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NNs Adventures We have traveled over the years but will be retiring in 2017 and want to spend more time traveling the world. We've been to Turkey, Sri Lanka, Africa twice and a number of trips to Europe and St Lucia. Kathleen/Thom Ennen

Day 7 – Cappadocia (Nov 17)

TURKEY | Thursday, 19 November 2015 | Views [162]

Day 7 – Cappadocia (Nov 17)

 We’ve now been here in Turkey a week and we’ve had one of our best travel adventures ever!!

Today was abit of everything. Thom said all I needed was to step in a boat of some sort and I would have had transport in the air, on the ground, and on the water!!! We came sort of close when we had a snack in the afternoon.

I did succumb to the draw of the balloon trip even though it was an early up when the wakeup call came at 4:30. Ugh. It was chilly, low 40s so I was worried about being too cold and put on almost every layer I had. Of all my tops, only one LS tee wasn’t in the mix – light cami, 2 layer/reversing tank, LS tee, LS blouse, wool sweater, fleece, jacket. I think I need a more windproof jacket!!! If it’s breathable and waterproof it doesn’t seem to keep the cold out very well. Oh and my hat. Couldn’t find the gloves in the bottom of my suitcase. Thom stayed behind due to his fear of heights.

Several others of us here at the hotel we fetched in a van and taken to the main office of Butterfly Balloons in town. We met others there and signed in and had a light breakfast. We were assigned a pilot and we then organized by pilot. We found the van to the site and we off at about 6:15 to the take off point. We passed many other sites for other companies in the dark of the presunrise morning. It is hard to describe. Only the photos give any clue to what it looked like.

Once deposited at the takeoff site, where there were 4 Butterfly balloons being inflated, we watched the process. Much of the air into the balloon starts with a very large fan and generator set. That probably goes on for some time. The balloon was about 80% full when we arrived. It was probably another 15 minutes or more before the switch was made from the fan to the gas burners in the basket. The basket is on its side during this phase of inflation.  The passengers are standing around and taking pictures of all the balloons being inflated. Some in the distance are only fairly visible when the burners fire and the balloon glows from the inside.

Take off was a pretty quick maneuver. As the burners continued firing there was a point the balloon started to float upwards. It got to the point where it righted the basket upright but there wasn’t quite yet enough warm air in it to start lifting. Beefy guys came up to you and though you thought you’d climb into the basket, the beefy guy said “I very strong” and you were picked up and placed into the basket. The side walls are more than waist high so perhaps it better to get in that way than have all 12-14 of us climbing and jumping in when time was short. The pilot, a handsome fellow, with stripes on his shoulders!, started controlling the burners to keep the balloon full but not warm enough to lift while giving a brief safety instruction. 1) no leaving the basket and 2)the landing position. When he gives the command you face away from approach direction, squat down, and grab the 2 rope handles in front of you. The basket always approaches the landing with the long side of the rectangular basket.  I think they have your back to the landing direction to keep from making a face plant on landing!! Though when we landed it was much smoother than expected.

With the safety briefing over, and some of the minders on the ground offering to take your camera for some photos, we started upwards with the whoosh of the burners firing. It was magical to see the ground fall away so quietly. And when the burners were not on, there was no sound at all. We gained elevation and floated in some direction – I think east. The sun was coming up but was very much behind the clouds so the light was more dusk like than anything.

We were over the Love Valley and spent some time there. We went up, and down quite low, and met up with the other Butterfly balloons, at one point getting very close and then we were almost directly above it. It was odd!

We gained more elevation, at one point up to 325m or so. The view was great and the experience spectacular!

We continued eastward. We never got as close to the town as I’d hoped for and as the balloons the day before had been able to get to. It was due to the wind direction and there’s not much you can do about that. All of us passengers stood and took photos. Turning from one direction to another, for the hour or so we were up.

As we started to see other balloons landing it became apparent we’d be landing soon. We were dropping in elevation somewhere near the Goreme Open Air Museum we’d visited the day before. I was also able to spot the trail we walked on, behind the Tourist Hotel, we’d used to get up to the “Sunset” Ridge we can see from our hotel.

Other balloons were down and deflating. Once down, the baskets, still with passengers are put onto the basket’s trailer. They are strapped down securely before you are once again hoisted out by a beefy guy. I’m guessing they want the basket completely stabilized so no one gets hurt with a wobbly, perhaps lifting again, basket. The balloon top is opened fully and the air starts to get released just as  the disembarkation/haul out occurs.

We ended up making several approaches to the landing but the pilot found we had too much speed and needed to find another location. The second attempt started with our approach to a small area that the truck/trailer hadn’t gotten to yet so the ground crew scrambled up the hillside only to find that we had gotten too far into the zone to land due to the very near power lines. We lifted quickly and the ground crew scrambled back into the truck and started to follow us. We approached another area where the crew was ready for us. As we approached, got into the crouch position, we scraped some treetops and then started up again. The pilot said we were again going too fast. We shouted/waved bye to the crew and went up and east again.

Now it was a matter of finding a spot and having the crew get there as well. They were driving all over the place!!  And then realizing we had to move farther on they’d get back in the truck and drive back out onto the nearby roads. The pilot and the crew were on the radios figuring this out. Our flight had turned into a “long” flight that most people pay much more for.

