One Year on The Road : Onwards ( and Upwards! )

Goreme Travel Blog

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'I am 365 days old today'
So here I am.  The final page torn from the calendar of the first year of my life on The Road.  Day number 365.  And the counter keeps running.  386 days old at the time of writing.  How old will I be in Travel Age I wonder when it all comes to an end?  But not the day to dwell on such things.

I don’t like to do such things.  It’s against my Little Prince principles (Little Prince-iples?) to break magic down into tired and desiccated quantifications.  But a few quick numbers won’t hurt I guess.  So 12 months, 28 countries (ridiculous!), 6,800 blog photos (?!!!), 330,000 blog words (you poor thıngs!) and 114 postcards so far sent to appease my Nanny.  According to the TB/ Google map thingamy approximately 72,500 kilometres on the clock so far.  That's approaching two times the length of the Equator at 40,075kms.
  Bearing in mind this measures distances ‘as the crow flies‘, ignores the destinations and journeys I choose to ignore and the many hundreds of kilometres tramped by foot it‘s probably a fair bit further than that (although said map did have me skipping to West Africa for a day trip once!).  I wonder too how many of those months statistically have been spent sat on some form of transport or other?  I should say nearly two.  Most recently a scenic but butt-numbing 28 hour train from Kars to Ankara.  

But ‘Enough!’ I say of such mundane; such grounded terrestrial considerations.  It’s time for a little celebration I feel!  Time for a treat of sorts.
Ballons rising at dawn.
  A sort of surprise.  ‘I am 365 days old today.’  And I’ve got the t-shirt to prove it.  Time to take to the skies!

I hemmed and hawed about this little ‘treat’ for quite some time.  But after many conversations with enthusiastic and informative fellow travellers I decided to bite the budget bullet and splash out on a dawn hot air balloon ride above the Cappadocian landscape that I have so fallen for.  It’s a ‘carpe diem’ kinda day and It’s something I’ve never done before.  So why not!  ‘You only live once’ (depending on your religious convictions) and as the old maxim goes ‘You never know, you could be run over by a bus on your way to work tomorrow’ … except I don’t have work to go to tomorrow! Ha ha! … a ballooning accident instead maybe?  I shouldn’t jest.
One star dawn. Departure for ballooning.
  There was one here earlier this year and an unfortunate Brit found himself ascending far further than planned, a pair of angel wings suddenly pinned to his back and a lyre perhaps in hand.

[ I won’t tire you here with details/ tips on booking your ballooning excursion but will provide this info at the conclusion of this entry ]

So here I am.  5.20am on day Three Hundred and Sixty Five.  Stood chilly outside Kose Pension.  My ’birthday t-shirt’ stretched a little too taught over my clearly-not-as-malnutritioned-as-I-thought traveller’s torso.  A single bright star (or is it a geostationary satellite?… you never know in these unromantic times) sparkles in the deep navy blue pre-dawn vault.  The mini bus sweeps round the corner gathers me up and drops us all to clutch coffees and biscuits at the Ez-Air take off site.
 

From the excellent vantage point of the dorm balcony at Kose Pension I had awoken a couple of days ago early enough to take in the spectacle of 30 or more hot air balloons lifting one by one into the morning sky.  A strange scene.  At first just the distant, repetitive sounds of the flames licking them into life.  The sound of gentle dragons’ awakening in the valleys.  Eventually, bobbling above the rock line, a sudden growth spurt of curiously coloured mushroom heads sprouting one after the other before eventually, almost shyly taking off like a procession of silhouetted little baby ghosts.  Well, not so little.  I had returned to my bed.  The sound of dragons sporadically growling now far over head.

Our own bloated beastie of the skies lies recumbent and limpid as we arrive.
İ only look like a ferret just ran up my trouser leg 'cos the balloon shifted for the first time right as they snapped the shot! :)
  Two powerful fans turned into its gaping morning yawn to start the process of inflation.  Mouth to mouth resusitation for a giant beached green and blue whale.  It’s flabby, flopping form speaks ’I don’t do mornings’ as much as the bags under our eyes do for the rest of us.  But with an over sized Bunsen Burner soon turned to full lick, it soon starts to take shape and form into action.  Thankfully Ez Air are a one balloon operation (many firms have four or more) and so use their own, isolated lift off area.  This allays all our irrational fears of mid air tangles.  So.  Caffeine in.  People in.  Pilot in.  3,2,1... ’LIFT OFF!’

