Am I going to freak out and spend the entire time clinging to the basket in a frozen state of panic? There are many questions going through my head as I pull on every layer in my backpack to prepare for my first ride in a hot air balloon.
Ninety minutes later my balloon is rising to join the others already in the sky. The glow from the burners makes them easy to spot before the sun comes up. It isn’t as cold as I thought it would be for the beginning of November, but I enjoy the heat from the flame above me. I close my eyes as it warms the top of my head.
When the blast from the burner stops, the world is silent again. Turkey is still asleep. I open my eyes to take in the spectacular view below me. What was I worried about? This was not what I expected. Ballooning always seemed so adventurous and scary. But maybe I’ve read too many Richard Branson autobiographies. Finally, I can understand how Branson managed to sleep while floating around the world – it’s incredibly peaceful up here.
My tummy turns in elevators, on balconies and while climbing ladders. I’d heard being in a hot air balloon was different, but that’s little comfort when my knees go weak just looking at photos of people standing on observation decks. But I was determined to fly today. It’s why I’m in Cappadocia, a strange little region in the middle of Turkey. Two factors make hot air ballooning in Cappadocia so popular: the weather and the landscape. Suat Ulusoy, Royal Balloon’s chief pilot, says most companies fly about 300 days in the year and he hasn’t cancelled a flight in three months. He won’t fly if conditions are unsafe and rises at 4am every morning to assess the best locations for the flight that day.
Suat won’t even get a break from his early starts when winter comes because they fly in the snow. When the sky lightens, the main appeal of this place becomes clear and I decide Suat has the best job in the world – despite his schedule. Cappadocia is one of the most unique and freaky landscapes on earth and the sight of it at sunrise is magical. Location scouts were on to something when they considered this area as a potential setting for the Star Wars movies.
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