We awoke just prior to sunrise. Vans arrived and took us to the launch site. Numerous companies start to show up—balloons and baskets were unloaded. Large fans were set up. Positions were taken, and men went to work. We’d heard that the winds were causing some debate among the pilots but things were happening in front of our eyes, so we enjoyed the coffee and snacks, while snapping some photos and visiting.
Long story made short: The winds picked up, and the whole thing was called off—every company, every balloon. We heard that as many as 1000 passengers ride balloons here each morning, so this is big bucks and significant loss when winds keep you grounded. Most of our group have never done this before, so there was a certain disappointment. For others, they simply felt “insulted” that they’d got up so early “for nothing”! For now, we’ve been rescheduled to tomorrow. That’s our last day in Cappadocia, so it’s all or nothing when we awake tomorrow… again… at 4:45 AM!
After breakfast and a couple hours free time, we hit the road around 9:00 AM for one more day of soaking in the Cappadocian culture and landscape.
We began with a climb to top of CASTLE, which appeared to be an example of the opposite to the underground city that we saw yesterday. The view from the peak provided some great photos and a beautiful view of the whole area. It feels as though we’ve snapped a lot of shots of the Cappadocian landscapes. At some point, it all looks a bit the same. However, when you stop and look again, it is quite a shocking place—certainly unlike anywhere else I’ve seen. So the snapping of the shutters continue!
In an effort to explore the landscape by foot—every traveler knows is the best way to explore—we left the bus behind and trekked our way through Love Valley and Zelve. Love Valley contains some of the oddest rock structures of the area. They look like, in the words of our Turkish guide, “the male organ”. No, we’re not talking musical instruments here! Dell (our Turkish guide) told us that years ago this area was trying to encourage visitors to come. They chose the name “Love Valley” and spread the idea that visiting this site would help couples conceive children. And the visitors started to come! Isn’t it amazing what some masculine rocks can do for the economy?!
Zelve is nicknamed “Flintstone City”. Minus the dinosaurs-cars and Fred, it does resemble Bedrock a bit. This spot was sort of enclosed by the lay of the land, so we were set free for an hour to hike and explore. That felt good, as most of our tour times are very tightly grouped times, during which roaming and wandering are not encouraged. That’s the reality of group travel, but it’s nice to get to stretch your legs every so often for sure!
We enjoyed lunch right outside the Zelve gate and headed off to visit a cave house. Now, we’ve seen these all over the region, but this house was actually lived in right now. The couple hosted us for 15 minutes or so, showed us around, answered all sorts of questions. What are the benefits and challenges of living in a cave house? What type of maintenance is involved? How do you heat it? How did you come to live in this house? Their answers were interesting and provided a peek into a very different way of life—and that’s one thing that travel is all about.
Our afternoon wrapped up with two brief stops. One was a jewelry shop, where they specialize in turquoise, Turkey’s most precious stone. The second was a winery where they allow you to sample Cappadocian wines and purchase either wines made right her or specialized bottles that are shaped like some of the land forms of the area.
We returned to the hotel by 5:00 PM, which is the earliest we’ve been home any day so far. In fact, the past couple days have been light after a fast and furious beginning to the trip. Many of us are grateful for that and now ready to hit the road hard again tomorrow, when we set off on many of Paul’s past roads. Tomorrow will lead us through Lystra and on to Iconium (modern-day Konya).
In 30 minutes, we’re having a second group time to share with each other before supper and a time to wind down the evening. Tomorrow, we’ll take our final shot at a balloon ride bright and early, and hit the road after breakfast.
The days continue to be wonderful, and I continue to be blessed by both what I’m seeing and learning as well as by the people I’m traveling with.
All the best to you back at home.