Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The balloon ride over Cappadocia....

At 5 AM on Thursday morning, they picked me up from the hotel and drove me to a central meeting place where about a hundred other tourists of all ages were having coffee and waiting to be taken to the balloon field.  They assigned us each to a Pilot and, although they careful kept track of our names, etc., we didn't have to sign any kind of insurance-related waiver.    Once at the field, it was still pretty dark, but the ground crews were busily filling up the balloons with the heated air.  There are several balloon companies who are licensed to operate here, and they all use state-of-the-art equipment.  The basket is very tough plastic made to look like wicker, and we were all obliged to climb up and into it...no matter our age or physical condition.   They were happy to help the older folks navigate the climb.  In the end, we had exactly 20 people in each of the baskets....five  of us in four separate areas with the Pilot in the center controlling the flame and the direction of the balloon.  The sides of the basket itself were about 4.5 feet high.   This was my first ride in a hot air balloon and it's a little disconcerting to feel yourself silently rising in the air and looking down at the receding ground below.   By 6:15 AM, there were approximately 50 balloons, each with 20 tourists, all ascending into the air at the same time.   You could see the higher ones pass into the sunlight as they rose higher.   Below, I was able to quickly recognize the very area that we had hiked through the day before.  The Pilot was so good that he was able to gently bring the basket to hover about 50 feet above the little town square and then to slowly turn the balloon to give everyone a great view.   Later in the hour, we rose to several thousand feet and enjoyed a magnificent view of the entire area.  There were as many balloons above us as below us.  The Pilot actually landed the basket precisely on top of the flatbed truck that had transported it to the field a few hours ago.  We all got out, and they offered us juice and champagne to celebrate our safe return.  Quite an amazing experience.  Later on that day, we visited the fairy chimneys of  Pasabag, the Goreme Open-air museum, and the town of Avanos with their master potters.  Super impressed with this entire area, and I strongly recommend to anyone visiting Turkey to be sure to make the time to see the incredible wonders of Cappadocia.  Taking the overnight bus up to Istanbul on Friday evening.

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