A lifetime’s experience: Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” – Mae West
My life has changed in the past 5 years. Every second counted and it feels like the clock is ticking. One big question came up lately. How do I want to spend the rest of my life? Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman gave me an idea to start making my bucket list (remember their movie called “The bucket list”?). I know my end is never far and I want to live my life..see and experience the world! If Trinity Traveler said “Worrying gets you nowhere”, then my friend, Bayu Adi Persada (after conquered Mount Semeru 😛 ), said “push your limit to the max” …so, here I am, I have Acrophobia and just experienced a hot air ballooning ride!
Many travelers reviewed that the most recommended place to experience Hot Air Ballooning is Cappadocia. A city in central of turkey (Anatolian region) which located among the volcanic mountains of Erciyes, Melendiz, and Hasan. Cappadocia famous with its unique yet bizarre landscape, have you ever watched The Flintstone movie? Well…it’s not bedrock, it’s Cappadocia!
Earth Science knowledge: How did that bizarre shapes happen?  The eruptions of those active volcanic mountains 2 million years ago formed soft tuff layer (150m in thickness), by the issuing lavas in the valley surrounded by mountains. The rivers, flood water running down the hillsides of valleys and strong winds eroded the geological formations consisting of tuff on the plateau formed with tuff layers then created bizarre shapes called fairy chimneys (mushroom-shaped, pinnacled, capped, and conic shaped) — courtesy of Wikipedia and some info from my geologist friend 🙂
It took almost one year to decide whether I want to ride the balloon or just staying on the ground waiting for friend enjoying the view from above. Actually, this is not my first time to have the idea to ride the balloon. When visiting New Zealand last year, I almost booked the trip then cancelled after heard news about balloon accident in North Island of New Zealand which killed 11 people and another one in Slovenia with 6 people died. The scariest accident in balloon history was in Luxor – Egypt in February 2013 which killed 19 people and it happened just few weeks after I booked the balloon trip in Cappadocia!
Anyway…remember my first paragraph in this post? For the sake of completing my bucket list and would like to have this lifetime experience, I signed up for a trip on June 4th, 2013 with Kapadokya Balloons. Why them? They have 30 years experience worldwide and 20 years in Cappadocia. They were the first commercial passenger balloon operator in Turkey. And they get EXCELLENT REVIEW from tripadvisor.com! — trust me, I did research before signing up for this near to death thing 🙂
The ideal time for balloons to fly is in the morning where cooler temperatures and lower winds. So they picked me up at 4 AM as we don’t want to lose the sunrise. Before going to the take-off site, all passengers gathered in the operator office to have small breakfast. I chose not to eat anything as my stomach as well as my head feel my anxiety since last night. I even could not have a proper sleep!  I have acrophobia, remember?!
But this Acrophobia-paranoid-anxiety-thing gone when arriving in the take-off site. There were nearly 50 balloons in that morning, and each of them already stand by at their take-off sites. They used a giant fan to expand the envelope which the air inside heated by the burner by using propane as the fuel.
Our pilot, Mr. Bekir Dursun, has almost 5 years experience (Thank GOD). Before take off, he explained the procedure for landing. FYI, there are no parachute or helmet available in the basket. There were 10 people in the basket and we need to have half-bended knee while landing. And we are ready to fly!
Something surprised me that they have air traffic controller system to arrange those 50 balloons. Whenever the pilot want to move his balloons, he should get the approval first. Like they do for airplane! And the pilot controls the movement by heating more air with burners or slowly releasing air allowing the heated air to cool off. Nice! And very safe!!!
How do Cappadocia win the travelers’ heart?
After 1 hour in the sky, Mr. Bekir successfully landed our balloons on top of truck! Everybody’s safe and no one get injured and killed! At the ground, the crews provided champagne (and apple juice) to celebrate this moment
Ride hot air ballooning checked! This is surely a lifetime’s experience, something that you have to do before you die 🙂 … Trust me, it’s worth for every penny you spent.
– More stories illustrated in my web album “An Illustrated Journey” –

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