Video Footage from our Hot Air Balloon Ride - Click Here To Watch
As first light made an appearance, brightening up the Cappadocian landscape, our alarm’s rang clear through our cave dwelling. It was 4.30am and we had to leave at 5am to reach the office of the company running our hot air balloon ride. A man, no taller than 5ft 2in, who worked in our guest house, would bring us to the office. This man, who’s name I was told but had found hard to pronounce and hence forgotten, was so kind and helpful during our stay, that Michelle wanted to bring him home. If there was ever a chance of her running away with another man, this was it. He had stolen her heart. He was however in his late 50’s early 60’s and spoke no English, so I set aside my jealousy in hope that age and language might prove a barrier.
We arrived at the office of Urgup bang on 5am. Breakfast of bread, tea and coffee awaited us. We were first in. Handed a badge, we would be in the Orange group. It became evident soon enough about the amount of people that would be going up. There was the red, green, blue and most
importantly orange group. People fizzed about the waiting room, some with one eye still closed and looking like they were dragged from bed, others full of beans and eagerness. We all waited for our colour to be called. “Green group” came a yell, soon followed by “Blue’s Please”. The room emptied. “Any Red’s in here make your way to the bus”. We waited. It felt longer than it probably was. You could feel that most Orange’s thought they had been forgotten about. Ali entered the room. “Good Morning”. Orange’s on the bus please. “Whoo Hoo!”. Ali was to be our pilot. As we left the room, the little man from our guest house had waited outside. He had stayed to make sure we got away. He gave us a glowing smile that said, “enjoy, have fun”. Michelle’s knee’s wobbled.
Two mini buses departed with the Orange’s. As we approached the site for take off it became clear how many balloon’s would be making the journey. Counting them would be fruitless. The noise of burning gas filled the otherwise peaceful countryside. People panicked for fear their balloon would leave without them. Me included. Which one was it? “Over there”. A
stampede followed. The canvas of the balloon was still on the ground, being filled with hot air. It looked limp. One final burst of burning gas and the balloon took life. “Whey Hey!” everyone one shouted. “Hop in!” came a cry from Ali. I had one leg over the basket. “Darren” Michelle cried out. “You have to fill the form”. Thoughts of the balloon taking off without me flooded through me. I filled the form with details that, god forbid there was an accident, my identity in the morgue would have been known as Scribble from Iland aged 32(I‘m 31!). Then Michelle filled hers. Our balloon was full. 20 per balloon. 5 in each quarter. Luckily one quarter had room for two more. Michelle went first. She nearly landed head first with my anticipation to get in. Someone’s head took a karate kick as I swung in to the basket. Mr Miyagi would have been proud.
Ali explained the crash land position. No one listened fully. He shouted more. Then he got angry. People still didn’t listen. I got the basics. Bend the knees, hold on to the straps along the basket at waist height, everyone should face the
same direction, or which ever way he told us to face and then brace yourself for impact. Ali declared take off. The balloon lifted from the ground a few inches before returning again. Another blast of hot air. This time lift of was successful. Slowly but surely the balloon lifted from the ground. Balloon’s surrounded the landscape. Some still on the ground, others mountain high, others a dot up high in the sky. We didn’t leave the ground too far. We gradually rose. Some balloons rose straight up like it was a race. Others hovered about mid air. Ali informed us the balloons name was Titanic as we loomed close to an iceberg shaped rock. We lifted just in time to skim past it. Something told me he had done this before. As we lifted over another hill the drop on the other side was bigger. We slowly dropped again. This time he played chicken with a jeep below us, then an olive tree. Other balloons were high in the sky. Why weren’t we? Our pilot then explained how it works. A balloon was over head. His team was keeping him informed below through walkie talkie’s. We rose another 50
or so metres. Ali then shouted “Who wants to go up high”, like a football coach would to rouse his team. Everyone shouted “Yea!”. He blasted the balloon with hot air. We shot up, up , up into the sky. We could see for miles around us. We reached nearly five hundred metres. The sun was now rising behind the biggest mountain in the area. The views were unimaginable. Other balloon’s littered the horizon. Camera’s were clicking overtime. Eventually the sun was in full view and our balloon and basket created a wonderful shadow on the moonscape below. A look over board to the ground beneath felt uncomfortable. Anyone who has done a bungy or skydive will know the feeling. A knot in your stomach. Fear and exhilaration all in one. Ali could spin the balloon around, but was unable to course it’s path. The wind did that. We made a gradual descent so he could find a suitable landing spot. He need to use the wind and all his previous knowledge to steer us to the ground. As a surprise he gave us one last burst up into the air. People clapped with enthusiasm. Camera’s went into overdrive with
the unexpected final fling. Ali talked to his team below. A jeep carrying a trailer positioned itself in a field. A worker below threw dust in the air to determine the wind. The jeep had to move again until a perfect spot was found. Needless to say, Ali landed the balloon in the trailer like Michael Schumacher would reverse into a tight space. It was inch perfect.
