Yesterday, we were glad, for the first time, to hear the morning call to prayer which, here in Cappadocia, was at 4:05 a.m. We were being picked up at 4:35 for an early morning balloon flight!
It was a little windy Friday morning, so the company we chartered with, Butterfly Balloons, had to launch with all the other balloon companies, something they normally try to avoid. Additionally, because of the wind, we were told that we would not be flying at a very high altitude because the higher you fly, the faster the wind speed and the shorter the flight. The flight was supposed to last one hour, but there is a geographic area beyond which the balloons are not allowed to fly. By flying lower, we would travel slower and be able to get in our full hour.
All these things that seemed to concern the balloon company staff were happy events for us: we were able to see balloons all around while we flew; and, we were able to see more of the scenery since we were closer to the ground.
The launch crew was waiting for us at the launch site. They had the balloons half filled with cold air.
They started inflating our balloon with hot air while we all took pictures. Suddenly, we were being yelled at to “Quick, get in, get in!”
At the controls, our pilot (and owner of the company), Mustafa, fired up the balloon.
But time for one quick photo before lift-off (I didn’t think I would get my camera back in time).
We were up first, followed shortly by our sister balloon.
There was never any feeling of lift-off or acceleration. We were, simply, on the ground one minute, and 500 feet up the next.
It’s hard to explain the feeling of drifting along in the breeze with 40 other balloons.
For thrills, once Mustafa took us down so low that, if we had wanted, we could have jumped out onto the top of the plateau.
Then, suddenly, when the wind died down, he really let the gas jets rip and we zoomed up to about 2,000 feet above the ground.
We rode right alongside other balloons at times. Once, Mustafa called another balloon pilot on the radio and said, “John, is this your first flight?” John, replied, “No, Mustafa, is this your last?”
The flight was over all too soon, but our ground crew was there, waiting for us.
Mustafa pulled the chords to open the top vent to let some hot air out for our descent.
And the ground crew scooped up the mammoth balloon and began, immediately, to pack it away.
Meanwhile, we had a celebratory glass of champagne, safely back on the ground.