Apart from flying the only way to get to Cappadocia is by night bus. Seriously, they must be the worst way to travel for any light sleepers like myself. Surprisingly I did get a few hours of sleep and had some senses when we arrived, which was conveniently right on dawn.
I use first impressions as a good gauge of whether I like someone or somewhere. For Cappadocia the first impression basically left me like an overexcited puppy running around the living room pissing itself. This place is all about natural beauty. Coming over the range into the valley you’re met with a spectacular view.
The valley opens into a plain with thousands of steep sided pinnacles that jut into the first sun rays and are covered with snow. Behind all of this is a massive volcano in the distance so high it has its own capping of cloud on a perfectly fine day. Into most in these pinnacles and cliff faces the local farmers carved whole villages into the soft rock and created cave houses and pigeon nesting boxes.
After a decent catch up sleep Aaron and I decided to start exploring right away while Kate and Sarah were still sleeping and getting ready. After a quick tour through the open air museum we got a little adventurous. Using a terrible map which we got from the hostel we took off on a proper exploration down one of the valleys. Slipping down the slopes covered in snow we descended into the first canyon we could find and from the first moment we reached to bottom of the canyon we could not stop exclaiming at how cool the place was.
Every cliff face was covered in the openings for houses with some of the entrances being at least 40-50m above the valley floor. We have no idea how anyone was able to reach them. Along with all of these houses the stream running along the bottom of the canyon had carved out caves and frozen during the night. This frozen stream became the walking trail.
We kept up going along the trail for a few hours, getting occasionally lost until we reached a small café up on the side of a valley serving mulled wine and juice. From here we watched the sun set and declared the day a win all around.
At 5am the next day we woke for our hot air balloon ride. Sitting in the hotel reception we gradually watched all the other groups being picked up until we were the only ones left. We knew something was wrong. The receptionist eventually cottoned onto this and made some quick calls to the operators… Who had never heard of our booking. After a tense few moments and some more calls a van arrived to pick us up and we were on our way!
Arriving at the launch site we were greeted with the sight of half inflated balloons in all directions. As soon as we got out me and Aaron were whisked away into the first balloon they could find for us, leaving Kate and Sarah up to the mercy of fate (which ended up being bad, their first balloon had to be abandoned because it wouldn’t inflate).
Within seconds of reaching the balloon we were away, the first balloon to take off. We have all had those moments when you have so much Adrenalin you become a shaking mess. For me this was one of those. Not from being afraid but from total excitement. I was getting lifted 600m off the ground by hot air, what could go wrong?
As we rose we had a great view of all the other balloons around us inflating like a hundred giant light bulbs flashing as the burners inside them were turned on and off. After a few more minutes we were all up in the air and waiting for the sun to break the horizon and when it did… holy shit! One of the most spectacular moments of the trip for sure and probably up there in the pile of insane moments of my life.
It turned out that we also had a bit of a stunt driver for a pilot and we did a few crazy trips down into the canyon weaving around the pinnacles. The woman next to me threw up but Aaron and myself were grinning like Cheshire cats the whole time.