Travelogue to Turkey- Part VII- Hot air balloon, Cappadocia
D6- 26th March, 2015
I woke up early this morning. Prepared myself for Subuh prayer and dressed appropriately with few layers of clothes to cover my skinny body so that it won't get too cold out there. Yup...of course not to forget, pray for my safety. If anything happened, Ida said she booked my jacket... Hahaha...😂. It all came to my mind when I thought about the warning that Ida told me earlier back in Malaysia, where there were 2 people died due to two hot balloon collided here in Cappadocia in December, 2014. Yaa... Quite recent incident right. So I prayed to Allah to make my journey safe and definitely in His hand my soul belong.
I went down to hotel lobby excitedly. Ready for another adventure I was about to experience...once in a life time experience. A lot of people from different nationalities already waited in the lobby. I spotted my group in the middle of the rest. Only 5 of us will go for the hot balloon ride today. We waited for the rest to come down and for Hjh Shalina and Finar to accompany us to the site. By 5 am most of the participants from other countries already moved out, and the hotel lobby became quieter. Outside, it's already bright even may be at that time it's only 5.15 or may be 5.30 am. From our hotel, we were picked up by a hotel van to the hot balloon site.
In the van we were given some snacks and packed drink. We were also given a card on the safety guide or precautions that we needed to take during the hot balloon ride. It took us about 15 minutes to reach the site where we're going to board. It was cold ...and one can expect that it might be colder up there. Once we reached there, they're preparing our balloon. Since we were the first group reached to this balloon, it gave us enough opportunity to take some photos in front of the balloon before they inflate it. We were lucky in a way, the weather was good and suitable to fly. I was told that the ride was cancelled yesterday due to bad weather and it was predicted by weather forecast tomorrow would not be a good day as well. Alhamdulillah and always praise Allah...He's the best planner yup...
Before a safe hot balloon ride, the pilots will check the weather...they won't simply fly if weather's not suitable. The current and forecast weather must have sufficient visibility for the pilot to see to avoid obstruction and sufficient slow winds to allow take off and landing. When we reached there our balloon already lying on the ground connecting to the basket which we were going to board later and it's ready to be inflated. We were lucky as we reached earlier than others and not much crowd at that time, gave us ample time to see the process on how they inflated the balloon and to take some photos in front of the balloon. They used a burner flame aimed into the mouth heating the air inside the balloon to inflate it. At the same time, the other crews hold the ropes and took care of the balloon while it's being inflated. I can't remember how it suddenly fully inflated and the balloon was already upright...ready for us to climb in the basket.
I was the first person climbed up the basket...but because of my small size and was not use to climb, I was stuck to the steps. So somebody had to help me to climb up the basket. Hahaa...luckily, I am a little bit taller than the basket, at least I was able to enjoy the scenery I was about to see. Our basket was a medium size basket that can accommodate about 16-20 passengers at one time. The basket came with 3 sizes...the smallest one accommodate 8-12, the medium size ( the one we took) and the largest basket could accommodate up to 24 people. There were 4 compartments in the basket, 2 to the right site of the pilot and the other 2 on his left side. All we from Malaysia stood in one compartment. Oh yea...I forgot to introduce who among us were there...En Marzuki and his wife as well as one of his family member ( Sorry...I didn't know the names), Nurul Hidayah and myself. Sorry if I named the wrong person...✌🏼. The other passengers majority from Japan and the other 2 or 4 I can't remember whether from Europe or Central Asia. Before take off, the pilot gave us instructions...to use our belt. There's not much precaution needed when we take off...the most important thing was the instructions during landing, in which we had to face to one side and took certain position (bend forward and hold the upper part of the barrier in front of us). Apart from that...everything leaves it to Allah...😇. The belt was quite loose...so, on and off it slipped down from my waist and on and off I stepped on it. I would say it was a false protection...just to make your heart comfortable that something was holding your body. On and off I had to pull it back to the right position.
It was quite noisy at first when everybody feeling excited once in the basket...while the tour guides and leaders taking photos and made sure all of us were safe. I didn't realise when we were already up and leave the ground. I stood next to where the pilot stood...and that place was warmer because it closed to the burner. Our pilot introduced himself...But I could not recall his name now. He informed us about how the balloon operated..in which it will moved following the direction of the wind blowing. During the flight, the pilot steered the balloon by increasing and decreasing the altitude of the balloon to find the different wind direction and also could control the movement to right or left. The rest of its movement depending on the wind.
