Thursday, 7 June 2012

Floating above Göreme

Getting ready to set sail.....
The call to prayer had us awake at 5am so it wasn’t too hard getting out of bed at 6, except that our room was already freezing as the central heating must’ve been switched off during the night, so it was an already cold start to the morning.  Sarah had one pair of toe warmers left from Switzerland that she’d been saving for a freezing occasion and she deemed going up in a hot air balloon in -19°C temperatures was a pretty good time to break them out…

Our pick up with Kaya Balloons was early so we hurried down and drove straight to the launching paddock where we could see at least 10 balloons beginning to inflate.  We walked through the snow to the ‘café’ for  our free breakfast which was ‘quality’ Nescafé and biscuits (oh, and fruit juice that was so frozen it was a really a fruit slushy…) 

Cruising through the valley
Fifteen minutes later our balloon was ready and we loaded into our basket, which was divided into four segments, and we moved as close to the burner as possible!  We had a very smooth take-off, our pilot Memiş, was entertaining – as was the co-pilot he was training during the flight (it turns out Kaya Balloons actually trains Turkish pilots for other balloon companies, so they are considered to be the experts in the field). 

It was fantastic floating above the fairy chimneys and valleys all dusted in snow.  Memiş flew us within a foot of the top of a fairy chimney – impressive flying and it had the family of Indonesians ducking down into the basket and hiding their faces in fear, followed by them clapping with delight once we safely passed over.  We than ascended to over 1km in altitude and had a great view over the surrounding valleys and towns, although at that height you quickly felt the cold beginning to seep in.

The view from 1km altitude
The hour passed very quickly and before we knew it we were descending and heading towards our landing site nearby the Open Air Museum.  Memiş boasted that he was going to land us directly onto the trailer already attached to the 4×4, and he did just that (well half did anyway, but the ground crew managed to hold us steady and pull us fully on).  The coldest part of the whole adventure was surprisingly the landing and standing in the snow afterwards while we drank celebratory champagne with cake, although to be honest  everyone in the group would’ve preferred to celebrate with a hot cup o’ tea, or a vin chaud :)

It was a bit of a hairy ride back to the hotel through the snow, we got stuck at one point and our driver couldn’t get us out so he ran back and fetched Memiş who apparently is not only an excellent balloon pilot but also a bit of a rally driver and he got us out first try and drove us until the road, telling us the whole way how he loves to speed through the snow and grinning like a maniac and thoroughly enjoying himself.  

Loving our first hot balloon ride!
We were back at the hotel by 9am which gave us an hour to defrost in the shower before check-out.  We then headed into town and bought bus tickets for the evening bus to Antalya, looking forward to the warmth of the coast.  We didn’t have much planned for the day and the cold was just too much to go exploring again, especially since we’d been out in it all morning, so we found a nice café that actually served real coffee instead of Nescafé and chilled out by the fire for an hour before we decided to have an early lunch since our breakfast of biscuits had left us quite hungry.  

Thankfully our hotel had a very nice lounge area with a fire as well so we retired there for the afternoon to plan the next part of trip.  We only ventured out again to find dinner and then again at 9.30pm to board our bus which was better than our last overnight experience, meaning we actually snagged a few hours sleep.  We arrived in Antalya by 7am and it was already 9°C, oh the warmth!

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