Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
We are rudely woken by a loud knock on the door. I wince as an unknown voice mangles my name. A quick glance at my phone reveals that it is a quarter to five in the morning. My companion holds a brief conversation with our unknown visitor through the heavy door in fluent Turkish. Soon, she informs me that there seems to be a mix up with the hot air balloon flight that we’ve booked. Instead of going on the second flight of the day, it seems that we’ve been bumped up to the sunrise flight. Not willing to relinquish such a golden opportunity, we scramble to get ready and present ourselves to the waiting van in fifteen minutes.
It is still dark when we leave our cave hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey. We are brought, first, to the company headquarters, which, despite the early hour, is packed with tourists, most of them with eyelids still heavy from sleep. They clutch steaming mugs of coffee tightly, exchanging muted greetings. Soon, we are packed into a large tour bus, which takes us out into a large, open, sandy plain. The crews are already hard at work filling the hot air balloons. They are enormous and look like multi-coloured beach whales in the pale blue pre-dawn light. I see row upon row of balloons, as if a whole family of whales have mysteriously beached themselves on this inland dessert.
With a heave, the basket is righted, and the balloon tugs against her moorings, eager to taste the sharp, pre-dawn air. The basket is large, big enough to fit a crowd of twenty. With a final flare, we lift off, skimming above the plains. The sky is just turning pink, and we savour the first fingers of light creeping across Cappadocia’s craggy landscape. having only flown in noisy aeroplanes, the quietness of this early morning flight is magical. We are awed, silent as the alien landscape of fairy chimneys unfolds before us.
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