The Hot-Air Balloons of Cappadocia
The Hot-Air Balloons of Cappadocia
Flying high over colourful horizons
The alarm clock buzzing loudly woke me from a deep slumber. Slowly, I opened my heavy eyes and glanced around. It seemed like an eternity before I remembered where I was. I had changed the familiarity of my home, for a cave hotel in Goreme. My reason for choosing this particular hotel was simple. It was a short walk to the takeoff fields for the hot-air balloons of Cappadocia.
I needed to be at the field for 5am. Timing was important as this was about more than ticking off a hot-air balloon trip on my bucket list. This trip was about personal accomplishment. I wanted to abolish my fear of heights, which had only developed in recent years, but was proving to be a hindrance when traveling. Experts had insisted that the most reliable method of fighting this fear was to embrace it. Instead of keeping my feet firmly on the ground, I should venture as high up as possible. A hot-air balloon trip qualified for this plan of action.
Known as the oldest form of flight travel, the working mechanics of a hot-air balloon are simple. Hot air is pumped inside the balloon, making it buoyant, while the wicker basket attached to the bottom carries passengers. Under the rule of King Louis the XVI, the first recorded hot-air balloon flight took place in 1783. Originally insistent that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, the King eventually changed his mind as he gained more confidence in this new method of flight. It was a glorious moment in history and, over 200 years later, some of the world’s best pilots gather in Cappadocia every morning to fill the horizon with colorful hot-air balloons.
I had watched countless videos of hot-air balloon trips in Cappadocia. I thought it was a good way to prepare my state of mind for the nerve-wracking task I was about to embark on. At times, the balloons stayed low, near the ground, allowing people in the basket to pick leaves off tall adjacent trees. Even the famous Martha Stewart had abandoned her kitchen and cooking utensils, to join a sunrise trip over the cave hotels and ancient rock churches. If she could do it, then so could I.
I quickly dressed and set off on the short walk. The bitter cold of the morning surprised me, and I pulled my gloves on tight. It was not long before I spotted hot-airDespite looking miniature in the magazines, the magnificent size of the balloons transpired as they started to drift above me. balloons rising, with a flame of fire fuelling the acceleration in height. I could see hands waving and people shouting “hello” as they peered over the side of the basket.
Unfortunately, my determination to be a passenger that morning was soon going to falter.
I arrived at the takeoff fields, and listened intensively to pilots, while eager customers giggled nervously. Looking at the size and confinement of the baskets, I anticipated the reaction of the pilot and other customers if I experienced a panic attack mid-air. There was no guarantee it was not going to happen.
My strong and determined belief that I could conquer this fear of heights quickly vanished. I could not share my fear and gain support from these people that I didn’t know. Drifting high in the air, while experiencing a moment of weakness with strangers watching, was not something I was prepared to do. I wanted to complete this experience with close friends and family, who were aware of my fear and my need to combat it.
I watched miserably as twenty hot-air balloons floated above me. I could hear the roar of the flame as it projected the hot-air into a balloon, forcing it higher into the sky. I could still hear people giggling and gasping in amazement as they drifted up and I became no more than a pinhead in view. I had failed and could do nothing more than watch with regret. I felt like a small child, full of jealously because they were playing and I could not join in. My fears held me back from doing something great in life, and experiencing something that was extraordinary and not an everyday event.
I still have regrets about that day. Sometimes, I open websites or read travel articles in magazines and they feature hot-air balloons trips, reminding me of what I missed. One day, I will return to those fields in the early hours of the morning. I will go up in a hot-air balloon and drift effortlessly over the rock caves and churches. I will lay this fear of heights to rest, and experience a hot-air balloon trip over Cappadocia.
Despite looking miniature in the magazines, the magnificent balloons started to drift above me.
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