Hot Air Ballooning over Cappadoccia

Trip Start Apr 12, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Back when I was living at the Laundrette Id often peel out of my cosy bed at some ungodly hour, in order to get my gear ready for another mundane shift at work, peer out my city-faced window, and see random hot air balloons drifting around the crisp morning sky. IŽd be standing there, bleary and zonked with my boxers on thinking to myself ŽThat would be really cool to do some day`. And then IŽd stare at my bowl of weetbix for a bit, and go and freeze my nads off on the 7.51 train to Spencer St.

Today I finally got my chance to be inside one of those balloon baskets, and the unexpected discovery of a 50 Euro note the other night pretty much sealed the deal - I was jumping in that basket and livin it up big time. Coinciding with the first call to prayer, I got up at 4am this morning and was bloody excited to be doing what I was about to do. Micahel and Berrin booked their spots on the balloon back in Olympos, so Rhiannon and I made sure to book with the same mob. The Kapadokya Balloon van rocked into the Shoestring not long after, and off we went. We approached the huge, grounded balloons in a nearby field just outside of Goreme, and were suitably impressed that we'd scored the huge balloon with 'Mercedes Benz' scrawled all over it, rather than the other suckers who got stuck with the 'Kia', or the no-name varieties. If you're gonna go anywhere, even 2,000 feet up in a mammoth balloon, you've got to do it in style.

In no time at all, our Swedish balloon capitano 'Jaan' was pressing his gas levers like a man on heat, sending our 14 man basket slowly and smoothly up and away into the chilly, still morning air. The flight was absolutely amazing to say the least. As the sun crept ever so slightly over the imposing main ridge of a nearby Cappadoccia mountain, Jan sent us towards all pockets of the sky, sometimes shooting unbelievably close to the erect schlong monuments in Love Valley, to the point where we were but a hands brush away, before gassing the huge Benz another 2000 feet into the air. We managed to hang up there for a good hour and half, as the ground crew of Turkish blokes scrounged crazily around on the landscape below, desperately trying to anticipate where we might be landing. After three humorous attempts, the favourable wind allowed Jaan to pull off a perfect landing, and we proceeded to celebrate the flight with a few rounds of packaged cake and bubbly. It was 7.30am, and although I'd often found myself still drinking at this hour from the night before, I'd never actually commenced drinking this early, and my already beleaguered guts felt a little hard done by this early consumption.

I just can't get over how amazingly still and peaceful the flight was - almost as if you weren't up in the air at all, so surreal, like the countryside was just a model replica and not even real at all. It was very cool, and definitely worth the chunky dint in the back pocket.

Anyway, after all that excitement, my day pretty much ended there. I was knackered. The rest of the day was spent hangin around like a nasty stench at Shoestring Pension, powernapping on a colourful Turkish couch for the better part of the arvo, and dealing periodically with the wrath of last nights meatball dinner. The body clock was once again in dire straits and tonights night bus into Istanbul would almost certainly do nothing to improve the situation. During one of my awake periods, I attempted to play Backgammon with a chubby 11 year old Turkish kid, who destroyed me completely, though it might be noteworthy that he didn't speak any English, my Turkish sucks, and I had bugger all idea how to play Backgammon, and still don't. I bid farewell to my yankee friends Ryan and Catie over a meal of turkish pide, hyping each other up about hooking up again at Istanbul airport in a few days time and World Cupping it around Germany. Hugged and farewelled Michael and Berrin not long after, and all of a sudden, the extrapolated mighty blue cruise gang was disbanded, and our own separate ways were now the course to follow.

In the half hour before my night bus, I sat still and alone atop the Shoestring terrace and took one last breath and mental picture of the distant magical hills of Cappadoccia, and fairy chimney nestled town surrounding me. Birds chirped and flew around, as old Turks in headscarves pottered around buildings below, and the sky began to shift to that glorious Technicolour calmness that always accompanies those arresting moments before sunset. When you're on the move so much, so rapidly, its easy to forget where you are and what you're doing, the amazing place you're now in...and revert to a normal mindframe of 'everyday life'. But then another one of those magic moments arrive to break up this mindframe of normalcy...and you realise just how unbelievably lucky you really are.

In one night I'd met about 10 new people and got to know them well, and in no time whatsoever, was exchanging emails and bidding each other farewell and happy travels. One dude I met, a dreadlocked larrikin by the name of Matt, used to live in Dumosa Avenue, Croydon - the same street as me. I entertained the thought that Matt was probably one of the rampant bogans that took cover in the quagmire of a house right across the road from us, infamous for their front lawn full of VB empties and continual playlist of loud, offensive metal. Its always riveting to meet so many new people, and almost always premature when the goodbyes arrive.

For three weeks Id been away from huge city life, enduring nothing but small towns and beaches, but tonight, under the guise of an ominous, bright yellow full moon, I was heading into the thick of Turkey's largest city, the sprawling metropolis and Ottoman hub of Istanbul.

I was heading full pelt into the 'Bul
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