One of the highlights of our one month in Turkey in 2013 was our sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride booked through Royal Balloons.
Hot Air Balloon Ride Attempt #1
Our pick up by Royal Balloons was scheduled for 4.50am from Kismet Cave House where we were staying. Jane woke up at 4.00am in a panic saying that she could not do this. She is a seasoned flyer having flown in two seater training aircraft, air hostessed in 10 seater aircraft and private jets, flown around the world in various aircraft even Concorde and has had many helicopter rides in Australia and New Zealand. The fear of being in a basket open to the elements unnerved her.
Royal Balloons arrived at the designated time and took us to their headquarters for a substantial cooked breakfast. It was dark, freezing with a strong wind blowing. All eyes were on the weather as the previous three days all take offs at sunrise had been cancelled. As we were finishing breakfast Chief Pilot Suat Ulusoy announces that the flights are cancelled once again. He apologises saying safety is of utmost importance to Royal Balloons. There were slight groans from a few people around us as they had been waiting for the last three days for a take off at dawn. Jane was a very relieved person. Then it suddenly dawns on her that she would have to go through the next 24 hours feeling the nervousness again.
Hot Air Balloon Attempt #2
Next morning the weather is better. The same routine, Royal Balloon collects us at 4.50am and we head off to enjoy their cooked breakfast. Chief Pilot Suat comes to our tables and announces that we are flying and we head off to our designated mini bus to the fields where the balloons are being prepared for flight. It is still dark and cold as we stand and watch the movements of the teams preparing the balloons. We start to hear the roaring of the gas burner heating the air inside of the balloon to a temperature of around 100 degrees centigrade. The balloon or envelope as it is known as starts to inflate, it is an amazing sight in the still of the dawn. We are close now to entering the basket, one or two more bursts of the gas burner and we are ready. We move into the basket and settle down to hear Chief Pilot Suat run through a very comprehensive safety drill. We practice our brace manoeuvre for landing. Suddenly we realise that we are above the ground floating and we slowly rise up into the cooler air.
Chief Pilot Suat is chatting about the landscapes and pointing out important features. Jane is appearing more relaxed at this point. All the time he is looking out for other balloons around us, talking to his other pilots and keeping his ground team up to date on where the balloon is taking us. He keeps firing hot air into the balloon at regular intervals to ensure that the balloon is kept stable.
There are twenty-four companies flying this morning and it is a sight to behold, possibly over two hundred balloons flying this day. The unique landforms of Cappadocia with the sun rising and the colours of the many balloons at different height levels flying all around us makes an amazing spectacle.
Chief Pilot Suat heads towards Red Valley and Rose Valley where we skim the top of the Fairy Chimneys. He explains the formations of the Valleys to us as we silently float through the air, the only constant noise was the gas being let off into the balloon chamber. As we floated over the rugged unusual landscape we view vineyards and fruit trees growing amongst the many cave homes and pigeon houses hewn into the rock formations.
What seemed only minutes later Chief Pilot Suat informs us that we have been flying for 1 hour and 8 minutes and it is time to land. One of the other passengers on board who has flown many times with Royal Balloons bets him 100 Turkish lire that he could not land the balloon in the trailer of the support vehicle. Always up for a challenge, Chief Pilot Suat runs through a safety briefing with us all as this will be a different landing than the brace position we had practised before. Slowly he pulls on the cord that opens the valve letting the hot air escape, this decreases the inner temperature. The cooling of the air inside the balloon causes it to slow down its ascent, Chief Pilot Suat with a small movement brings the balloon down gently into the back of the trailer. Loud cheers and congratulations all around from all of us and his team. We wait for the balloon to be deflated before we are allowed to disembark to the waiting glasses of chilled champagne, that signals the end of our adventure this morning.
And Jane? Well, she can’t wait for our next hot air balloon ride in Bagan, Myanmar in November 2013.
To Travel Too Tips and Recommendations
- Choose your company carefully as there are over 24 companies flying
- We chose Royal Balloons for their safety records, their ISO 9001:2008 Certification, the experience of their pilots and the reviews from Trip Advisor
- Allow yourself a few days either side of your planned balloon ride to allow for inclement weather
Costs of flying with Royal Balloons:
Royal King Hot Air Balloon Flight: 90 minutes flight time with up to 12 in a basket 240 euros per person
Royal Queen Hot Air Balloon Flight: 60 minutes flight time with up to 18 in a basket 175 euros per person
Allow for tips we paid TRY40 = AUD21