Balloon Day and Pigeon Walley Hike

Trip Start Sep 21, 2010
Trip End Oct 07, 2010

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Where I stayed

Flag of Turkey  , Cappadocia,
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I was in a deep sleep and somehow worked the knocking at our cave door into my dream.  This went on for several knocks until I figured out where I was and what was happening.  I am in Goreme, Turkey, and it is 5:30 AM.  Sleeping in a cave can really disorient you.  It was time for our hot air balloon ride.  Tanya and I quickly dressed and before we new it, we had signed all the waiver forms, had another Turkish breakfast in our bellies and were headed for the launch site.  

After a 10 minute drive to the outskirts of Goreme we could see our huge Butterfly balloon lying on its side and could hear the low buzzing of the fans slowly filling them with air.  Our van/bus emptied quickly and we all began filming and taking photographs as this is not something that many, or any of us had experienced.  Eventually the propane engines were ignited and the balloons began to look like a dimly lit (and partially inflated) light bulb.  It wasn't long before both the balloons on site were erect and ready to fly.  We all piled into our wicker basket that seated around 13 including our pilot, Mustafa, who after asking us if we had ever flown before and if we were nervous said, he was nervous as it was his first time too.  He then pointed out that all the stripes and stars on his sleeves were for all the crashes he's been in.  He had us laughing the whole time. 

Once in the basket we realized that we were actually about to go up, our group became silent, and began looking nervous.  Anne who was in the corner and had a panoramic view, was looking queazy and opted not to face of the edge much initially.  The rest of us got as close to the center of the balloon as possible.  Mustafa then gave a long blast from the engine and our smooth and partially silent accent began.  It seemed like seconds before Mustafa let us know we were at 300 meters.  Writing this seems a bit pointless as it really can't be described.  I was anticipating high winds and frigid air as we rose, but the temperature never seemed that cold and the winds were mild.  As we rose we could see the other balloons, almost a hundred of them, all over Goreme at different heights.  We nervously took pictures and listened to the silence as we watched the sunrise of the mountains near the gigantic dormant volcano in the distance.  Mustafa explained that the ropes he was pulling on rotated the basket and helped with the altitude, but that overall, our direction was entirely controlled by the wind.  He took us back down to withing about 10 meters of the ground and we all relaxed and really began to enjoy ourselves before the next accent.  We took hundreds of pictures and videos.  I found my fisheye lens helpful for getting pictures of the group in the basket as you can't get far enough away with a regular lense to get everyone in the picture (it does make everyone a little round though).   

We descended again down into a valley, and then Mustafa hopped us over a fairy chimney coming within just a few feet of it.  He then asked us if we wanted any walnuts and brought us within inches of a walnut tree in the valley (no one picked any, although we could have).  I'm not sure how long we were in the air.  It seemed like a long time, but very brief at the same time.  We were within 100 meters of our landing site when the wind died and the crew on the ground had to pull us with ropes to the trailer where we landed.  Afterwards, we had a champagne celebration, helped deflate and pack the balloon, and received a certificate of some sort (to prove we ridden a balloon?  I don't think that I am licensed to fly a balloon in Turkey). 

Back at the hotel we all napped (I blogged, organized pictures, and trimmed my beard into my first ever mustache) before we all headed into Pigeon Walley for a hike.  It was one of the better hikes on the trip as we passed through several tunnels and ascended through a dry river bed, through a winery, and passed several different geological types of terrain before scrambling up a steep last pitch to the top.   We explored around looking for Honey Walley, and not knowing if we ever found it, headed back to Goreme.

We ate one of the best meals of the trip (this is saying alot!) at Sultan Caves.  We had lamb shank, a meatball soup dish that I am currently forgetting the name of, and one of the best salads of the trip.  Afterwards we headed back to Fat Boys for drinks, hooka, and good conversation.  Most of the crew headed to bed leaving Chris G and I out to drink Raki and Efes on our own until the wee hours.  This was one of the best days yet.  
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