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Turkey - Day 6 - Part I - Ballooning

Sunrise balloon ride with Royal Balloons

When I heard that hot-air ballooning is offered in Cappadocia, it had immediately gone on our "must do" list for the trip. It's something I've always wanted to do, and I honestly have no qualms about it. I figure if my number's up, the balloon will go down, but if not, it will be a beautiful ride. There are countless hot air balloon operators to choose from in Cappadocia, so we relied on our travel agent, Karen (as always), and she recommended Royal Balloons.

As pre-arranged, Royal Balloons picks us up at the Museum Hotel at an ungodly hour before sunrise and takes us to the Royal Balloons office in Goreme. As we walk in, an attendant checks our name off of a list, saying we are in balloon number 10 and that we will be departing in about 30 minutes. That's just long enough to grab a quick bite to eat at the breakfast buffet and meet the other occupants of our balloon - a couple from Chicago, a couple from Pakistan, and a couple from Egypt/Saudi Arabia with one young son. Then we load up in a van and head off!

The pilot and ground crew are already on site, and our balloon is mostly inflated when we arrive. But we get to watch some of the inflation process, and I'm amazed that the powerful gas burner doesn't ignite the balloon itself.

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We're anxious to go, seeing that our balloon is one of the last to take off. We quickly load up, our pilot, Murat goes over some instructions about the brace position upon landing, and we're off! Actually, the "lift off" is so subtle and gentle that it's almost imperceptible. I barely even have the sensation of moving at all, except that the ground is slowly becoming more distant.

There are approximately 120 balloons in the air on this particular morning. I'll explain a little more at the end of this post, so be sure to scroll to the bottom. Enough of the jabber...Enjoy the photos.

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Uchisar, as viewed from the balloon:
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The next two photos are fairy chimneys in the aptly named "love valley":large_IMG_3518.jpglarge_IMG_3519.jpglarge_IMG_3522.jpglarge_IMG_3523.jpglarge_IMG_3530.jpglarge_IMG_3535.jpg
This is Ortahisar:
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At this point, Murat asks us if we want to go up really high? "YES!!!"
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And here's the view looking straight down:
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All too soon, we start our descent:
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And Murat sets the balloon basket right down exactly on top of the trailer! Really! Gosh, he's GOOD!
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The ground crew has prepared a beautiful greeting for us:
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Frank toasts, Murat, our pilot:
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Naturally we toast with a TURKISH sparkling wine:
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We each get a souvenir medal:
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And here is our basket group, safely back on the ground:large_IMG_3606.jpg

By the way, the aerial photos of the Goreme Open Air Museum in yesterday's blog posting were actually taken by me when we floated over the area during our balloon ride. It was so cool to see it all from that perspective.

A few suggestions if you're interested in going up in a hot air balloon...
1. Be sure to check out the equipment, training, experience, insurance, and safety record of the balloon company you go with. Ballooning accidents DO occur. And there are no parachutes. Earlier this year two balloons collided in Cappadocia and one person died.
2. Ask how many people will be in your "basket." With only 10 people in our basket, we were in one of the smaller ones. Some with other companies held as many as 20+ people. Smaller is better.
3. Conditions are better in certain times of the year, so check first to see how likely it is you will be able to go as scheduled.
4. Our trip was about 1 hr. 15 minutes long, and I felt like that was the right length. I think 2 hours would have been too long.
5. Last but not least, you won't likely have much control over it, but a fun pilot will enhance your experience. Murat kept us entertained and laughing throughout ("Is this your first time in a hot air balloon? Really? Mine too." "None of you have asked the name of our balloon. It is called the Titanic") and we enjoyed it so much more because of him.

Posted by BeachGlass 16:27 Archived in Turkey Tagged cappadocia balloon

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