We probably had 4 possible sites that didn’t work as we got into the landing position twice before the third time worked. We were down on the ground with the crew holding on. The balloon was allowed to droop a bit but not much as we had to have enough lift to get us and the basket up onto the trailer. We got up and then had to jump, rock, and give some burner assist to shove it into the correct position. Lashing straps were ratcheted onto the corners and we were hauled out as the balloon’s hot air was finally fully released out the top. The deflating balloon leaned over to the east. As it collapsed more we were all invited to walk out onto it to help squish the rest of the air out. Eventually it was fully deflated and flat on the ground. The crew folded it lengthwise and then rolled it up into a ball. It was dropped into a big bag and loaded onto the truck.

While the balloon was getting packed everyone was getting photos. The pilot and crew were also getting out a table, some flowers, and champagne for celebrating!!! It was fun. We all got a flight certificate and then were shuttled back to our hotels. I got back around 9am and joined Thom in the breakfast room. He’d seen us in the distance.

The day was still before us given it was still early. We decided today would be the drive about day which also gave us a day with less exertion which was welcome!!

We headed out with some guide info and google maps. Garmin doesn’t work in this area. Thank goodness for google and for me getting the $5/day wifi hotspot. It’s very easy to get lost in this area.

Stop 1 – Kaymakli underground city, located south of Goreme. There are over 100 of these underground villages and cities carved into the rock built by Christians to avoid prosecution from the Romans. The one we saw had 4 underground levels that have been discovered. The vent shaft suggests there are more levels but 4 were enough for us. I don’t know if they are continuing to excavate and find more at this site. There was a lot of crouching to get through the tunnels. There are places for living, stabling livestock, making wine, cooking, etc. There would have been a central well below near the vent shaft. The wells did not go to the very top level for fear that the Romans would get in and poison the well. There are various locations where a door could be seen. It would have been a very large wheel of stone, maybe 4’ I diameter. It was supported on one side by being in a “slot” of stone. On the other side of the passageway was a curved/carved indentation into the stone wall where the round stone would “seat” itself. The area under the passage way would also be carved out to allow the stone to “roll” into the passageway, be fully into the carved out area, and offer a closed off stone door with no means of prying it open. Ingenious idea.

We spent about 45 minutes following the path down and back up. Amazing to think the local residents would run into this for protection and could live for days and even weeks. It’s reported the biggest of these underground cities could house 30,000 people. Not far from the one we visited was another one with 7 underground levels. Some say there are connection tunnels between the cities. They are still finding new ones and excavating existing ones and finding more and more about this way of life. They think the one we visited took about 14 years to build the parts they’ve found so far.

Stop 2 – drive to the Ihlara Valley. We continued driving through the countryside. It’s very brown with rolling hills and mountains in the distance. There’s not much. It appears to maybe be farm land but it’s very dry and not productive now. We saw several flocks of sheep with a shepherd and a mule. It’s the first evidence of livestock we’ve seen.

We to off the main road to see Belisirma, a short ride into the valley. When we got close we dropped dramatically in elevation to the valley floor. It looks more like a gorge than a valley! We found a place to park and we walked some. There were caves in the rock faces and the Melendiz River flowed by. It’s not much of a river but perhaps would be more if it wasn’t so dry.

We stopped for a light late lunch of soup and chicken kabob and sat on cushions on a deck in the stream. Here was my chance to be “on” the water after being in the air this morning. We were pestered by overly friendly and talkative cats.

On our drive up and out we passed a beautiful overlook area that happed to be next to another cave church. This one had a great location and was next to what turned out to be a linseed oil manufacturing plant. They smashed the seeds to make the linseed oil that was used in oil lamps.

We drove northward on our route back to Goreme, via Nevsehir.

Stop 3 – the Mamasin Dam. This looked like it would be quite a large lake if it wasn’t so dry. It’s a big earthen dam that was fun to see.

Stop 4 – Agzikarahan Caravanserai, on the road to Nevsehir. This is a large and great example of the many Caravanserais that dotted the Silk Road. They are spaced about a camel’s travel day apart and provided shelter, lodging, and food for travelers and merchants. There were fortress-like as well to offer protection against bandits. There are a number of these in the area. We passed another, smaller, one a bit farther down the road. It looked to be locked up. There’s lots of information on the interesting details of these at http://www.goreme.com/caravanserais.php.  (Eric, thanks for telling us to go here!)

We then headed back to Goreme through Nevsehir. We stopped for some water at a market and also to get some snacks for the cocktail hour. It’s amazing that here the water was 5L for 1.5TL. That’s about $0.50 which works out to $0.10 per liter. Never in the US.

After getting back to the hotel around 4:30, it was nap time for the balloonist! We then found a fabulous, best yet, dinner, at the Pumpkin Goreme Restaurant and Art Gallery. It’s an intimate spot with a wonderful little fireplace. I was able to finally get really warmed up. Dinner was prix fixe at $30 each and included a starter of soup/salad, main course of chicken, beef, or lamb, and dessert plate of fruits and baklava, and tea. Wine was an additional $3 for a glass. The flavors were exceptional!!! What a find. And as a first time visitor, I was offered a little departure gift of a small purse and key chain. Lovely.


What a day!!! Tomorrow is our last day here. We’ll take it easy and perhaps get some hiking in.

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