Friday, 10 April 2015

Up, up and away … high above the
‘fairy chimneys’ of Cappadocia

Flying above the ‘fairy chimneys’ of Cappadocia this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

This was never supposed to be an adventure holiday.

I wanted to see the rock-hewn churches and monasteries of Cappadocia, the pre-iconoclast frescoes in the Byzantine churches, and some of the sites associated with the Cappadocian Fathers, the three great Patristic figures whose thinking contributed to the Chalcedonian formulations of the Christian faith and creed.

If plans worked out, perhaps I might get to see Konya and the shrines of the Mevlevi order of “whirling” dervishes.

I had never planned on trekking by a riverbed through a deep mountainous gorge. And although I had pre-booked a trip in a hot-air balloon, that was cancelled on Wednesday morning.

I asked about rebooking for Thursday, but was told the weather forecast meant there would be no flights on Thursday, and probably none on Friday.

I never bothered to rebook. I have a flight to catch to Istanbul on Saturday [11 April 2015].

Then early this morning [Friday 10 April 2015], before 5 a.m., the reception desk at the Maccan Cave Hotel in Göreme awoke me with a call. Would I like to go on that delayed balloon flight? The bus would be here in five minutes.

Before I had a chance to think again, I was up, washed, dressed and waiting.

We were registered speedily at the offices of Air Kapadokya, and there were no delays this time. Not even time to finish coffee that was offered as part of the continental breakfast.

Three minibuses divided us into three groups, Red, Blue and Green. By the time the Green bus reached the field, many of the balloons were already filled with hot air, the baskets were filling with people. The sun had not risen, the cloud cover seemed to be thickening, but there was a palpable excitement in the air.

There were careful instructions for safety and landing. And then within minutes we were air-bound.

The balloons rose in brightly-coloured clusters (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The balloons rose in clusters of brightly arrayed primary colours – reds, yellows, blues.

The towns and villages, the olive groves and farms, the fields and “fairy chimneys,” the valleys and ravines of Cappadocia spread below us, and each burst of hot air into a balloon close by sounded like a thundering wave hitting seashore.

The rock formations looked like they were covered in an almond sugar icing, and it times we were so close to them it was tempting to reach out and to try to touch them.

We whirled and floated around, rose and fell and rose again, for almost an hour, as the world below us began to wake.

And then the slow descent began. The command to brace ourselves was shouted out … 3 … 2 … 1 … we hit the ground in a field beside a small olive grove.

We were back on earth.

Adding a note of celebration to mark the end of an adventurous morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Champagne corks were popped in celebration, slices of cake were handed around. There was an air of celebration around as the balloon was deflated and rolled up.
Each passenger was presented with a Flight Certificate. Another adventure had been accomplished successfully, another surprising achievement.

And then the snow began to fall.

Had the weather forecasters realised those clouds were filled snow? If so, there would have been no hot-air balloon flights today either.

Back in the Maccan Cave Hotel on a height above Göreme, large snowflakes were falling softly as we sat down to breakfast. It was only 8.15 a.m.

A Flight Certificate proves my adventurous spirit

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