That day commenced at 4am Eastern European Time. Where our eyes were barely opened and still filled with pinpoints of somnolence, Quentin and I stepped out of our room into a cold, quiet night. From where we were, on top of a cave hotel, in the heart of Goreme’s old historic village, we saw the silhouettes of fairy chimneys spread across the land.
They stood like sculpted clay cones pitched to the ground, high and low and some occupied. In the dark starless sky, while the sun and the rest of the visitors and villagers were fast asleep, there were a few of them already emanating some faint, gleaming light.
After having our breakfast, we were transported to the launch site, energised and excited to see a Turkish sunrise while floating on a mountain’s height.
Flying a hot air balloon is not a child’s play. Having said so, being on one entails risk, risk as severe as death. So if you’ve decided to go on a ride over rocky valleys and sharp hills of Cappadocia, you’d want to go for a safe ride.
There are many hot air balloon companies in town and we chose to follow Butterfly Balloon not only because it was, coincidentally, owned by the hotelier of the cave hotel (Kelebek Hotel) we stayed in, but also for their seamless operation and good flying record.
They have very experienced and knowledgeable pilots who hold American, British and French commercial pilot’s licences. The company uses high quality equipments, renews their balloons on a regular schedule and also carries international-standard passenger insurance for public transport.
Soon after the balloon was inflated, the marine blue sky was set ablaze by the giant gas burner. The balloon, the wicker basket and all of the surrounding were suddenly shining bronze and dappled golden. Our cheeks, warmed by the heat, showed a rosy glow. The ferocious roar of the flame transitioned into flickers of firelight reflected in the dark pupils of our eyes. Awed by the magnitude of the procedure, we held our breadth and excitement and climbed clumsily into the basket.
It was the perfect beginning to a phenomenal day.
Our balloon soon took off. A magnificent view rolled out slowly and gently in front of our eyes. We saw the valleys of Cappadocia, saw the hidden rock-cut churches and cascades of cave houses. We waved to the other equally elated passengers in the balloons floating all around us. We inhaled deeply the freshest flow of air.
And as we glided further from the others, we flew higher and better. The rock formations started to become blurry and faded into a sea of dark blue-brown below our feet. As we rose,the smooth serene sky was ripped open by shards of sunlight and warmth poured in like torrential water into our cold basket. Almost like a result of a wave of a magic wand, we were shimmering icily in the middle of the sky.
Our pilot, Mr. Mustafa Turgut, was the first Turkish pilot to acquire a US commercial pilot licence. He was a star throughout the ride, funny and indisputably skilful – performing daring manoeuvres around precipitous rocks safely and entertained us with his sarcasm and humour.
Sadly, a horrendous car accident in May this year took away his life. I only learned of his tragic demise recently when I browsed through the website of Butterfly Balloon. This is no doubt a great loss to the travelling industry of Turkey, for he was also a licensed tour-guide.
Our hot air balloon adventure took more than an hour. Then, we landed safe and sound on a vast levelled ground. What succeeded was, of course, a bout of celebration…with bubbles!, deemed to be a ballooning tradition.
Mustafa popped the champagne and we gathered around with chatters and cakes. I feel deeply sorry for the loss of such great man. Via the platform of AlexandraLuella, I wish to send my heartfelt condolence, as well as appreciation to Butterfly Balloon for the beautiful memories you gave us as a couple.
Q was very happy with his birthday present 🙂
With love x