Once up there, we could see a very beautiful and spectacular view of the Goreme National Park. There we can see the Goreme valleys ...Rose and Red Valleys as mentioned by our pilot, canyons and pinnacles. I couldn't describe it in words...because I might do injustice to describe this creation of Allah... What I can say is... Subhanallah and MashaAllah...Praise to the one who created this beautiful world. It was so beautiful especially the landscape viewed from up here. Some areas we still can see the sun rise. Our pilot described briefly on the red and rose valleys and he also mentioned about the rivers that run to these areas...about the red river.
From every angle we could see other balloons also flying at different altitudes...the panaromic view was spectacular from high above. It was like every ballon was competing each other for the highest point. From down slowly our balloon flew higher and higher. The highest altitude was about 800m from the ground (if I heard correctly what the pilot said). One of the Japanese passengers asked whether we could go higher...but the pilot just ignored I guessed. With the morning breeze and the early morning sunrise made it a memorable journey. On and off I could see the pilot turned on and off the burner...may be it helped to continuously keep the balloon floating or rising. Not quite sure with the physic principles behind it. Don't worry I am not going to search on how it works or write a long story on how hot balloon remain stable on air...😂.
We moved slowly and could see the changes from valleys and canyon to the flat surface ground. There we could see beautiful scenery of different colours of balloons flying slowly at different height. From far we could see houses appeared small down there. It also made me realised...how small we were. From high above we were really nothing, may be just less than a size of a tiny dot. Even with that, human being still arrogant to their creator. Allahuakbar....Allah is great.
Our pilot asked all of us..."How many of you are Muslims?". All 5 of us raised our hands. This was because there will be a celebration after we reached to the ground and will be given a certificate that we had successfully joined the hot air balloon ride...😝. He started counting and told us there will be champagne celebration, so for Muslim...we will be served with pomegranate juice. Hmmm....I guessed he's Muslim too. Ok...no comment. As I told you a lot of Turkish people drink alcohol anyway. We flew for nearly 1 hour and 10 minutes...extra time according to our pilot. From far, we could see a truck following us using the normal road and supposedly going to wait for our balloon to land.
Our pilot reminded us again the instructions and the positioning we should take when we were about to land. All of us were prepared and suddenly he told us again to take normal position back since the landing was smooth. Slowly our balloon descended and touched the ground upright. We were in the middle of grassland. We gave a big clap and congratulate our pilot for his excellent landing. We found the pickup truck already waited there to bring back the balloon to its original site. From far we saw some of the vans and other vehicles already reached there to take us back. We saw how the balloon being deflated back and later detached from the basket. I saw the Japanese tour guide just now (before we take off) came running from the far end to join her group.
We climbed down the basket again with the helped of other crew members. Since it was still early in the morning, the grass and the soil there was a little bit damp. So, it had cause our shoes covered with dirt. We took photos there...an evidence that we had successfully landed and experienced the hot air balloon. As mentioned earlier, they prepared a table with the glasses, wines and pomegranate bottle. The pilot poured the pomegranate juice first to all the glasses and then took 5 glasses away and gave to 5 of us Malaysian Muslim. The rest of the glasses he only poured half and added on wine to make the glass full. I shouldn't be here right when they had their champagne toast...but where else should I be. While drinking my pomegranate juice, the pilot announced the names according to the certificate prepared for us.
After completed this 'ceremony', we were brought by the pickup truck to our van. Luckily, we were among the earliest to jump into the truck...or else we might have to sit at the back...😄. Once reached there, our van already waited for us. We tried to clear the dirt on our shoes, but because it was quite thick we actually had made the van floor dirty...😜. We went back to our hotel, full with memories...An experience that it was quite difficult to explain, unless you experienced it yourself. For me even though the ride had cost me US 200... I think it was worth it. The experience and memories that you could not buy. I will definitely encourage those who come to Turkey to try this.
We reached our hotel and went straight for breakfast and later prepared for the next visit. By 9 am, I was ready for another sight seeing tour around Cappadocia.
Ok...see you next time and I will tell you more about what I did in Cappadocia InsyaAllah...😃