Showing posts with label Balloons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Balloons. Show all posts

Monday, September 14, 2015

Turkey | Cappadocia | Göreme | Balloon Flight

Whenever I strike up a conversation with anyone in Göreme, the first question they ask is, “have you taken a balloon ride?” l quickly discovered that balloon rides are the main reason people come here. I talked to three people, two women and a man in their mid-twenties from Belgium, who had flown to Istanbul in the morning and then taken the 5:10 p.m. flight to Kayseri. From the Kayseri airport they took a bus to Göreme, where they stayed the night. They got up the next morning at 4:30 for a balloon flight and after the balloon flight went on the so-called Red Tour of the Cappadocia region, leaving Göreme at 9:30 a.m. and returning at 6:30 p.m. Then they took  the bus back to Kayseri, where they caught the 11:00 p.m. flight back to Istanbul. They planned to stay two days in Istanbul for a little shopping and sight-seeing and then fly back to Belgium. They claimed that the entire trip was planned around the balloon flight. Seeing as how everyone else was taking balloon rides it seemed downright churlish of me to come to Göreme and not take one myself. So I signed up for a flight.

There must be at least fifteen or twenty companies offering balloon flights in Göreme and competition between the various operators is fierce. I shopped around for a discount and, oddly enough, found one with a company that I later discovered is one of the most highly regarded in the region. The companies have this thing organized to the T. They pick you up at your hotel at 4:30 in the morning and whisk you to their offices, where a buffet breakfast is served. Then you are driven in a van to the take-off point, which apparently varies according to the winds that day. My company had two balloons taking off that morning, one with a 8-person gondola and one with a 16-person gondola. I had been told the 8-person gondola offered more space to maneuver for photos and a generally less crowded experience, but it also cost more. I signed up for the balloon with the 16-person gondola. As it turned out, there were only ten people in the gondola, so we actually had more space per person than the people in the 8-person gondola, which was full. On my ride were people from Turkey, France, Italy, China, and Korea.

Our pilot said he had no control over the direction the balloon took. We simply had to go with the prevailing breezes. But at different altitudes the breezes blew in different directions, so we could control our flight path somewhat by changing altitude. First we started out fairly low and drifted north-northeast over the village of Çavuşin, at the western end of the Red Valley. 
Our takeoff point. Several other companies were using the same site (click on photos for enlargements).
Drifting off towards Çavuşin, with the cliffs lining the Red Valley in the distance.
Drifting off towards Çavuşin
The village of Çavuşin.
Cave dwellings in the cliffs above Çavuşin
Cliffs over the village of Çavuşin.
Then we rose in altitude to catch the slight wind to the southwest. Soon we were approaching the village of Uchisar. 
Village of Uchisar in the distance
Village of Uchisar
Then we dropped in altitude and again drifted to the north, above the Love Valley.
The Love Valley
Actually I had walked to Love Valley from Göreme two days before.
Love Valley from ground level
Love Valley  from ground level
 Love Valley from ground level
Another view of Love Valley
Then we drifted over the White Valley
White Valley
Approaching our landing site
Before taking off the pilot had given us instruction on what to do in case of a hard landing. In the event it was not necessary. You could have put a full cup on coffee on the railing of the gondola before takeoff and not spilled a drop on the entire flight, including the landing.
The pilot landed the gondola directly on the blue trailer.
Happy ballooners preparing for the traditional post-flight champagne toast.