Hot Air Balloon
There had been a fair amount of debate between Scott and I on whether it would be a good idea to go ballooning and boy did we ever make the right decision.
First there was the cost (200 euro each holy crap!), then the fact that they pick you up at 4 freaking am, and finally that one of us is afraid of flights and the other of heights.
Every person we spoke to gushed about the experience so we said a couple of Hail Marys (ok, not really) and took a chance (really).
Why these people collected us at 4am is a mystery. From our hotel we were taken to a place where we were served a ridiculously enormous bang-up buffet breakfast, complete with food sculptures in amongst the dishes. And there were droves of people. Really it felt like every man and his hungry pushy cousin were there, all shoving each other out of the way so that they could be the first to get to all the food.
Who the bloody hell are all these pushy people scooping up plates of rice and soup at 4.15 freaking am, I wondered, and who can even eat at that time of the morning?! I would soon get to know them a little more intimately when I would be crammed into a basket alongside 16 of them. But my crusty cranky mood was diluted after they cleared a path between me and the coffee machine. Probably if I didn't know me, I'd have been terrified of me at that moment too.
There are multiple balloon tour operators in Cappadocia, so we went with Kapadokya Balloons who were recommended to us by our hotel. The guys in charge of manning our balloon were such fun, all joking around and playing the fool (a fact which I appreciated more after the flight than before).
There were probably about 30 to 40 minibuses parked outside the strange breakfast building. The hungry 5 thousand were divided into groups and directed to the appropriate minibus. Our friendly pilot was a chap named Andrew. I'd thought to myself how unusual it was for a Turk to be named Andrew but he soon revealed himself to be a Kiwi.
When we arrived at our baskets there was light in the sky (as opposed to being in complete darkness like when we were collected and fed) and we watched as our balloon was inflated. Nice, we got the Mercedes! I made a video of this with my cellphone.
My stomach butterflies were growing more violent and vicious by the second. They had developed acid-coated fangs and were bloodthirstily ripping and tearing their way through my delicate gizzards. I stopped caring about the hungry 5 thousand, and the earliness, and the chaos and now centered on the here-and-now and the fact that I would be climbing into a wicker basket tied to a balloon, and with nothing between me and the ground. What in the world were we thinking we are going to die on our honeymoon AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!! I looked over at Scott who looked calm and un-phased (does he ever not?) and tried desperately to disguise the fact that I was freaking out. Based on the photo below I was able to do this fairly successfully, but I knew that the ground staff could smell my fear.
I was expecting a violent jolt and to go catapulting off into orbit. What actually happened was a gentle, floatey, flying day-dream. I liked this! No… I loved this!
The acid-fang butterflies were extinguished by a wave of peace and calm (and probably relief). Up, across, up and away we floated. Things got smaller and smaller at a very slow un-terrifying rate and I couldn't take my eyes off of what we were above.
Andrew didn't have a lot of control over which direction we floated in, but he was in complete control of our height and the orientation of the balloon which meant that everyone in our group got a fair chance to view all directions because we were constantly being rotated.
When we eventually descended it was straight onto a flatbed trailer that the ground team had parked in the field that we came down in (they remain in constant contact with the balloon pilot to figure out where to pick us up). As we were landing, one of the team gave me and all the other ladies in the basket a little flower that he'd picked in the field we landed in.
While the balloon was being deflated and folded up we were served a glass of Cappadocian champagne, and Scott and I were given a bottle tied with a ribbon as a gift because we were the honeymoon couple! :) Right as I'd finished my drink, I was scooped up by the flower-giving balloon man and tossed onto the deflated balloon, presumably to help get the remaining air out. I was joined shortly by 3 more of the girls from our ride and it all made for a lot of hilarity and confusion and I nearly booted someone in the face.
This ballooning experience was a unique one. I felt unlike any other time in my whole life, and so did Scott. It was incomparable, magical, wonderful and the closest I will ever be to having lived a dream.