It’s worked out that perfectly that the first travel related post that I get to write about on my blog, is in regards to my host country Turkey.
I only recently got back from the land of fairy chimneys, underground cities and cave churches. Kind of sounds a bit like something out of a fairy tale or dystopian novel, don’t you think? Well honestly it pretty much matches up to the hype. Where am I referring to? Well I’m talking about the infamous and magical Cappadocia in the centrally placed, Anatolian region of Turkey.
Cappadocia is a place I’ve had on my to do list for a while now and it seemed it was about time I ticked it off. So finally in the April school break myself and my friend Tara landed at Kayseri airport, and made our way to Goreme in Cappadocia by way of a Airport transfer shuttle.
You can organise your shuttle bus through most hotels or book independently online with companies such as Helios or Cappadocia express. They cost 30TL each way and will take you directly to your hotel. You just need to pay the driver on arrival of your destination. Allow yourself 1hr -1.5 hrs for the journey.
Myself and Tara looking extremley excited about our trip.
As our airport shuttle bus rattled closer to our destination, I sat in awe as the view began to change. Nothing prepares you for the landscape that stretches out before you. The formations of the rocks, the valleys, the caves dwellings. It’s unlike anything I had ever seen or imagined existed.
Quality, location and price of hotels and hostels can really vary in Cappadocia. So it’s really important to do your research and find what suits your needs. If you are on a budget and don’t mind not staying in a cave hotel there are many stone hostels and pansyons to stay at with very affordable prices. On the other end of the scale if your budget allows it, you can stay at some very beautiful authentic cave suites or rooms built into actual fairy chimneys.
We decided to opt for the middle bracket at approximately 50 Euros a night for two and stayed at the cave hotel ‘Goreme Kaya otel’. The staff were super friendly and really excited by the fact that as foreigners we spoke a little Turkish. They went out of their way to assist us including: organising our balloon ride, shuttle and offering umbrellas on the one night it rained during our stay.
We loved the look of our hotel with it’s two fairy Chimneys.
The room was nice and clean but not quite as authentically cave looking as we were hoping for. If you want an authentic cave room be prepared to spend closer to 80-100 Euros a night.
However the view from the hotel terrace is what made the hotel ideal for us. Due to the fact that we were placed at the back of Goreme centre it meant that we faced away from the other hotels and got an uninterrupted view of the mountains and cave dwellings opposite.
Staring out over the terrace I couldn’t quite decide if I was looking out of the porch of my mountain ranch in Midwest America or from the viewing deck of my spaceship. Either way it was the perfect backdrop for the leisurely breakfasts that myself and Tara indulged in every morning.
The view from our hotel was out of this world.
Mention Cappadocia and inevitably some one will mention hot air balloons. This is the number one tourist draw to the area with nearly half a million people flying each year. Everything that I had seen about these balloon rides looked amazing and a must do experience. But there was one major hitch. I have a huge fear of heights and falling out of the basket of a hot air balloon! Yes you heard right, not just baskets but my fear stretches to falling off cliff edges or even tumbling over railings. I once went on the London eye and spent the first 10 minutes scared to move from the bench in the middle of the pod. I was worried that it would move like a Ferris wheel at a two bit fun fair and would send me crashing through the (in my mind) apparently breakable windows.
When I booked the trip to Cappadocia, I made it clear to anyone within earshot that there was no way I was inserting myself in a basket powered solely by a load of hot air. It just didn’t seem natural to me. I even started to make up rumors that it was more dangerous than the official statistics said. Anything to prove to my frightened brain that I was being sensible.
But unfortunately or depending on how you look at it, fortunately, for me, stronger than my fear of baskets in the sky is my desire to prove that I have a strong will. You can’t call yourself a strong independent woman without taking some risks in life, can you?
So when everyone around me started to shake their heads and voiced their dismay on me missing out on a great opportunity. After yet another comment about conquering my fears, I eventually succumbed to that part of me, which always desires to obliterate any obstacle that stands in my way. Maybe a ride on a hot air balloon is nothing to some people but for me it was a seemingly rational fear and I decided to face it head on. A few days before departure with shaking hands I booked the ride through our hotel.
You can book your balloon rides through your hotel in advance or flights are easily found online. If you haven’t booked a flight in advance you can book through many tour operators found in Goreme. By doing this you are able to negotiate a reduction. Costs can vary 120-150 Euros for a 1 hr flight.
The night before the flight I set my alarm for 4am as we were being picked up at the insane time of 5am. I hardly slept a wink. I tossed and turned for most of the night. By the time I did manage to fall asleep my alarm was going off to get up. I have to admit in the morning my stomach was doing somersaults. Luckily for me, my travel buddy Tara who was as equally scared as me but some how also super exited at the same time started to rub off on me. I managed to keep my emotions in check and in the minibus on the way to the site my bravado kicked in.
There were so many Balloons being prepared around us.
Standing at the site watching the balloons being prepared I suddenly came to the realisation that I, the woman that is petrified of heights was about to fly in a hot air balloon. I gave my self a mental hi five and repeated the words. ‘Yes, I’m a bad ass.’ Several times. Feeling like superwoman I refused help getting into the basket: I wasn’t the damsel in distress they thought I was. I tried to show off my agility and bad ass confidence by jumping into the basket and for once I managed not to trip and land on my face. Filled with confidence and distracted by selfies with Tara, I didn’t even notice that we had taken off and had started to float upwards. When I finally peered down I realised that we were already about 6 feet off the ground. Suddenly all my confidence and bravado just drained away. I quickly calculated that 6 feet was too much for me to try and jump and make an escape of it. I was stuck, no going back now.
I’m very easily distracted by the chance to pose for a photo.
Feeling worried and dismayed I turned and looked over at Tara. Her face was all lit up with excitement. Smiling she turned to me and said ‘Isn’t this so beautiful? I barely managed to whimper some kind of agreement and weakly nodded my head. I was really hoping that I would start to enjoy myself soon. Luckily for me the fear didn’t last more than a few minutes. It was just too beautiful an experience for me not to be captured by it.
As we floated upwards, the sun began to rise over the horizon. It seemed to wash the sky with a radiant orange glow. With the sunrise as a back drop what seemed like hundreds of balloons floated slowly across the sky. I didn’t know which way to look. Should I look at the skyline painted with balloons against a back drop of orange or down below at an eerily foreign landscape.
One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
We were so close that waving to each other was the norm for the morning.
At one point in the ride our pilot decided to fly us above the other balloons. We seemed to be soaring towards the sky. My fear of falling out of the basket had now been replaced by my fear of my phone falling out of hands and tumbling to the ground below. So as Tara daringly leaned over the basket and snapped photos of us floating above the other balloons. I gingerly slid over to the edge and took a couple of hasty shots. End result. Tara has amazing photos and still has her phone and I have rubbish photos, my phone and this lingering feeling that with my clumsiness it was better I hadn’t taken the risk after all.
One of the few shots that I managed taking over the edge of the basket.
Over breakfast at the hotel. We just couldn’t stop talking about what we had just experienced. In my life I’ve never been someone who has been interested in extreme sports or thrill seeking experiences. I like to have fun, but within my own safe boundaries. Moving away to another country and starting to travel has really helped me push those boundaries further back and become a more adventurous person.
So for me the day had been about reaching a milestone. Coming to Cappadocia had been a chance for me to push myself closer to the woman that I want to become, to learn to face my fears and to fill my life with new experiences.
Looking very proud of ourselves at the end of the journey.