Sunday, May 02, 2010
Up Up and Away
This morning we discovered the joy of the hot air balloon! We were picked up at 5:30 am and taken to a field out in the countryside, where crews were inflating dozens of huge balloons. Our whole group got into one basket together and up we sailed, over the tufa rock formations, vineyards, fields, and horses. It was scary at first, and scary when we drifted right along the tops of those rocks. But our pilot has been doing this for 28 years for a living, and told us he had never injured a passenger. He was an ex-pat American who works in India, South Africa, New Mexico, Australia, Turkey, and wherever the balloon season takes him. He is a contract pilot and told us that flying a balloon requires the same kinds of skills as flying any aircraft. I thought of you, brother Tom, and how much I think you'd enjoy a similar career!!Anyway, the flight was heartstoppingly gorgeous, and we landed gently in another field, where the crew had followed us in a Land Rover. Graham, the pilot, immediately set up a little table and pulled out bottles of chilled champagne and freshly-baked cake. What a way to start the day! We all helped get the air out of the balloon, and watched as the crew packed up this giant mass of cloth (700 pounds) into a neat bag, and then hoist it onto the Rover.After a real breakfast at the hotel, we set out on what was described as a "challenging" hike, through the village and into the rock canyons and trails. We walked for a couple of hours, using hiking poles to help navigate the steep descents, sometimes edging along narrow trails that some of us (no names) slid down on our bottoms. It reminded me of the infamous moonlight walk in the Pinnacles that I took with Johna and Rosemary a few years ago. But this time I made it through without too much whining, and without removing the seat of my pants in the process. It was wonderful to be out in the countryside walking, on a gorgeous day, after the hectic weeks in Berlin, and Istanbul. The landscape here is so unusual. Along the way we visited several cave houses carved into the rocks. In the old days people lived in these all year round. Now a few people still do that, but many use them for summer homes where the cool caves are a welcome relief to hot weather.At the end of the trail we went to lunch at a cave restaurant, but chose to sit out in the garden to eat our shish kebab. Later we got into the van and drove about 20 miles to another village, Kaymakli, where we visited one of many so-called "underground cities", places where entire city populations and their livestock, lived underground in carved out rock chambers. This was beginning in the Earl Christian times, and continued for at least 1,000 years. It was like a giant anthills, with tunnels, vent holes, and then widened chambers for various functions. There was even a church in there. Most of us felt too claustrophobic to explore at any depth, but our guide told us that the tunnels and chambers go down 250 feet below the ground, basically to the water level. Mind boggling!
Finally, with minds fully boggled, we returned to the hotel for another delicious dinner and a few hours of precious free time. It has a been a great frustration to have the Internet access be so spotty - we are spoiled in that sense. I'll try to post these blog writings whenever I can get a signal, and will probably have to add photos later, as the process is quite time consuming. Sorry.
We miss friends and family and would love to hear from you!
-- Posted from my iPad