Hot Air Balloon Ride : Painting Cappadocia Morning Sky
4 am, cold breeze and hazy crescent bid us günaydın and hoş geldiniz to Cappadocia’s fresh air. A shuttle service from a hot air ballooning company pick us up for an unforgettable ride of a lifetime soaring over the famous Cappadocian landscape in Turkey. It has been a notable bucket list among travelers to glide inside a wicker basket and fly above the alien-like rock formations shaped by volcanic eruptions of Mount Erciyes, Mount Hasan, and Mount Melendiz around 10 million years ago. 5 am, a small jeep drives us to the take-off point in an open field in a valley surrounded by surrealistic rippled walls and pointy pillars of rocks. Our pilot, Emrah and his crew has started blasting the burner flame into the mouth of the balloon. It takes around 10 to 15 minutes until the balloon is upright and ready to set sail, he calls us in and we climb into the basket. With a simple briefing on taking off and landing position from our pilot, we are good to go. There is this sense of inexpressable wonderment when the basket starting to hover over the ground. The blast of the burner adds more heat as the balloon slowly ascend. Dozens of hot air balloons begin to swim in Cappadocia morning sky and bathe in the warmth of sunbeams. All of a sudden, the horizon is painted with vibrant specks outlining the edge of the sunrise.
Drifting over 1000 feet off the ground, we gently waltz around fairy chimneys, sedimentary rocks formed in the shape of pillars and minarets. The journey takes approximately 1.5 hours of floating over majestic valleys of Cappadocia. There are at least 10 valleys, including the prominent Pigeon Valley, a sanctuary of thousands of pigeons. Their droppings have been used for a long time as fertilizer in the Cappadocian agriculture. “Okay, landing position!” It is Emrah’s cue for us to turn to the opposite direction to where we took off, crouch down, grab the handles in the compartement, and stay low. That sensation of the basket touching the ground? It might be the most exciting part of the trip. My very first hot air balloon ride hit a home run. We then helped the crew deflating and pushing out the air by stepping onto the balloon. Our hot air balloon tour ends when Emrah and his crew setting up the table with a natural decoration for a post-landing celebration. It is a tradition to have a champagne after a succesful balloon ride. With cherry juice-mixed-champange and a sweet sponge cake in my hands, here’s to crossing off one wish on my bucket list, Şerefe!