Up, Up and Away – III

IMG_3969As we headed into the van for our hour-long balloon ride over Cappadocia, my friend Mike asked “so how much does this cost?” I told him we had a discount – 150 Euros each.

The look on his face said it all. He doesn’t have my stinginess, but he’s not a spendthrift either. I could tell he thought I had allowed us to be ripped off.

When we landed (onto a flatbed trailer behind a pickup truck, great piloting) his firsts words were “I can’t believe how little that cost!” My thoughts we’re similar. I was wishing I had paid for the 90 minute flight instead of only an hour. Definitely no regrets after the experience.

The flight was our first look at Cappadocia. By seeing the Rose Valley first from the air I got a real feel fir its beauty. And that was in February, when everything was pretty brown. I can only imagine how it looks in summertime!

The experience has given me a whole new appreciation of traveling in a hot air balloon. It had never been high on my list of recreational activities before. Seeing my home town of Ottawa from the air has never seemed like a priority. I do have mild regrets about not taking the opportunity for a morning balloon flight over the Masai Mara while on safari in Kenya. I am sure the view was terrific, but that was $300 or $400 that I really couldn’t afford at the time, and no-one else in our group was taking the flight.IMG_3974

There is something inherently peaceful about having a bird’s eye view of an area, and a balloon is very different from a plane (large or small). Drifting with the currents can be therapeutic. I was expecting it to be much cooler than it was given that it was winter. I had gloves with me, but didn’t need them.

I could try to paint a word picture of Cappadocia from the air, but you can get a sense from the pictures. There are the local villages, to be sure, but it is the hills and valleys and the caves that are the main attraction. Especially the caves: I picked out a couple of holes in the hills that looked like they would be worth exploring, and later that day I did just that.

As with anything, there is an element of risk when you go up in a hot air balloon. I didn’t do any research on accidents; I didn’t really want to know. I found out after we were safely on the ground following the flight that there have been a couple of ballooning deaths in Cappadocia – our pilot was also the official investigator appointed by the government to look into such occurrences. He was very safety conscious – we felt no fear during our flight. It was nice though that he saved his stories of ballooning accidents for the traditional champagne celebration on the ground afterward. (I also saw a news report last month of another fatal balloon crash in the region. Looking at the statistics it would seem such accidents are rare, but there’s little margin for error a couple of hundred feet off the ground. I still would like to take another flight – there is risk in everything you do in life, it is a matter of what is acceptable.)

With an hour’s flight my attitude towards ballooning changed. No longer do I think they are overpriced extravagances. Well, maybe that is a bit much – in many ways the flights are overpriced, but in Cappadocia at least, I found it to be money well spent.

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