Ballooning is easy!

There are no age restrictions.
Dress for the season and time of day.
Casual, layered clothing and flat-soled shoes with closed toes are  recommended.
Hot air balloons are federally licensed aircraft, governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) . A pilot's license is required to operate a balloon, just as it is required to pilot an airplane or helicopter. Our pilots hold commercial pilot's licenses issued by the FAA. Our pilots undergo biennial flight reviews and testing to make sure that they've maintained their skills, and they must also prove that they have flown a required number of flights within the past 90 days.
It does not matter how much or how little you weigh. However, when you make your reservation we will ask for an approximate weight for each passenger so we can distribute weight among the balloons according to F.A.A. and manufacturer limitations.

Flights are subject to last minute cancellation due to weather conditions considered adverse to safe ballooning. We do not fly in rain. We do not fly in "moderate" winds. Because your pilot is directly responsible for the flight and is the final authority as to the operation of the balloon, flights are subject to your pilot's discretion. Although hot air ballooning is considered to be one of the safest activities you will be involved with during your stay in the area, our insurer requests that you sign an informational risk assumption document before boarding.

Pregnancy :

Please notify us if a member of your party is pregnant. Additional safety precautions will be observed and boarding will be at the discretion of your pilot. If we mutually decide that the pregnant person should ride in the chase vehicle instead of in the balloon, no charge will be made for the pregnant person's unused fare.
Our balloons are between 75 and 85 feet tall, which is almost 9 stories! They contain from 105,000 to 210,000 cubic feet of air.
(think of a cubic foot as about the size of a basketball)

The gondolas are large enough to accommodate up to 12 passengers and a pilot.
(number of passengers carried per flight is determined by weight)

The envelopes (fabric part) weigh between 250 and 550 lbs. and the baskets weigh from about 500 to around 1200 lbs.
(including burners,fuel tanks and fuel)

The balloons use liquid propane
(just like you use in your barbeque grill at home)
and carry a total of up to 80 gallons. Propane weighs between 4.2 and 4.3 lbs per gallon, so in our biggest balloon, the fuel alone weighs over 320 lbs!
Flights meet approximately one half hour before sunrise, from May through September.
With either of our flight choices,
you'll enjoy floating through Teton Valley in a hot air balloon,
where you'll view Rocky Mountain panoramas like these :
We fly in front of the Tetons, affording you unrivaled views of this majestic range. You'll peek over the mountains into beautiful Swan Valley and, when wind conditions permit, may be afforded a tip-top view of The Grand!

You'll view three states (Wyoming, Montana and Idaho) , beautiful ranches, farmlands and meandering waterways, while drifting in a northeasterly direction towards The Grand.

You'll then descend over the patchwork of grain and alfalfa fields for treetop level views and frequent wildlife sightings.
Upon landing, your flight will be celebrated in traditional French manner.

Flight conditions vary from day to day, so each flight is unique!
The balloons typically travel between 4 and 8 miles through Teton Valley.
Although flights have averaged more than hour in the air, actual fight time fluctuates between 45 minutes and 2 hours.

Expect about an hour of flight time
Cancellation Policy : 
Please provide at least 48 hours notice of cancellation so that we may provide this opportunity to another. Late cancellations or a "No Show" at your scheduled meeting time will result in a full-fare charge to your credit card / room.
(We can't reuse the space) .
When we book your flight, we will ask you for the following information :
• The specific day you would like to fly. We recommend scheduling early during your time in the area. That way, in case we can't fly because of weather, we can possibly reschedule for another day. One of the nice things about flying early in the morning is that by the time we are done, you still have plenty of time to go on a raft trip, take a hike or pursue other activities.
• Number of people in your party and the names and approximate weights of each. We ask for approximate weights so we can distribute passengers among the balloons according to F.A.A. and manufacturer weight specifications.
• Credit card information. Number, expiration date and CVV code. Your card will NOT be charged until AFTER the flight, unless you are in violation of our cancellation policy.
per person
Only you and your party will be onboard this exclusive excursion over Teton Valley!
This flight is weight limited and can normally accommodate a party of two to eight guests.
per person
Our most popular flight! Similar to our private flight with the exception that guests are not limited to those in your party.
Up to six or eight new friends may share this amazing adventure with you!
Teton Balloon Flights
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Adventures in Turkey
Please use the buttons on the left to navigate through the chapters.
Once I received the notification that my work visa was approved, all I needed to do was to FedEx my passport to the Consulate General in Los Angeles, to have them affix the work visa. I received the notice on Friday, December 12th, 2008. I sent my passport to L.A. on the same day. The Consulate received it Monday and when they went to send it back to me, realized that I had forgotten to prepay the self addressed FedEx envelope I had sent along with the passport. OOOPS! Big mistake on my part.... so I called FedEx and tried to get them to pick up the passport at the Consulate office, but because the Consulate is open only from 9 am to Noon, and I had to give FedEx a 3 hour window in the afternoon to pick up the package, that wasn't going to work. This is happening Monday evening and I needed the package to be picked up Tuesday, in order for me to receive it Wednesday.... Thursday was Christmas Day so if I didn't get it Wednesday, I wasn't going to get it before Friday. I needed to be on a plane in November, everyday was critical. So I finally got UPS to do it. From now on, I will use UPS over FedEx every chance I get....

