Thursday, December 29, 2011

Up, Up and Away

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey.  It's not always easy to identify why we develop a desire to do something but I'm pretty sure that whatever dreams I had to fly in a hot air balloon became entrenched when I first heard the Fifth Dimension sing, "Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon."  That desire came crashing down, though, when I saw the Smokey the Bear balloon caught on a radio tower at the 2004 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  The pilot and his two young passengers had to climb out of their basket onto the tower and down the 700-foot structure while news helicopters hovered around them, creating strong winds and significantly adding danger to the situation.  

But yesterday I overcame my fear and joined about 500 other people in the chilly sky over one of the world's most unusual landscapes. 

Our pilot, Mustafa, of Butterfly Balloons, said Cappadocia is well-known for its good flying days, more than 300 per year.

Many of the balloons took a dip into the canyons, this one Rose Canyon, named for the color of the tufa, or volcanic ash that accumulated and eroded during the last ten million years.  Earthquakes combined with erosion over the millennia formed these magnificent canyons.

These conical structures, also tufa, were soft enough to be carved out for use as housing, food storage, animal shelter and churches.  Today, many have been converted into cave hotels and the Open Air Museum in Goreme, Turkey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

I was a bit relieved that our balloon was not so close to all these others in White Canyon.  Instead, our pilot, Mustafa, thought we should ascend above the clouds to see the sunrise.  And so we rose...
higher and higher and
it got colder and colder...
...until we broke through the clouds and saw not only the sun but a distant mountain peak.

UPDATE: Mustafa has written me that the mountain is "Mt. Erciyes (Argeaus), 3917 mt.  It is the major volcano that filled Cappadocia with ash for millions of years and with the help of water and wind erosion, we have this unique landscape."

Descending again, we saw the shadow of our balloon on a nearby cloud and a rainbow encircling our basket.  Thank you, Mustafa, for an unforgettable experience and a soft, uneventful landing!


  1. Congratulations, Martha! What a big reward for overcoming all to common reservations. The images look gorgeous!

  2. Thanks. It was a great experience and we were told Cappadocia is one of the safest places on Earth to go ballooning due to its normally low winds.

  3. Martha, fantastic photos. What a terrific adventure, and you were able to do great work. How was the landing?

  4. Jeff, the landing was much smoother than I ever imagined. Touched down lightly, went up a few feet and drifted for about 20 feet and landed softly again. The basket/gondola stayed upright and never even tilted. Perfect! Whew!

  5. You had a good pilot who was skilled. Landings are a point of concern, but any that you walk away from are OK. Your photos capture the beauty and excitement.

  6. Yes, Jeff...he was definitely skilled and we were also lucky, weather-wise. I've seen gondolas tip over and get dragged quite a way due to wind. It was a perfect introduction to hot air ballooning. Wish I could have made a video of that wonderful landing but we were told to assume landing positions which meant bent knees, back against the bulkhead and holding on to ropes with both hands.