Our pick-up at our hotel in central Turkey, living a Travelife, was scheduled for 4:50 AM the following morning.
We were set to go on a sunrise hot air balloon ride across the rugged, mountainous plains of Capadoccia.
Going to bed at midnight, I was suddenly contemplating passing up this flying opportunity.
Just a few more days to buy this special issue of Travelife Magazine. On sale until August 15…
AN INCOMPATIBILITY WITH HEIGHTS
AND SMALL SPACES
I’m not very good with heights, as it is, and the prospect of a balloon ride across a landscape of sharp rocks and pointed crags was making me very nervous.
Think about it: it’s quite daunting to be hundreds of feet up in the air, in a large basket held by strings to an inflatable nylon bag, with only hot air and the wind to determine your safe flight and landing.
A CASE OF NERVES
That morning, it took 20 minutes from Urgup, where we were staying, to the outskirts of the picturesque town of Goreme.
Here, Captain Erdal Yaris and the staff of Goreme Balloons were waiting to literally take us up, up and away.
Until the very last minute before lift-off, when all the tourists who had reserved places in the balloons were already inside the baskets, I was still of half a mind to get out and watch my companions from the ground instead.
THE SAFETY QUESTION
“Balloon rides are safe, aren’t they?” I called out to Captain Yaris, who was about to wave goodbye.
He looked like he’d been asked this question a million times by his customers.
“Well, at least so far,” he replied, with a twinkle in his eye.
WHAT A LITTLE EMPATHY CAN DO
Fortunately, an Australian lawyer, traveling solo, was in my section of the basket.
Seeing my agitated state, he looked at me kindly and said, “Don’t worry. I’m nervous too, but it’ll be all right.”
And that little empathy was all it took for me to calm down enough to weather the lift-off into the clear blue skies above Capadoccia.
Surprisingly, amidst the roar of the balloon heaters, we felt barely a nudge, and within a minute we were airborne.
By the time we were way up in the sky, my fears had been overtaken by wonder at the experience and the beauty of the nature below.
We could see the vehicle waiting for us on the ground below but none of us considered even for a moment that we would actually land on top of it.
“We’d better start passing the hat around then,” someone else piped up. “I certainly don’t want to have to jump that high.”
We’d joked about landing the balloon on the back of the truck, but that is exactly what our pilot did.
CHAMPAGNE TO CELEBRATE
Back on ground, a bottle of champagne awaited us on a table with flutes and flowers.
The captain did the honors and served the first glasses himself.
As we toasted to a truly beautiful, magical morning and a safe flight, he said: “I didn’t want to tell you earlier because I thought you wouldn’t want to hear it, but I’m actually the youngest balloon pilot in Turkey.”
We congratulated him on this achievement and complimented him on his skill.
He was right. I’m glad he didn’t tell me that before the flight.