Hot Air Balloon Suspension
There is no better way to describe my Kapadokya hot air balloon experience than suspension. Suspension captures so perfectly the movement of the balloon, the state of reality we existed, as well as the my state of mind during the 90 minutes that I floated above the natural wonders of Kapadokya.
We took Kappadokya Balloon Company for our adventure, waking up at 3:00 am to catch a shuttle bus at 4:00 to the hot air balloon breakfast hall. The venue was packed with Japanese tourists. As we entered I listened to instructions for the excursion in Japanese provided both by a short Japanese woman and a Turkish man. The Turkish man had very fluent Japanese, and I say this with 7 years of Japanese language study under my belt. The breakfast was a superb buffet of all the makings of a proper Turkish breakfast with cheese, fruits, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, jams, breads, and yogurt. It was excellent, but I still preferred Bakir’s homemade organic yogurt at Anatolia Cave Pension, which is where we were staying.
Around 5:00 am we entered the air balloon, piloted by the very friendly Baris (pronounced Barush in Turkish). Besides taking the GRE in Cairo, I haven’t woken up and been out this early since I moved from Hong Kong to Cairo. I have however stayed out that late sipping tea and fruit juice with my friends along the Nile like an Egyptian… It is important to get an early start when hot air ballooning since you can get more lift in the early morning because of the differential between hot and cold air temperatures.
Our ride was spectacular. It wasn’t too windy, so it lasted the full 90 minutes. We floated mystically above Kapadokya. I stared in awe at the natural wonders of the region. I had seen them many times before, both on the internet and in person, but it was somehow completely different from this new lofty perspective. It was incredible how many hot air balloons were in the air. There were probably more than 50, but Baris said that in the high seasons of May and April there are more than 90 on a given morning. The view was truly impressive, so it’s no wonder Kapadokya is world class for hot air balloons.
We landed on a hill along side the road. Our pilot skillfully maneuvered the basket after safely landing on the hill so that it was carefully placed on top of a small trailer. Finally we finished with champagne and cherry juice along with a toast to a safe flight. No raki–I guess it’s too early. After we all walked on the balloon to deflate it; the balloon crew then proceeded to roll it up.
The pilots had a wide experience in their training. Ours had received his lessons in Russia, but others in Africa and else where. One guy said he was debating between lessons in either Canada or Napa, California. My mom and I recalled seeing the air balloons float over Napa Valley when driving from Davis to the bay area.
After mentioning that I live in Egypt I learned that one of the balloons was piloted by an Egyptian. This pilot was actually flying the EFES balloon, which I assumed to be named after the beer. Apparently the pilot thought the same, and as a very observant Muslim he initially refused to pilot this balloon. However, EFES beer is actually named after the city Efes in Northern Turkiye (near Izmir), also known to many as Efesus, home to many Ancient Greek ruins. After learning this he agreed to pilot this balloon. Another pilot told me he had friends flying balloons in the Egyptian city of Luxor, and offered to introduce me to his friend if I wished to fly in Egypt. I think I will take him up on that offer when I get back to Egypt.
Not a cheap experience, but overall something well worth the while. One more thing crossed off the bucket list with mom. I think grandma and dad are going to be itching to cross it off theirs once they see these pictures…