Saturday 29th May
We were picked up at 5.15am for the balloon flight. Ballooning at
Goreme was a bigger operation than I had imagined, with some 47 balloons
going up that morning, nearly all of them from the same launching area.
This was a dramatic spectacle in itself — and once aloft the
balloons remained a dramatic addition to the landscapes.
We went up as high as 600 metres for the broad view, and right down into
a canyon (Love Valley) for the closeup views.
Our pilot had an airplane pilot's licence and had originally wanted to
fly F16s, and he handled the balloon to what seemed like quite
fine tolerances, taking the balloon envelope itself within half a metre
of a rock pinnacle (a "fairy chimney") and getting close enough to a
tree to allow some of the passengers (there were twenty of us) to pick
leaves off it.
The balloon could be rotated so as to give everyone a share of the views,
but had no lateral thrust at all. So the only way to control where
it went was to go up and down and use knowledge of the different air
currents. Local knowledge was obviously very important — and at
a couple of places people on the ground had fires burning to generate
smoke to help the pilots track the winds.
Our pilot, with help from his ground crew, who manoeuvred the vehicle
and pulled on ropes attached to the balloon, managed to land the basket
right on the trailer (while avoiding potato fields).
We celebrated our successful flight with champagne, then headed back to
the hotel for breakfast.
Goreme and Cappadocia from the air are spectacular, and this is
apparently the most popular location for hot-air ballooning in the world.
(Though I wouldn't be surprised to find several places claiming that.)
Ballooning is not cheap, but if you're only ever going to do it once,
this might be the place.
We flew with Goreme Balloons, but our hotel owner arranged a significantly
better price than the one on their web site.
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