So I finally get my passport back with the work visa in it... Yahoo! I email my Turkish employer to tell him I'm ready to board a plane.... thinking that I would probably fly out of Idaho Falls (which is the nearest airport without trying to get over Teton Pass elevation 8,431' in the middle of winter) on Friday... the day after Christmas. He gives me a call early Christmas morning to tell me he has booked a flight out of Las Vegas at 9 am Friday. Hmmm.... I'm in Driggs, where the nearest airport is an hour drive away and I need to be in Vegas the next morning.... I do some serious research and find a flight combination that would put me in Vegas at 6 pm that night. Whew! Lucky me... except that the entire mountain west region of the US was experiencing a severe winter storm, with officially blizzard conditions where I was. I would be lucky to fly anywhere. By the time I got the call and found a combination of flights that would work, it was almost noon and the flight I needed to catch left at 1:10. . . just enough time to get packed and make it to Idaho Falls. . . except we're in the midst of a blizzard.

I didn't want Joanne to have to drive back home alone, so I called a cab (of which there are very few in the entire Driggs/Jackson area) and was fortunate enough to have him tell me he could do it. He arrives at the house, I load my 3 bags (keep in mind that I'll be gone for over 5 months...) and have a tearful goodbye on Christmas morning with Joanne. Well, we get no further than 3 miles down the road when the cab has mechanical problems. I make sure the driver takes me home because no matter how bad I want to fly balloons in Turkey, I am NOT going to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard! I felt lucky to get back home, the way the cab was running.

So now, it looks like I'll miss my flight.... I call Joanne and tell her the story and that I'll be back home in the same ten minutes that I've been gone. Once I get home, I find out that my flight out of I.F has been cancelled because of weather anyway. Luckily, there is one other flight out and it leaves 3 hours later. Now I have time to get there, even in a blizzard! I call the other cab company and he tells me he can do it, but not for about an hour. No problem, that leaves me two hours to get there which should be doable, even considering the weather. He shows up an hour later and (after ANOTHER, more tearful goodbye) I get to the airport in Idaho Falls about 40 minutes before scheduled departure. Perfect!

Now, because of the cancelled flight, I'm not going to get to Vegas until 9 pm (instead of the original 6 pm) . . . no problem, still plenty of time to catch the morning flight. Except that when I get to Salt Lake City, the connection to Vegas has been delayed... by about 6 hours.... I finally get to Vegas at 2:30 am.... and need to be at the airport no later than 8 am.... tempted to sleep in the airport, I did get a hotel room and caught the 7 am shuttle to the airport (on 3 hrs sleep). The flight out of Vegas was uneventful. We arrived in Chicago about 5 minutes late, but I had two hours until the flight to Istanbul left. Had a bite to eat, went to the gate and about the time we were to be boarding, the announcement came that the flight had been delayed for 30 minutes. Then 30 minutes later, another announcement about another delay, and another.... 2 or 2 and half hours later, they announce that the flight had been cancelled. Oooh boy.... a riot almost erupted... in fact, the Chicago police had to be called to restore order at the ticket counter where 300+ people were frantically trying to put their trip back together.... me? I was really getting used to this type of thing .... I finally got on a flight that left about 2 hours after the announcement of cancellation. So I'm leaving for Turkey about 4 hours late.... and now, instead of flying directly to Istanbul, I go to Munich first... and wait for 6 hours for the flight to Istanbul... (beginning to wonder if I'll ever get there? I was . . . ) Once I get on the plane to Munich, I was at least able to get a few more hours of sleep. Not much, as sleeping on an airplane is difficult at best, but I was tired. We get to Munich and I go to call my employer and find out that the hassle I went through a month before to get international calling on my cell phone wasn't worth it because my phone is not working.... great, I'm stuck in Munich and can't even tell anyone what's going on or anything. No one, not Joanne, not my Turkish employer, not a single person who knows me, knows where I am or what has happened to get me here. It truly is beginning to seem like I'm in the Twilight Zone. Luckily, the experience of having your international flight cancelled was shared by about 300 people... so I had made 5 or 6 new friends from the fiasco in Chicago.... one of them also had AT&T as their cell provider and he had a number for me to call. Once I got that straightened out, I called my employer and worked out final transportation once I got to Istanbul. Because I would be arriving in Turkey no earlier than 10 pm (instead of the original 11 am) there would be no flights to Kapadokya until mid day the next day. So he picked me up at the Istanbul airport and we drove by car to Kapadokya... about a 7 hour ride.... because of the long drive and the fact that he had been in Istanbul since that morning... we stopped at one of his friends inns along the way. We got fed (my first meal in Turkey) and slept for about 4 hours. Back on the road early in the morning, I finally arrived in Kapadokya at about 4 pm Sunday afternoon local time. I had left my house at 3 pm Thursday..... For a trip that should have taken around 22 hours of travel time, it took me nearly 40 (subtracting the 9 hour time difference) ..... but hey.... I got there alive and well, although very, very tired.
Chapter 1
The Way There
Chapter 2
I'm Here! . . . Now What?!
Excitement, relief, wonder, anxiousness, disbelief.... just a few of the emotions I was going through as my employer drove me around the area, explaining the general concept of the flights here. I was shown the "base", where the office is and where the equipment is kept. I took a look at the equipment and then we went to the home of one of his best friends, Genghis, who owns a hotel here. Then he introduced me to a shop keeper (Kemal) and said if I needed anything and he stressed ANYthing... Kemal was the man.... he then took me to the house where I would be living and introduced me to the other pilot, Sancho.

