One of the things that Mum really wanted to do in Goreme was go hot air ballooning – she’d never done it before, and the landscape of Cappadocia is spectacular. It had come highly recommended by a number of people we’d met, and it was something that I hadn’t done on my last trip due to the cost. Ballooning doesn’t come cheap, even in Turkey!
And so it came to pass that we were up long before the crack of dawn in the freezing cold, waiting to go up into the even colder sky. We were both wearing just about everything we owned – I had thermal tights on under my jeans and three pairs of Explorer socks, plus thermals and a long sleeve shirt and a tshirt and a polarfleece under my jacket – as we’d been warned that it was one hell of a lot colder in the sky at dawn than on the ground. I felt like the Michelin Man!
We were first driven to the ballooning office where we were given ‘breakfast’ – tea and biscuits – and waited for almost an hour to be taken to the balloons. Apparently the weather was being uncooperative; the result was that we missed seeing sunrise from the balloon itself, instead watching the balloons being blown up as the sun rose. That was a little disappointing, but I enjoyed watching the giant balloons slowly inflating and lifting off the ground, weighted down by the basket and ballast.
There were fifteen people in our basket, and somehow we managed to score the corner with only three people – which was good, as we could barely move as it was. And then we had lift-off, as the pilot turned on the burners and we began to rise smoothly into the air.
While the sun had risen as we waited for the balloons to inflate, the eerie light of dawn had yet to fade and so the colours of the landscape melted into a strange palette of soft pinks and greys and blues. Our pilot attempted to set our minds at ease by telling us that this was his first ever flight and that he didn’t really have a licence, and by playing such reassuring music as Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, pointing out the similarities between icebergs and fairy chimneys.
He took up up high, so we could enjoy the vista, before taking us so low that I thought on a number of occasions that we’d crash into a tree or a fairy chimney; fortunately our pilot’s consummate skill ensured that at the very last moment we’d rise swiftly above the obstacle and back up into the sky. It was much more exciting than ballooning over Melbourne – there was no almost-hitting-skyscrapers happening there! Sweeping low and then high over the landscape meant that we got an incredible variety of views, and only added to the thrill of the journey. It was pretty bloody cold though.
Our pilot pointed out different villages and valleys, so we knew what we were seeing. We saw the vibrant rose-red walls of Rose Valley and the giant phallic rocks of Love Valley [in case you don’t get the connection, it’s called Love Valley because it looks like it’s filled with giant dicks]. We flew towards Avanos and over fields, seeing that the landscape was a patchwork of browns and greys. We watched the other balloons floating around as though buoys in the ocean – all of them different colours and most covered in advertising. We were surprised at the number of balloons out on an icy January morning – there must have been about fifteen – but this would be nothing compared with the balloons in the sky in peak season.
Our flight came too quickly to an end, as we neared a paddock with two Landcruisers with trailers on the back waiting. Mother and I suspected that they would try to land the basket on top of the trailer, and the doubters among the passengers were proven wrong when we landed expertly dead on the trailer.
As the staff pulled the balloon down to pack it all away, we toasted our successful flight with some truly god-awful champagne and were presented with certificates evidencing our adventure. Unfortunately, despite writing both our names clearly in capital letters on the form in the morning, mine came to me with the name ‘Canerne Geer’ and Mum’s ‘Bronwen Marigton Geer’.