Taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most people.
The excitement builds as the plans come together. The plane tickets are purchased, the hotel is chosen, the tours are discussed, and the hot air balloon is reserved.
Then the day comes when you are turning out the light a bit earlier than normal for the very early alarm. A few hours later you find yourself hopping out of a bed at a time normally reserved for dreaming. But today dreams are coming true so why keep sleeping?
The adrenaline is immediately flowing and your lips curl upwards into a perpetual smile as you get ready, head to the lobby of your boutique cave hotel, and wait for the hot air balloon company van to pick you up.
While the van navigates the dark streets of Cappadocia, you quietly talk about what to expect while somewhere in the back of your mind you are thinking, “So this is what the world looks like at this hour?”
After a cup of tea or coffee and a bite to eat you wait on pins and needles for the hot air balloon staffer to tell you the time has come to get back in the van. Your silent prayers for light winds have been answered, that little bit of anxiety vanishes, and the excitement really starts to build.
A few minutes later you exit the van and watch the crews finish blowing up the balloons while trying to capture every aspect on digital film. Once the balloon is hovering above your basket, they help you climb in and start giving the instructions.
Silently and with no fanfare all of the sudden you are floating. That moment is truly freaky in its non-eventness. Airplanes build speed and gradually take off, first front wheels, then back. Rockets have the countdown and then all the smoke before finally ascending. Hot air balloons are on the ground one second and off the next, and unless you are watching you do not even realize what has happened.
The ground becomes a distant mass as the intermittent Darth Vader-like sounds of the burning propane send the hot air balloon above Cappadocia’s valleys and fairy Chimneys. The experienced pilot who has done this countless times has no directional control, only altitude and spin. Like a blown dandelion you go where the wind takes you. In Cappadocia that means in and out of valleys and around fairy chimneys. Even with slight winds you will be surprised how far you travel in an hour.
But in spite of your wishes, the 60 minutes does float by, and next thing you know you are descending into a random Cappadocia field. Assuming the landing position, you brace for impact, and…bump! The crew jumps on one side to keep the basket from bouncing or tipping, and once everything is settled, they help you back onto land.
Quickly a table is set up and an impromptu ceremony begins. Champagne or juice or Mimosas all around and certificates or medals handed out. Once everyone has finished snapping photos and thanking the pilot and crew – don’t forget to leave a tip – you are back in the van and returning to your hotel for second breakfast, as the hobbits would call it.