Sancho and I would be sharing a second floor flat.
(for a few pics showing the view from my room, click here)
The entry of the house I lived in. Click for larger image
He is from Spain and his father was the first balloon pilot in Spain. When you ask Sancho how long he has been flying, he will tell you "always.... since I was in my mothers stomach". Obviously, his father flew his mother while she was pregnant...  the point being that he grew up with balloons. At the time I met him, he had over 700 hrs and over 100 hrs flying a 425 in Egypt and Nigeria. He has flown all over and even as a youngster in his teens, travelled with Malcolm Forbes and his balloons. What a great resource for me! He had been in Kapadokya about a month before I got there and had flown about 10 times.

Having finally arrived to the place where I could unpack my bags and stretch out or even better, actually lay prone....  I did just that. I went to bed about 7pm Sunday night... in a bed for the first time since 3 am on Friday.... ahhhh.... Because I had not slept for more than about 3 hrs at a time for 3 days.... I slept for 3 hrs at a time my first 4 days here ... Monday morning, after having breakfast at the office (a regular planned event each day & part of the perks) , we went to the nearest police department so I could register as a resident alien. This is located in the town of Nev
şehir, about 10 km (5 mi) away, and a city of approximately 80,000. No different from any beaurocracy that I've ever known, after about 3 hrs (2hrs and 50 minutes of that sitting in a waiting room) , they told me to come back tomorrow... so I went back home to catch my series of cat naps. The next morning (Tuesday) , we had a flight scheduled, but only 16 or 17 passengers. So I rode as a passenger with Sancho flying the 315 (the "small" balloon) in order to get an idea of the flight path, general area, etc
Where I lived, from the front. The two windows on the second floor are my room. Click for larger image
Here are a few pics showing the view from my room.
(click an image for a larger version)
Chapter 2
The view to the south
The view to the west
The view to the north
A closer view to the north
In the view to the south, you can barely make out the volcano between the houses. To the west, behind the house is another mountain range. To the North, and visible from almost anywhere within Kapadokya, is Castle Uçhisar.

