Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Cappadocia - It's mesmerising

This is considered to be a must do for anyone visiting Turkey. Hot Air ballooning in Cappadocia finds a place in all the itineraries of Turkey. But that's not why I wanted to do that. I am not an adventure travel enthusiast in the traditional meaning of the term "Adventure". I don't go hiking, trekking, river rafting or bungee jumping. But there are few things which I wanted to do and being on a hot air balloon was certainly one of them. So when P and I planned for Turkey, this had to be in our "To Do" list.

We planned and booked all the arrangements for our Turkey trip by ourselves. It was only for air tickets Mumbai Istanbul and return and Visa that we took the help of a travel agent. The idea of not going through a fixed itinerary was because we wanted to be in our own pace and do the things the way we liked. In Istanbul we roamed from one place to another at our own pace. We spent good 3 hours in one place but skipped another prominent "tourist attraction" as we preferred to sit by the Bosphorus, sipping a cup of Turkish tea munching a simit watching people go by. But this was very much a part of our plan.

We had booked a flight from Istanbul to Nevsehir, the nearest airport to Cappadocia on Anadoloujet which is a subsidiary of Turkish Airline. Our first thought as we stepped out of the flight in Nevsehir " This is so much like Leh". Yeah the surrounding area was so similar to Leh with that Moonscape type brown mountains. Our pick up was waiting outside. The cave hotel called Maccan Cave hotel that we had booked was the last stop.
ATV Quad Bikes
By the time we checked into our hotel, it was only lunch time and we had one half day with us. Most of the regular tours of Cappadocia start in the morning after the hot air balloon ride gets over. P said "Let's try ATV Quad biking" Now that was something which we had never before. We saw few quad bikers on the way from the airport to hotel and then realised that that was also available there. So we checked with Ahmed, the manager at Maccan if he could help. He called someone and after 20 mins a tall lanky fellow came to pick us up for ATV Quad biking. His name was Tolga. He showed us the bikes and we tried out if we both fit into one bike. Actually I was not very confident if I could manage to ride one on my own.

Wish tree
We opted for one bike and went out with our guide Timrai. A young fellow of 20 years, Timrai spoke broken English. He guided us through the valleys and the mesmerising landscape of
Cappadocia. Our last stop was at Sunset point. By the time we reached the sun was all set to bid adieu for the day. The whole place looked magical in the fading sun light. There was Wish tree where people would tie the famous amulet "Blue Evil eye or Nazar Boncugu" to make a wish. No we did not tie one, instead we clicked photographs of the tree. As we rode back to town, it was already dark. Hence Timrai guided us through the main road instead of the quad tracks.

Both I and P decided to take a walk around the Goreme town and then have dinner somewhere before heading to hotel. Walking around we came across a very interesting sign at a café.
Cafe Safak
We went in and had a cup of Turkish Coffee there. The café owners were an old couple and when they came to know that we were from India, they called the restaurant help to meet us. Nehmatullah was from Afganistan and he was so happy to see us. A fan of Sanjay Dutt he said he loved India and was in awe of Amitabh Bachchan because he played a Afgan Pathan in Khuda Gawah. It was a pleasure meeting him there. We had an early dinner of Pide or Turkish Pizza and went to sleep as our pick up for the hot air balloon ride was at 5.15 am next morning.

Next morning we were up and ready by 5am. Exactly at 5.15 am our pick up van arrived. There were 4 people already inside the van and it stopped at another hotel near by where an elderly couple joined us before taking us to the office of the balloon tour company. We had booked our balloon tour with Butterfly Balloons We only had to provide the credit card information to confirm our booking. It was not charged and we had informed that we would pay by cash on the day of the tour. Since March still not the official tourist season, they had special rates and they offered cash discount of 10Euro per person too. There was quite a breakfast spread before we were introduced to our group members and were driven to the take off point. The take off points differ every day depending upon the direction of the wind.Our pilot for the day was Kahn. Such a charming and jolly fellow he was. He made sure all the group members had fun at the same time explaining and showing the most important sights as we flew over. I admit it was one of the most delightful one hour of my life. Kahn has been a hot air balloon pilot for last 7 years. After we landed straight on the top of the truck that was meant to carry the busket; the team from Butterfly Balloons were ready with our flying certificates and a bottle of Champagne. It was of course a reason to celebrate. We all were just back from something wonderful and an out of the world experience it was.
It's a sight to behold
After the balloon tour was over, the car drove us back to our hotels. Usually people opt for day trips after that. But we decided to do our own things our own way. And later in the day I and P had another adventure. That needs another post. It's one of the bizarre things that I have done so far. Will write about it soon.