But of course, lift off is a peaceful and graceful affair in a balloon as some of you may know.
Stevie's flame red hair on fiiiiire!!!! :)
  Gently controlled bursts of flame into the great blue silk cavern above.  Teasing the thing to life.  It’s some while before you actually do, and actually feel that you’ve left terra firma.  Captain Hasan smiles knowingly with beady eyes and bushy moustache at the little yelps of fear and awe that involuntarily escape the lips of his passengers as the ground starts to sink beneath them.  Kieran stands back trying to forget he’s ’not good with heights’.

The scene.  The scenery of course is incredible as we rise, dip, sweep and rise again above and amidst the zany stone topography that I have enjoyed so much these last three days from ground level.  The higher we go the more this heavily crenulated landscape flattens out but beautifully patterns out too.
Captain Hasan, an experienced hand in the Cappadocian skies.
  The new sun winks blindingly at us from the horizon and paints fabulous shadows across the land.  I am breathing light.  The landscape breathes light.  As with yesterday’s thoughts.  New forms are being made.  New perspectives on Mother Nature’s mad genius.  But I’ll try not to weigh the delicacy of the moment down too heavily with too many superlatives and the usual Stevie hyperbole.  Just promise yourselves a ride should you find yourselves here someday.  Cappadocia from above.  An over-sized floating wicker picnic hamper containing 20 happy souls all reaching and clicking their cameras down in the spirit of Yann Yves Bertrand.  

Hasan seems highly skilled at manipulating the currents of air to his chosen route.  These guys - if skilled enough - can drop the balloon to within literally an inch or two of an intended tree top or rock bringing gasps (and out stretched arms) from the crowd.
  I am given an up close and personal return to ’Penis Valley’ as Hasan dubs it.  ’Hey lift this baby up a bit there Hasan!’ I think.  I don’t want ’died after a giant stone cock ruptured the hot air balloon he was travelling in’ as any part of my epitaph thanks!  We glide safely up and along.  Amused to watch the little shadow of our vessel skipping along the ground as if racing us.  In the distance, the many other balloons hang in the air as if all the kids of Göreme had simultaneously had the time honoured accident of letting their helium balloons go.  Irretrievable now.  But as Hasan lifts us to quite staggering new heights, I cannot hear them all wailing at their moms down below.
Cappadocia from the skies.
        

After about an hour of this peculiarly calming and enchanting activity (sometimes you hardly feel you’re flying!) it’s back down to the ground.  Hasan, a true professional dropping us square onto the tiny trailer on the back of the Ez Air truck.  We’re rightly impressed and applaud.  Then it’s champagne all round to celebrate our great feat of tourist consumerism.  Seriously though.  A wonderful, wonderful experience.  I lift my glass in quiet private toast to a job; a journey well done so far.  And to many happy adventures I hope to come.  On my sort-of travel birthday I do my inspirational best too by helping to convince Lori (a forty-somethin’ Brit) to give up her job as a lawyer, put everything in storage and travel the world for a year or more.
Earth from above etc, etc...
  Seriously.  I’m not kidding.  She is going to do it!  AND SO SHOULD YOU!

‘But don’t you miss home after a year Steve?’  ‘And aren’t you getting a little tired of it all?’  ‘Isn’t it time for a break?’ ( ’Won’t your Nan cut your balls off if you carry on too much longer?’ )  I hear you ask.  Yes.  No.  No.  Yes!  For sure on the first one I miss home in many ways.  Family first.  Friends there after.  And a myriad of the little details; those little material comforts that construct home familiarity.
The infamous 'Penis Valley'
  My books.  My music and films.  My pictures.  Trips to the cinema.  Regular (or any) swimming.  Casual pints of lager or real ale ( I haven‘t had a beer in 3 weeks at the time of writing!).  Deep discount wines at the supermarket.  Purchasing without an overriding sense of ‘budgetary guilt’.  Radio 4.  Even rain occasionally… but only in moments of madness.  A choice of more than two clean t-shirts at any given time (more often the reality of no choice… nothing clean at all!).  The easy comfort of blue jeans.  Yeah, I finally bid them farewell in Cyprus.  The list of course goes on…