Click to return to Chapter 2
I'm Here! . . . Now What!
Chapter 3
My First Flight
I had one shot at the place that Sancho eventually ended up landing at (thanks to me, the wind dummy) and thought there would be something better. Hah! I had no idea of the area, not to mention that any farm roads or anything like that were covered with 10 inches of snow and very hard to see (especially if you didn't know they were there to begin with) . I took a nice flat open spot next to what I thought was a farm road. There were two large rock formations between me and the crew on the main road, but between not speaking the language and not being able to describe where the road was, two of the crew ended up walking to me and determined that they couldn't get to me so I flew on (after keeping the balloon standing for about 15 minutes) . No problem, as I had plenty of fuel, (probably enough fuel for 3 hrs flight on this day) . As soon as I got off the ground I started going the absolute wrong direction and the crew guy said to land. Now I'm in a worse spot.... another 10 minutes of trying to communicate in what seemed like 10 different languages and I'm in the air again. Better direction this time, but I'm just a few degrees off from getting to a nice intersection with a huge parking lot.... naturally not going to get there.... I see Ürgüp coming up, the next village east from Göreme where we took off....
trying to determine from the ground crew whether it was cool to go into town or not and what I got from them was no... better to land now.... needless to say, it was an absolutely impossible place to get the chase vehicle to... much less the bus for the passengers... kept the balloon standing as long as I could for the boss to detemine whether they could get to me.... I wanted to fly into town.... after an hour and 50 minutes (total time) , I lay it down.... and of course the wind shifts and puts the envelope directly over the only tree on the plateau.... good thing no one understood English.... there was a blue streak coming out of my mouth like no other..... Luckily, I could climb the small tree to it's top and keep the fabric from getting punctured. Between the crew and I we managed to keep the fabric from getting any holes or tears while we got the envelope off the tree.... Whew! Just what I need is to tear a balloon with less that 15 hrs on it on my first flight! It took probably 30 or 45 minutes for the passengers to get picked up and that was after walking probably a quarter mile through the snow... by the time we got the balloon back to the road, it was 2:30 pm. I launched at 7:40 am... It really was quite the adventure... which is what ballooning is all about.
We got picked up at our house at 6:00 am and drove out to the launch site. The crew was already there of course, readying the balloon for inflation. It looked like it was going to be a good morning to fly. Not long after we arrived, Youssef, the crew chief, arrived to set up the "breakfast". They serve coffee and pastry in the morning while the passengers wait for the balloons to inflate.
Unfortunately, all I had with me for the flight with Sancho was my cell phone... so I didn't really get any good pictures from that flight. The only one that came out decent and shows anything is this one . . .
inflating the 315 w/ the 400 in the background
a close up of the label on the 400
Me in the 315 right before launch
Dovecotes carved into the side of the valley
A close up of the dovecotes
Ornate carvings in the rock formation
A close up of the carvings
So I'm having a great time playing in the valley . . .

. . . except that I noticed once we got in, the wind changed direction, so now I'm out front of Sancho.... great.... I was hoping he would lead me to a landing spot. It was not to be.
Me in the 315 at the end of the valley
Me just on the other side of the large peak at the end of the valley
Looking back at Sancho in the 400 as he flies over the large peak at the end of the valley
We landed right on top of the ridge you see to the left in the above picture. Most of the flight we were right over the village of Göreme, which has a minimum altitude rule. It was the first time I had flown there though, so I was pretty much in awe.
So having flown once as a passenger, the very next day we had enough passengers to fill both balloons which meant I had to fly..... luckily I would be able to follow Sancho... or so I thought.

