Monday, 1 August 2011

Up, Up and away in Goreme

Monday 1st August: Goreme (popn.2000 plus tourists)
It seems that it is absolutely compulsory to do a balloon flight whilst in Goreme. There are 17 balloon companies, they fly about 320 days of the year with an average of 40-45 balloons per day and they have baskets that carry from 10-35 people so it's really big business!
After much consideration we decided we should go, despite the cost. The young guy Cemal, who runs the Hotel with his family, is a balloon pilot so we 'negotiated' with him, almost to the point where I thought we would end up with free steak knives. Today was the day and much to Erin's consternation we had to be ready to be picked up at 4.30am. We were piled into a mini bus, which picked up some other tourists from different hotels on the way and were deposited at the Atmosfer Balloons office. The only movement in town was fleets of minibuses collecting people. We were horrified to see literally hundreds of people waiting at the office to go on balloon flights too! And that was only one of the companies available. As we drove off to the Balloon Launch Area there were buses and half-inflated balloons everywhere. We only had 10 people in our balloon, which was great. We all clambered in, got the safety talk ( "do not leave the balloon at any time until told to do so"- very funny!) With some gas being expelled into the balloon and various ropes to guide it's departure, we finally floated off the ground into the wide blue yonder! For the first few minutes we kept an eye on all of the other balloons taking off at the same time, some of them so close they were touching each other. You can see from the photos how fabulous the view is as the sun comes up so I won't rattle on. For an hour we floated at various heights, from so close to the ground that Cemal picked some apricots from a local farmer's tree, and so high that we were more than 1000 metres above Goreme, and 2000 meteres above sea level.
It was my first time in a balloon and I have to admit I wasn't sure if I would get airsick as I do in small planes, but It was just great: very smooth and quiet ( except for the theme song from Titanic which Cemal played after he told us that the balloon was named the TItanic! You'll note he didn't tell us that before we left the ground!).
He had radio contact with the other balloon pilots and with the ground crew who had a trailer for the balloon and a minbus for us. We managed to land on the trailer which I thought was rather remarkable. Erin was anointed co-pilot and had to pull on a long rope which opened the top of the balloon to helpit to deflate. Then we had a glass of champagne and cherry juice, some cake and were presented with our certificates, whilst the ground crew tried to squeeze the balloon back into its bag. eventually all of he females had to sit on it to help compress it: Erin first!
By the time we returned to the Hotel it was 7.30am and we were exhausted : Erin and I fell asleep for a few hours but Ewan walked into town for a coffee, looked up the sports results etc and eventually fell asleep. We decided that we would have lunch in town, then go for a drive rather than walk in the heat again.
One of the key reasons for the town being so quiet is that Ramadan started today for all of the Muslims. Turkey is predominantly a Muslim country so most of the population will be following Ramadan. They fast from 4.00am until 8pm every day for a month. They are also not allowed to drink anything even water, which in this heat which must be very risky for some: we've been drinking litres every day!. People who are frail or are unwell can bend the rules but anyone who is healthy is expected to follow them. There are a lot of vineyards here and it seems many of the Muslims do drink alcohol during the year: when they are asked about the number of vineyards, they just laugh and shrug their shoulders. As with their dress there seems to be varying levels of piety. In some places everything basically closes down during this month, but there is enough diversity here for most restaurants to be open: the waitress at the Borek cafe where we had lunch is from Iran and is enroute to migrate to Canada as a refugee.
Before I forget I have to apologise for the stupid text being so narrow on the blog and when I insert photos ( which takes forever!) the text is even more difficult to read. Can't seem to alter it at all unfortunately. It is almost impossible to insert photos where you want them to go so if they seem a bit hit and miss just overlook that - and the spelling too

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