Aug 06 2008

Cappadocia from Above

Published by at 6:30 am under Scott's Adventures,Uncategorized

My old friend Mark joined me in Istanbul, and after a few days being good city tourists, we made for the Turkey’s interior.

I hear Cappadocia is one of the premier locations in the world for ballooning. Since neither Mark nor I have been pulled off dry land purely by the power of hot air (jokes notwithstanding how much hot air we ourselves are responsible for), we decided to jump at the opportunity. For all good things, a proportional price must be paid: the dollar amount was not nearly as steep as the pre-5am wakeup call (at least in our opinion).

While the bus ride to the meeting point is only a foggy memory, the serving of strong coffee did wonders at bringing the morning into focus. We were packaged into groups of about 10 and the vans plotted a 15 minute journey ‘upwind’ to find a takeoff field that might return us somewhere back in the same county.

The balloon setup was fast, bags out and inflation fans running in about 10 minutes. We were given the basic “don’t fall out” briefing, and soon the burners were lit and flames were blasting into the dirigibles. Mark and I agreed, we like fire! We could feel the heat from 30 feet, and as the balloons took shape their sheer size and the massive pyrotechnics had us grinning like school kids. A few technical glitches had the team taking a few cracks at getting the massive sack inflated, and we wondered if we had a dodgy craft – but their second try was a charm and we were soon hopping in the basket.

An especially long burn had us lifting off so gently I barely noticed we were airborne. For some reason, my expectation of hanging below trapped warm air involved a lot of swinging around like a ribbon on a hydrogen party ballon (probably colored by my experiences under a parachute), but the reality was so smooth and controlled that I had difficulty convincing myself that we were actually flying and not standing on a steady building.

Balloon flight is basically at the whim of the wind gods. Our pilot, Lars, could control only our altitude, but used that to skillfully navigate the various currents and direct our travel. We started by rocketing up several thousand feet, granting us a commanding view of the whole Cappadocia landscape.

Lars started chatted on the CB with our companion balloon, and they agreed to head towards ‘Love Valley’ to our right. Down we went as he guided us expertly over and then into the surreal landscape. Lars deft mastery of our craft had us so precisely positioned that he soon had us within only a few feet of the tall rock chimneys that sprouted from the valley floor like so many enourmous asparagus. At times we could have jumped from our basket carriage and landed easily on the top of some towering pinnacle (from which I’d imagine it’d be a challenge to rescue us!)

After awhile exploring the valley, up and out we flew, high into the blue sky to new adventures. Our travels continued in much the same manner, and I soon felt at home in the sky – gravity really does bind us so unfairly to the ground, stealing from us so many wonderful perspectives that we normally may only dream of.

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