So.... I've never flown anything larger than a 160.... I've never flown in Turkey... and after only one flight as a passenger, I'm doing both... flying a 315 in Kapadokya!
Another shot of Sancho over the large peak
The company has only 3 inflator fans, so I have to wait a bit after Sancho has the 400 inflated. No problem, he waited to take off as long as he could and I was only a minute or two behind him.
I admit, at first I was a tad nervous... it had been since October 8th that I flew last and that was a little C-100. It is now December 31st. Hope I make it to the new year!
I "only" had 17 passengers and all but two were Japanese and pretty small. It was about 8 or 10 degrees at takeoff, so the balloon was really light. It felt almost like a solo flight in a 90.... so we take off, and I'm following Sancho towards the "valley"... I see him dip in and my first shot at getting inside the valley is a little short, I'm right at the edge. So I climb up to move over a bit and bingo! I drop down right inside the walls and give everyone a real good view of the dovecotes and windows that are carved into the formations...
Looking back after flying over the large peak at the end of the valley
Chapter 4
New Years Day
After the day I had had, you'd think that I would have partied that night. After all, it was New Year's Eve. . . We had one balloon scheduled for the next day however, so I behaved. I was supposed to ride with Sancho again as a passenger. We get up in the morning, get picked up and taken to the launch site. The pibals were going the wrong direction for where we were (same direction we went the day before) , so we moved our launch site to the north by about a mile. Several other companies did as well. It's a bit foggy again this morning, but the other day, when I first flew with Sancho it was similar conditions and eventually cleared up enough to fly. While we wait for the sun to rise and the fog to clear, we stand around and "kick snow"... it's very cold out.... probably around 5 above.... the boss wants to fly real bad, since all my passengers from yesterday got their money refunded...... As we're standing there, watching pibals, kicking snow, some of the other balloons are inflating.... are they really going to fly in this? Nah.... no one in their right mind would fly when they couldn't see....
There is tremendous pressure to fly here
Something I'd never seen... flying in zero visibility
A closer shot shows how close they are to the rocks
In the valleys, it never did clear up. Only two companies cancelled that day and we were one of them. Part of the problem was that when we moved launch sites, it put us lower in elevation (thus stayed in the fog) and the other thing about moving was it put us beside a mountain (that you couldn't see because of the fog) that we could have skirted had we stayed at our original site.
Well... we're up... we're not flying, so we have the whole day ahead. What to do?
Chapter 5
Uchisar Castle
By now, you've seen some pictures of the big rock that is Uçhisar Castle.
According to the sign at the entrance,
Uçhisar Castle
The sign at the entrance to Uçhisar Castle
The bottom part of the entrance sign, in English
it is the tallest point in the region and I've read elsewhere that Uçhisar is the tallest point in Kapadocya. I believe it. You can see it from most anywhere you go. Since we had arisen early but didn't fly, Sancho took me up to the top of the "castle" so he could show me the area. Well worth the 3 Lira (almost $2.00) . The valleys were still pretty foggy, even in the afternoon, but on top of the castle, we could see really well.
Uçhisar village panorama made from two photos
It was easy to pick out the house we're in (it's only a few blocks from the castle) and where the office was. We could barely make out Nevşehir in the distance to the west (about 5 miles away) as well as Ürgüp to the east (also about 5 miles distance).
Halfway up, looking east at Mt Erciyes (12,851' msl)
Looking south, up Pigeon Valley
A Google Earth image of Uçhisar labeled with points of interest
By the time we got to the top and looked around a bit we noticed that there was a balloon inflating near Goreme (the usual launch area).
A stairway inside the castle
A view of the castle on the way up
Sancho & Elena on the steps
A view of Göreme without the balloon
Göreme with the balloon stood up
The balloon flying with Mt Erciyes in the background
So we stayed for a while and watched the balloon . .
We might not have flown, but it was still an awesome way to start the new year!
Me on the very top of Castle Uçhisar
A closer shot of the balloon & Mt Erciyes
Castle Uçhisar has been such a prominant feature since I arrived, it was very cool to find out that we could actually climb to the top. Not only that, but the way to the top is through it!
To help you get an idea of the layout and general area around Uçhisar, below is a Google Earth image that I've labeled as to where my house, company headquarters, Pigeon Valley and the Castle are. If you have Google Earth installed (if not, it's free and you can get it here).
Looking NW towards Ankara. The mountain in the background is ~ 135 miles away
Chapter 6
The next couple of days . . .
The next few days the weather was bad and we didn't fly. I used most of that time to finish up this web site. Took way more time than I thought it would, but hey. . . you're here reading this right? One of the days, Sancho and Elena took me with them to see one of their friends here in Uçhisar. She is originally from Mexico, but has been in Turkey for about 4 years and here in Kapadocya for a year. Because she is Mexican, she speaks English fluently. She works just down the street (maybe a mile) from the house at an onyx shop. A very large one. They get bus loads of tourists stopping there, so it can get very busy. This time of year is the slow time, so she was able to sit and chat with us for quite some time. We were sitting in the break room and I couldn't help but notice some of the men at one of the tables playing a game of some sort. At first I thought it might be Mah Jong, because they were using tiles... but after I looked a little closer (trying not to stare) it was more a cross between cards and dominoes.... I was very curious . . . One of the reasons I came over here was to learn the local traditions and way of life . . . Also while we were there, a news cast came on about Israel's invasion of Gaza . . . huge event here and everyone stopped what they were doing and turned the TV volume up.
One of the other days, we (Sancho, Elena and I) went into Goreme to visit another person Sancho had met while here. A lady from New Zealand that owns a carpet shop. While we were there, nearly everyone that came in were friends of hers and spoke English. How relaxing not to have to strain to understand the conversation. And her shop is beautiful . . . we spent most of the afternoon there chit chatting . . . and I learned a lot. Most important, was about how to keep the "soba" (our sole source of heat at the house) burning. The house, the soba and everything that goes along with that is a story unto itself. So I'll fill you in on what the living (the day to day stuff) has been like since I've been here in the next chapter.
This is living . . .
Or is it?!
Okay, so I know I'm in Turkey and it isn't like the U.S. but I also thought that Turkey was more European and less third world.

(granted, I had never been here before and didn't really know what to expect)

Call me the typical spoiled American, but I totally expected to have running hot water and central heating . . . did I have either of those? uh-uh... I dunno, maybe technically we have running hot water.... at least in the summer. The hot water in our house is solar heated. So if the sun don't shine, we don't have hot water. After the first 10 days, the sun has shone exactly one day, and I was lucky enough to get to wash my hands in warm (not hot) water. It has only been in the last 3 days that the day time high temperature has reached over 35 degrees... with overcast skies of course. You can imagine how cold the water is... well, if you live in Arizona, you might not be able to imagine how cold the water is.

(when in AZ I always keep drinking water in the fridge,
because the tap water does not get cold).

