry place. They did a little demonstration on how they grind onyx in different shapes which was fun, but then we went upstairs to a room full of jewelry sales people and stood through a presentation that was like getting trapped on a Home Shopping Network episode.

It would be an interesting experiment to just buy every single thing anyone ever offered to sell me on this trip. I'd need a dump truck to carry it all.

We ended the tour taking a peek at some more cave dwellings. This time though they were in this really small town with really conservatively dressed people. So far really anyone we asked to take a picture with had said yes but the women here especially were not having that. I think Lydia took a picture of a room with one such lady in it and when she looked at it later the lady was covering her face. Creepy.

Lydia got pretty excited about some of the cave houses. Embarrassingly some of them were bigger than our apartment. 

No comments:

Post a Comment