As we enlightened the balloon I was conscious of not taking someone’s head off again. For this to happen I’d say someone got a lot of ass in the face. A small comprise I suppose. A nicely laid out table of champagne glasses and of course champagne bottles awaited us. The cork was popped. Champagne was sprayed everywhere. We were the handed a certificate each. My name was never called. There was a call for a Gabron. It was the only one left at the end. I presumed it was what they made of my scribble. I acted stupid and they wrote another one out for me. Actually, I wrote it myself. Ali signed it.
We left the field where our bus was waiting for us. We were dropped right back
to our guesthouse. The little man was laying out breakfast for us. He tried to teach us some Turkish. We had a bit of fun with the confusion it provided. He knew we appreciated his help, for all we could do was repeat “thank you” over and over to him. It was still only 8am. Michelle went back to bed while I stayed up and marvelled that the footage I took on my iphone could be collated and music added to it in a matter of minutes and within another few be on you tube.
Around 12pm we ventured towards the Goreme Outdoor Museum. An outdoor facility showcasing the cave dwellings from 1000’s of years ago. Most if not all in the museum were chapels or nunneries. The paintings inside were spectacular, all depicting stories from the bible. The paintings had some damage, most notably the eyes removed from all the biblical figures. We arrived as the tour buses arrived. It meant queuing in the sun to see the inside of some chapels. People not in tour groups were clearly agitated. I don’t particularly like tour groups but each and every person was entitled to be in there, regardless
of how they got there. Sure wasn’t I one of the numbers making up the crowds. We returned back to the town and had food in the café from our first day there. He remembered us. Business was quieter though, the power was back. Other café’s and restaurants had electricity now and could trade evenly. As we left he handed Michelle a flower he had just made from a napkin. These boys were showing me up.
Another snooze was had after lunch. We arranged our bus to the airport the next day that evening before heading out in search of a view point that was visible but after a while seemed mythical. Our map showed many routes to the top. None of them led to it. We walked and wandered. Walking up steep hills in the town only to come back down defeated. Sun set was happening and I had wanted to view it from up there. Eventually we bumped into a clearly disgruntled Scotsman making his descent from above. He pointed us in the direction and confirmed he had had the same problems. At this stage I was convinced the sun had disappeared behind the mountain in the
distance. As we reached the top, the sun appeared from behind a cloud only metres above the mountain in the distance. We watched the sun go down and reminisced on our day.
It wasn’t over yet though. A family from New Zealand had given us a tip of this nice new restaurant that had open. It was set in a cave and was difficult to find we were told. To say it was difficult to find was an understatement. Set in a cave the lights were dim and obviously there were no windows. There were seats on the floor for diners, but we chose a table. We were the only customers. In fact it was us and the chef in the cave. He brought menu’s to the table and explained he was newly opened. We had two choices. One was to pick from the menu, the other was to let him cook up a meal for the two of us, a selection of different things. We seized this as an opportunity to try new things. First he brought us out a soup made of yogurt with tomatoes, chick peas, spices and herbs. It was fantastic. So much so I
used the bread provided to wipe the bowl clean. Next up were some cigar filo pastries filed with local cheese. These didn’t last long on the plate either. For mains it was vegetarian. A mix of spicy hummus, garlic yogurt, an unnamed green bean like concoction, another unknown veg mix, mixed vegetable rice and an aubergine filled with tomatoes, mushroom’s, cheese and more. This was then followed up by a sweet rice pudding with cashew nuts and cinnamon. Devine. I can categorically say I don’t know when I’ve had a nicer meal. Everything complemented each other. To have the chef cook and serve you, each time explaining each dish as it landed on our table. The family from New Zealand arrived. It was there third night in a row here. A group of Spanish tourists arrived as well. They were informed through word of mouth. Top Deck was only open a week and it was sure to take off. He charged us €15 for the lot. Water, coke and tea included. An introductory offer he informed us. We left him €20. A small gesture of our appreciation.
We had just had one of those amazing days. From 4.30 in
the morning right through to when we left the restaurant. Was it the balloon ride, the magnificent paintings in the cave’s, the problematic climb to the view point or the outrageously cheap and wonderful meal in Top Deck? All together it made for one of those special momentous days . A reason to travel. To get out there and see the world. Another experience to add to our already lucky list.
The following morning we had breakfast while we waited for our bus. Michelle’s heart was hurting. She didn’t want to leave Goreme. She had found a man, other than me who could compete for her heart. The little man carried her bag to the bus. I shook his hand. She then shook his hand, thanked him and an awkward moment happened where she didn’t know whether to hug him or not. Local sensitivities ran through her head. She boarded the bus with a sad face. She turned to me and said she wished she hugged him. Our bus pulled off. If I have one regret from Goreme, it would be not remembering his name.
In a bit. DH
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