One of the most amazing highlights of our vacation in Turkey was the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. Rob and I weren’t hot air balloon virgins as we have flown once before (technically twice, but that’s a whole other story you can read about here). But this experience was nothing like our experience floating above Virginia. Floating above Cappadocia meant amazing views of fairy chimneys as well as one of the volcanoes responsible for the unique landscape.
But this experience came at a price, and I am not referring to the actual cost of the excursion. I’m talking about the 4:45 AM wake-up and the 5:30 AM pick-up from our hotel! As many of you know, I am NOT a morning person and as I am sure my husband can attest, I am not pleasant to be around at that hour! But this was the experience in Turkey that I was most looking forward to and there was no way I was going to miss it. Our guides from Kapadokya Balloons picked us up from our hotel before sunrise and we headed to the launch site. Once we arrived, the crew already had things set up and we were just about ready to take off. These balloons and baskets were much larger than the ones we flew in before. Our tiny basket in Virginia just held the two of us, plus our pilot. But the baskets they used in Cappadocia were huge and held 20 people, plus the pilot!
We were up in the air in no time and we soared over the White Valley as the sun rose. The views were just spectacular! Our pilot told us there were about 60 balloons flying that day. With twenty-something balloon companies in the area, all charging about $200+ per person, 20 people per basket, flying 365 days per year (weather permitting), it is quite a lucrative business! It was by far the most expensive of the additional tours we booked, but it was well worth it.
Our landing was not quite as smooth as our prior ballooning experience. We touched down a tad hard and then the balloon continued to drag us and we all thought the basket was going to roll! But the pilot was amazing and he quickly adjusted to keep the basket upright. The thing to remember about flying in a hot air balloon is the pilot can only control the altitude of the balloon, they have ZERO control of what direction the balloon will fly. That is determined by the wind direction alone. So based on what direction the balloon is flying, the pilot must anticipate what will be the safest landing zone. In our case, we landed in a valley and the balloon caught a gust of wind that started to drag the basket. However, the other balloon in our group landed in an open field where there wasn’t much wind and the pilot was actually able to land the basket precisely on the trailer. Pretty amazing!
After our landing, the crew quickly packed up the balloon and we celebrated with a champagne toast. Our cocktails were actually champagne mixed with sour cherry juice (quite popular in Turkey). Personally, I would have preferred a mimosa, but the sour cherry juice wasn’t half bad. I’m not sure if this drink has an official name already or not. Any suggestions?