I woke up extra early and excited, murmuring a silent prayer for a good weather, for today will be an extraordinary day in Cappadocia. Finally, I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream of not only seeing hot air balloons fly above the surreal moonscape panorama of Cappadocia, but I will be riding in one of them.
The pick-up car from the Butterfly Balloons company arrived exactly at 4:30am. There are already few people sitting in the van, all layered up for the chilly morning, a bit sleepy but nervously excited. Like many others who visited Cappadocia for a hot air balloon experience, the most daunting first step is choosing which company to go to.
My search narrow down to these two companies , Butterfly Balloons and Royal Balloon, considerations are safety record, reasonable price and overall customer feedback. I asked the hotel owners where I was staying for further advice and booking, they recommended that I should go with Butterfly Balloons for the following reasons, guaranteed maximum of 16 passengers per flight and they grew up with most of the pilots working for the company , it means that they are the pioneers in Cappadocia, hence they can attest that visitors are going to have the best experience.
After few minutes of picking up more guests, we headed to the main office of Butterfly Balloons, for the usual check-in , payment procedure and the included open buffet pre-flight breakfast. Each of us are handed with an envelope containing the name of the pilot, dividing the large crowd of people into groups. The breakfast room is abuzz, I got to meet few people and exchanges different reason as to why we chooses to do this activity, some are couple who are here to celebrate their marriage anniversary, while some are families fulfilling a yearly vacation tradition.
Our group of sixteen people coming from different parts of the world were assigned to Pilot Muztafa Bozlak and we boarded the allocated van that will drive us to the take-off site.
Looking back now, I couldn’t ask for a better pilot to take us high and above the amazing landscape of Cappadocia. He is professional and friendly, carefully navigating the headwind, tried his very best to give us the best view of the beautiful landscape and the view of many other hot air balloons illuminating Cappadocia skyline. He provided us great instructions on what to during take-off and landing too. One thing I noticed about him is how he made flying so effortless and joyful, as if he did not come today to work but to experience this delightful activity with us.
At the take-off site, we saw how the pilot and his crew unloads, assembles and inflates the balloon. Once the balloon is ready, all sixteen of us boarded and with permission to fly from the Turkish Civil Aviation Authority, we took off smoothly.
Our hot air balloon was one of the many balloons flying above Cappadocia fairy-tale like scenery that day. Never once did I feel nervous being above ground, and I can say the same for the other people in my tour group. Everyone was busy jaw dropping on the view and happily snapping pictures. We were floating high and above the fairy chimneys , rock caves and chapels, and the rugged valley of Cappadocia, some of which are places you get to see up close when you do the Red Tour, like the Love Valley, Göreme Open Air Museum and the Red-Rose Valley too.
Our Pilot Muztafa, brought us closer to the rock formations when wind condition permits, we saw a couple doing their pre-nuptial photos up close and we climbed as high as 300 meters and witnessed the first light of the day.
After the 60 minutes flight, the sun gleaming across the horizon, the pilot carefully selected the site and we landed. Passengers called one by one, we were handed a certificate and a gold medal by the Pilot together with a round of applause, like a graduation ceremony for completing the activity. Champagne was open, we ate some strawberries along with it. While some of the crew were busy depleting the balloon, we were given more time to just walk around, to take in the magnificent landscape once again.
Afterwards, the Pilot called everyone to gather, a crew member suddenly appear, a cake with candles on his hands. Everyone from the crew started to sing “Happy Birthday”, all the passengers look at one another, trying to figure out which one of us is the celebrant, so I stepped in and raised my hand, “I am the celebrant and it is my Birthday”.
I closed my eyes, make a wish and blew the candle.