So the weather has been cold, snowy and overcast for all but one day. No big deal, just stay inside and stay warm, right? Fine and dandy if you are independently rich and don't have to earn a living. I fly balloons for a living, and I think most of those who are reading this understand that balloons fly early in the morning. Up to this writing I have flown exactly twice, once as a passenger. It was back to back days. Both days, the high for the day did not reach 20 degrees. The day I piloted, I had the balloon inflated for 2 hours..... not to mention the 4 hours it took to retrieve the balloon after I deflated it... By the time I got home, the fires of hell couldn't have taken the chill off....
So back to what it's like at home... The sole source of heat for the house is a soba.... Turkish for pot belly stove... they're not pot bellied, but the principle is the same.

Except that, in my experience growing up as a spoiled American, we burned wood. The Turks burn coal in their sobas... So everyday, twice a day, you fill a steel bucket with chunks of coal from a 50 lb bag.... stick some wood on top and put the bucket inside the soba.
The soba in my room
Next you get the bottle of propane or natural gas or whatever it is, (I haven't found out what it is yet), and turn the valve so gas is coming out the nozzle, take your match and light the torch... stick the nozzle into the soba and hold it there until the wood is burning. Once the wood is burning good, the coal will eventually light... the coal will burn for around 6 to 8 hours.... so you have a couple of hours that you need to get naked because it's so hot, and the rest of the time you spend either putting on or taking off layers of clothing, depending on whether the coal just started burning or is on it's way out....
Chapter 7
So picture this if you will.... we come home from flying, the house is freezing because even if the soba did stay burning through the night, it's certainly out by now.... we've been standing in the cold and snow for about 3 hours (if you find the right spot to land.... don't ever not find the right spot) , and now we have to take our buckets downstairs, outside, rip open a bag of coal and fill our buckets. Take the buckets upstairs, put some wood in it, drop it in the soba and spend the next 10 minutes trying to get it lit. Have you ever been covered in coal dust? It will make you look like Al Jolson in a heartbeat.... (for those who do not know who Al Jolson is, he was an early actor famous for painting his white face black so he would look.... well . . . black) .... did I mention that there isn't any hot water to clean up with? Ahhh.... so you're starting to get the picture, eh?
(for those that aren't, click here for a picture of Al Jolson in blackface)

I get the feeling this chapter may be a tad long.....
Did I forget to tell you "Don't get me started . . . "?

Okay, so enough about the soba.... at least when it's lit, it does put out heat. Let's talk about the kitchen . . . Sancho and I share the kitchen and bathroom (more on the bathroom later in this chapter) . They are both on the opposite side of the house from my room. The cold side. The very cold side. I went to pan fry some chicken yesterday and when I reached into the top cupboard to get the olive oil, I noticed (much to my chagrin) that the olive oil had frozen solid. Did I mention there is no hot water? So much for my plan to have chicken for dinner. We do have a refrigerator, although I'm not sure why... seems like a waste of electricity to me.... maybe they should take the electricity used to run the fridge and try to heat the water with it.... hmm... maybe I could patent that idea here and I wouldn't have to fly balloons! Do I need to tell you that we only use the kitchen when we're real hungry? There is no soba for the kitchen or bathroom area of the house. Those areas are both used sparingly. It actually works out, because the less I eat, the less often I need to use the bathroom. Not to mention that I could stand to lose 10 or 15 lbs anyway. Turkey is a long way to go, just to go on a diet, but hey... if nothing else is working for you.....

Actually, this really isn't the place to come if you don't want to eat. The cuisine here is fabulous. Lot's of vegetables and this time of year soups and goulash's... every corner market has fresh bread daily.... not the Wonder sliced variety either. Fresh home made bread... all different kinds... taken home like we would a french bread or something.... but all the bread is like that here. Delicious! And they eat lot's of it.. bread with every meal.... don't bother with a knife, just pick up the loaf and rip you off some! Use it as a utensil to help get that last bit of food on your fork.... interesting the different dining customs of the world. Oh yeah... if you order a salad to go with your meal.... it is served in the middle of the table and it's community property..... take your fork and dig in... before the guy across the table beats you to it.... (just like the bread, which you don't have to order)  oh, you want dressing on it? Too bad.... it's already oil and vinegar'd what more do you want? The food is really good here, it's just the custom of how you eat it that is different.