But I am so happy right now.  Happier than in a long while I think.  Since the crazy jumping in Mostar?  Or no!  Not since beholding my first ever 6 hour old human being.
  Little Baby Constantinos, my Cypriot ‘nephew’ several months ago.  ’Hey, he’s not 365 days old yet!’  Yes I am happy.  No more the anaesthetic and scalpel of hours, days and dates applied to numb and dissect the passage; the body of my life.  An awareness of them (Time’s minions that is) so rarely necessary these days.  Time marked largely by the play of light and the subtle movement of emotions in My World.  Freedoms and privileges.  Thoughts not obligations.  No borders or boundaries.  A mind with space to breath.  Maybe room to rise like a great big rainbow coloured hot air balloon into the vast skies of a finally unfettered imagination.  No more tiredness (that wrong kind of tiredness), targets and tantrums.  Not for now anyway. Just ’when was I truly happy last?’ and ’to what degree?’ and ‘what form did it take?‘.
  Rising with the light, giving in whenever to sleep and night.  Merry new circadian rhythms.  

Thank you my family for supporting this ride.  Thank you my TravBuddies for so patiently following its course.  Onwards people!  Onwards and upwards!

[ Ballooning in Cappadocia :  There are a whole number of firms and many agents in Göreme.  The average asking price for the standard 1 hour dawn ride is 160 - 170 Euros.  Yep ’!!!’  But fear not.  Competition is strong so negotiate.  In fact, I wouldn’t even call it negotiating.  Armed with knowledge from some helpful travellers who’d done it already I just went in and stated I’d heard that I could get a ride for 120 Euros.  This was immediately agreed to by the guys at Hiro Tours (who sit in the main agency/ tour operator strip where the buses pull in and depart from Göreme).
Raising a toast to travel :)
  This got me a flight with Ez-Air, a one balloon operation with the highly experienced pilot Hasan Ezel who’s been flyin’ the skies here since 1991.


Who knows I may have been able to get in the basket for less still, but as with all such things you don’t want to push your price and your luck too low.  Whilst I did hear of 110 even 100 Euro deals being clinched this could land you with one of the many relatively inexperienced pilots in the trade who - I’m told by those who experienced it - can barely do more than lift the balloon up and let the winds blow them where they will.  This may be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience so don’t cheap out too much!  (Longer trips can be had for more money).
'Up Up & Away' for TravBuddy :)


On any of these gigs you’ll be up at 5.00am (ish), in the air for sun rise or a little after, back down with a glass of Champers in hand and dropped back at your guest house in time for a proper breakfast… biscuits, coffee and tea being the only fare offered before take off.  ’Chocks away!’ ]    
Stevie_Wes says:
Thank you to all the wonderful Travbuddies who take the time to remind me that whilst İ continue to travel alone... in reality this is of course far from the truth! :) xxx
Posted on: Sep 12, 2009
keeweeset says:
Happy 365th! =) That was a great way to celebrate! =)
Posted on: Sep 12, 2009
KeikoCreative says:
Great to hear from you again:)
Posted on: Sep 12, 2009
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I am 365 days old today
'I am 365 days old today'
Ballons rising at dawn.
Ballons rising at dawn.
One star dawn.  Departure for ball…
One star dawn. Departure for bal…
İ only look like a ferret just ra…
İ only look like a ferret just r…
Stevies flame red hair on fiiiiir…
Stevie's flame red hair on fiiiii…
Captain Hasan, an experienced hand…
Captain Hasan, an experienced han…
Cappadocia from the skies.
Cappadocia from the skies.
Earth from above etc, etc...
Earth from above etc, etc...
The infamous Penis Valley
The infamous 'Penis Valley'
Raising a toast to travel :)
Raising a toast to travel :)
Up Up & Away for TravBuddy :)
'Up Up & Away' for TravBuddy :)
(Portraıt) Muju : www.mujuworld.c…
(Portraıt) Muju : www.mujuworld.…
Breathing life into the whale.
Breathing life into the whale.
Colour bubble dawn.
Colour bubble dawn.
Valley walks from on high
Valley walks from on high
Cheers!  Thank you for all your co…
Cheers! Thank you for all your c…
Well... ya know what they say abou…
Well... ya know what they say abo…
Contemplating Cock ;)
'Contemplating Cock' ;)
My flight certificate.
My flight certificate.
Goreme
photo by: spocklogic