One the selling points for this trip was the chance to go on an early morning balloon flight across the hills so despite not feeling 100%, Bob booked me on one along with ONBF & Richard & Monica. All the others seem to have been put off by reports of 2 fatalities last week when one balloon came down on top of another, but in fact the safety record is quite impressive. There are 21 companies doing commercial flights with 194 balloons; of those, 140 are used regularly and the others used for training by the organisation we booked with who are the training authority & licence all the pilots; it takes at least 2 years, many hours , and $65 000 to gain a commercial licence; this was the second accident in 25 years.
So 04.40 this morning , in the dark we waited for buses to take us first to the HQ for tea & croissants and then to the launch pad. There were 96 flight plans filed for today, equating to at least 1500 clients! It could have been chaos, with probably 96 nationalities but these Turkish boys know a thing or two about a mass balloon launch, and I thought they were great. As the dawn crept over the hills, balloons started rising from behind every hillock until everywhere you looked the sky was full. The weather had been cloudy but as the sun rose the clouds gradually melted into a perfect day. It was like a giant has waved a bubble thingy across the sky. The flight took us over this amazing sandstone landscape carved by millions of years of wind,rain and ice into a fantastic spectacle and the pilots took the balloons into valleys, up ridges and then high up to view land as far as we could see. All too soon we landed, perfectly, with hardly a bump, and suddenly the ground was filled with Landrovers & trailers appearing from tracks & gullies trying to get as close to each landing as possible so as not to inconvenience us by having to walk too far. Champagne & cakes, an opportunity to buy glossy photos taken at the launch and a memory stick recording of the flight taken by the pilot on a remote controlled camera and downloaded as we supped our drinks. Great organisation giving a superb experience.
It seemed weird to be back at camp at only 08.00, but many had got up at 6 to watch.
At 10.00 we had a guided walk from the site through something called the Red Rose valley, 3.5miles according to Joan's pedometer. This was mainly downhill, getting close to the houses and churches carved into the limestone, stopping at 2 makeshift bars for freshly squeezed orange juice ( available at every street corner in Turkey so far and great value.....this was a bit pricier as everything had to carried up the tracks) tea & apple tea . When we reached civilisation there was a nice restaurant waiting for lunch and then a coach back to camp.
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
The Balloons of Cappodocia