All this talk about food and I haven't mentioned the bathroom yet.... here we go. I had read, before I came over here, that the traditional bathroom did not have a commode to sit on.... they're basically a pit in the floor that you stand or squat over. They also have a small spout of water to the side that you can use to help clean your self. Toilet paper? no..... flush? no...... I think that the bathroom situation was what I was most concerned with before I got here. Well, I was right about one thing.... the bathroom is an issue, just not for the above mentioned reasons. We have a commode and it flushes wonderfully.... there is even a place to hold the toilet paper.... the problem is, it's so cold in there! Did I mention there's no hot water? And no shower curtain. It's not a real shower anyway, just a handheld spout on a cord type of thing.... but the tub is so cold, you can't stand in it with bare feet, much less sit down in it naked.... at least the shower does have a small electrical unit attached so there is hot water there... The basin to wash in, is about a foot below the spouts that the water comes out of. So no matter what you do, you end up soaking wet from the belt up.....
I don't want to sound like I hate it here, or that I'm unhappy or complaining too much. I just want to bring those who want to romanticize what I'm doing, back to earth a little bit. Yeah the flying part is cool, but there are certainly certain things about being here that make life more difficult. Overall, so far, I like it. After six months, I might change my mind, but this is the type of experience I've always enjoyed.

So I've spent the last couple of days not flying, sitting at home trying to get this web site up so you all can enjoy Turkey at my expense, and I just had to vent about the living conditions. I will adapt and everything will be fine.

The next chapter will be about my trip tomorrow (1/7/09) to Kebab, to get my Turkish medical certificate....

Chapter 8
My Medical
Some of you aren't going to believe the story I'm about to tell . . . In fact, it's hard for me to believe it, except that this actually happened to me.
Before I begin, to put this story in perspective, you need a little background information. Consider this a preface.
In the United States, (Amerika to the Turks) , it is not required to have a physical examination to fly balloons. For any other type of aircraft, pilots are required to hold a valid "medical certificate". Since I fly balloons and balloons only, I did not have, nor was I required to have, a medical certificate. Well, early in my communication with Alper (the guy who hired me to fly over here), he mentioned that I would need to send him my medical certificate (along with several other documents including my logbook and pilot's license). Along the way, he asked how I was coming along with sending the documents to him, because he had another pilot lined up and was going to hire him if I couldn't get him the documents within the next week. I had just returned home from the 10 day long Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and had almost gathered all the necessary documents. The only thing I needed was a medical certificate. So I make an appointment at the local medical center (keep in mind that by local I mean Driggs, ID which is a village... okay, town... of less than 2000). I told them I was a pilot and needed a pilot's medical certificate. (Alper, the boss.... was very clear in that my medical needed to be from an accredited state hospital. What's more official than a pilot's medical certificate, right? Especially since I didn't even need one). So I'm lucky enough to get an appointment for the next day. I explain to Alper that because I don't need a medical to fly in the States, that I don't currently have one and have make an appointment. I would be able to send him the documents within the next two days. (I was hoping he wouldn't hire someone else, as I had really wanted to come here to fly for a few years). So the next day, I head down to the medical center for my appointment. I walk in, tell the receptionist I'm there and sit down. I'm about 5 minutes early is all, so I'm expecting about a 30 minute wait... I no sooner sit down and the doctor comes out and says "I'm sorry, I'm not qualified by the FAA to give pilot medical exams." He explained how as a doctor, what you have to go through to be certified by the FAA to do pilot medical exams. He is in the process, but right now couldn't do it. "Okay, can anyone here in Teton Valley do it? I'm in a bind here and need it ASAP." He went on to explain that there was no one within a 30 mile radius. There was only one doctor in Jackson that was qualified. (I'm thinking "great, I don't even need this to fly here, but because I can't get one today or tomorrow, I won't be able to go to Turkey!"). So the medical center was kind enough to call Dr. Blue (who is also a pilot) and see how soon he could get me in. What luck! He can fit me in today! WOW! Now do you think for one minute that if I was dying of malaria or something that they would be able to fit me in the same day I call? Anyway, I'm feeling very lucky... but I still need to get to Jackson (45 minutes away) by 1:00 pm. So I rush home, and rush over to Jackson. Dr. Blue does my exam, I fill out the paper work, and I'm on the way home with my medical by 3:00 pm. COOL! I get home, gather all the documents and package them up to send to Turkey. The next morning I will go to Jackson (again) to FedEx the docs.

I'm going to diverge a bit here and tell you the short story of just trying to send the documents over there.

