Take a moment to do some google image searching of Turkey. I am willing to bet that one of the first ten images that comes up will be of hot air balloons soaring over an otherworldly landscape. That is Cappadocia. These sandstone hills have been home to people for thousands of years. Sometimes they have been actual residences, sometimes they have been used to hide from invaders. What millennia of wind has not shaped, the people themselves have carved out to make their homes.
I drove all through the day from Istanbul to make Cappadocia. I had a reservation with a hot air balloon company for the next morning and I did not want to miss it! I knew it was going to be a bit rough, the shuttle was to be at my hotel around 4am for the sunrise flight and I was not going to pull in until after 10pm.
My partner, Derek, had booked this hotel and was really excited to stay here. I felt bad that I was getting to enjoy it and he was not. The room was carved out of the stone and it was magnificent! The room opened into a formal sitting area with shelves and nooks carved into the stone walls. An alcove in the back held a massive bed, and the bathroom was almost as large as the rest of the room. Between this and the hotel in Istanbul, I was beginning to get spoiled!
The manager asked if I wanted a balloon tour for the morning and I assured him I had already booked one. We said goodnight and I collapsed on top of the bed.
3:45 came early. I had not slept well, too excited for the balloons, too nervous that I would miss the shuttle. I was out on the large terrace by four o’clock, waiting. I had my camera, my cell phone, and a GoPro - Michelle had asked me to take lots of photos and I was not going to be caught unprepared.
4:15 came and went with no shuttle. I found a number for them and dialed. The man on the other end of the line did not know what I was talking about. Yes, he was the shuttle driver. No, he did not have me on his list. He said he was just getting to the office and would call me back in five minutes. I hung up and waited.
The morning call for prayer came. It was haunting as it echoed through the canyon. The Muezzin’s voice rang out. As I sat silently in awe of the beauty of it all, the stars, the sandstone buildings, the melodic voice, I heard and saw people begin to arrange themselves for their prayers. Cappadocia was beginning to come alive.
By 4:30 there was still no call, so I called back. The man on the other end informed me that he had toured to call but it had not gone through. There was no way he could come and get me. He asked if I could find a taxi to take me to the open air museum where the balloons were being readied. I scoffed. Yes, Cappadocia was waking up, but there were no taxis to be found on my tiny side street. I told him I would get myself there on my own and headed for the Rascal.
As I wound through the narrow streets, I was thankful that the little van was so small. There were corners that would require a three point turn for most other vehicles. I sped off into the desert, GPS giving me my orders. I found the balloons just as they lifted off. Groups of smiling people filled the baskets as the balloons silently lifted off into the lightening sky.
I watched for a few minutes before turning around and leaving. I went back to the hotel room and called the number again. A different man answered. He said it was his company and he did not have a reservation for me. I assured him that I had a reservation and read him the confirmation number. “Oh. Yes. I see it now. You did not pay.” I assured him that I did and read him the email I received thanking me for my payment. “Oh. Yes. I see it now. You come back tomorrow.”
I said a few things that I regret, and then went back to bed. I was tired, frustrated, and more than a little disappointed. While this was not one of my “must do” events for the Rally, it was right up there. Walking away from it hurt. But this is the reality of doing an event like this. There are so many moving parts, everything has to mesh well or else it all falls apart.
I contemplated staying another night, taking in the rest of the sights of Cappadocia and then leaving the next day. If I had a partner and could share the driving, then it might be possible and could stay on track. But that isn’t the case and I have to press on to Baku. The ferry across the Caspian Sea is unreliable at best, and I need all the time I can get.
So it looks like i will have to return to Turkey. Istanbul was amazing and wild. A whole week could be spent there and you would never get bored. Cappadocia is beautiful and wild in its own way. It could take several days of exploring as well. Add to that the other sights of Turkey, the entire north coast, and you have an easy two week stay. So I will be back. But, for now, I’m tucking my tail between my legs and heading out of town. There is another long drive ahead.