So I had done my online research and tried to get everything done via the web. Unfortunately, the address I had in Ankara, didn't contain a valid postal code for either UPS or FedEx so I couldn't complete the shipment online. I had to go in to a store somewhere. Well, Driggs doesn't have anything like that other than pick up spots. So back to Jackson I go.... luckily they have both a UPS store and a FedEx store. My online research had determined that UPS was going to be cheaper, so I went there first. I had called before I left, giving them the address and everything and he had quoted me price, a delivery date and everything. Well, when I get there, his computer does the same thing mine did, saying that there wasn't a valid postal code. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this is a Saturday. Anyway, UPS couldn't help me and suggested I go to the Post Office and get the postal code... I rush to get over there before they close and the 10 minutes I waited in line seemed like forever. Then it was my turn to get helped. I stood at the counter long enough that they opened a window just for me so everyone else could get helped. Ten minutes in line seemed like a blink of an eye. Bottom line was they couldn't help me either. They could at least get it there, but couldn't guarantee any sooner than 2 weeks. I went to the FedEx shop next. I get to the FedEx shop about 3 hours after I arrived in Jackson, to mail one envelope.... FedEx took the package and guaranteed no later than 8 days. So 4 hours and $65 later, the package is on it's way. I couldn't believe how difficult it was just to send mail over there. It should have served as a warning to me....

So now.... back to the medical story.....

So I luck out and get my medical. Well lucky yes, but it did cost me $185. I'm here in Turkey (and have already flown as pilot once) for 9 days, when the boss calls (at 9 pm) and says that tomorrow morning at 5:45 am a couple of the crew will pick me up and drive to Kebap. The Turkish government (CAA) has not accepted my US medical certificate so I need to get one here. In my head I'm saying "Wait a minute... I spend $185 (Not to mention the hassle and gas and time) to get a medical certificate I don't need just so I can come over to fly, and now you tell me it's no good?!?! Why did you bother having me get one in the first place?!?!. But I hold my tongue because there really is nothing I can do about it now, other than go to Kebap and get a medical certificate. I arise nice and early the next morning and get ready to go. It will be about a 3 hour drive, so I grab my camera also, not knowing what I will see or not see. I walk downstairs to wait for the guys to pick me up at about 5:40... since they are supposed to be there at 5:45. Get ready, here is where the story starts. Of course they are late... it isn't too cold out (between 35 and 40) and the rain is very light... I stand there for about 20 minutes when I think about going back in to wait for them. Oooops... I don't have a key. I don't want to wake Sancho by ringing the bell so I just stand and wait in the rain. They finally pick me up about 6:20. I get in the car and there is only one guy. I didn't say anything but I was told there would be two of them. Then instead of heading out of town, we go down to the office. I get out and everyone else starts to get ready to fly. (Sancho was scheduled to fly, but with the rain I didn't think he would. The preparations to fly kind of surprising me). So I wait in front of the office for another 30 minutes at least. Two hours after I first stood out in the rain. Okay, well at least now I'm in the car and have 3 hours to just relax and enjoy the countryside. About 10 minutes into the ride, the driver turns around and says we're going to Adana, not Kebap. It's still about a 3 hour drive but in the opposite direction. (Kebap is to the NW near Ankara, Adana is almost directly south near the Mediterranean Sea). No problem, I don't really care it's just that everything I've been told has been wrong. My imagination is beginning to take over and I wonder if maybe I'm being abducted or something. Neither of my guides/caretakers/captors speaks more than two words of English.
A mountain near the town of Pozanti. Not the shot I wanted but we were travelling about 80 mph Pozanti is a beautiful town stuck at the base of the Taurus Mtns.
There is only 6 miles difference,
but they're in opposite directions
All of these pics were shot from the back seat, out the window, as the car was moving
I spotted this mosque early after arrival in Adana. It was unusual to me because it has six minarets. Most of them have one or two, the bigger ones have 4. This one has 6.
A close up of the entry to the mosque reveals this public fountain. Not a decorative fountain but a place to drink.... and wash
A closer look at the huge mosque in Adana
The drive is quite pleasant through very scenic countryside, including the Taurus Mtns. The driver has his foot in it and we arrive in about 2.5 hours. Once we get to Adana (a city of over 1 million) we stop every 2 blocks or so and ask people on the street for directions. (I'm deducing this, as all the conversations were in Turkish, but the driver kept showing a piece of paper with an address on it).
Someone would give some directions and we'd head that way then stop and ask again. By the time we got to the hospital, it was 11:00. We park, walk in and find out we're in the wrong place. More driving for 2 blocks and asking directions until we get to another hospital. Again, the wrong one.... more driving for blocks at time between stopping and asking for directions. We finally get to another hospital and my guides/captors ask at a couple of different places before we end up in front of this window for about 45 minutes. Evidently it was the right place as we got a piece of paper with my picture on it. (I assume admission documents). It's now 12:30 in the afternoon, so we go across the street to eat. Evidently we have to be back at 1:00 as one of my comrades had indicated for me to hurry and finish my lunch. We walk back across the street and proceed to walk around the hospital campus going from this place to that and then back to where we were. The halls were so packed with people waiting to see a doctor that you couldn't get through. We walk from one place to to the other and back again at least 5 times. I don't know if these guys are lost or what's going on. Finally, a door opens and I'm ushered in. I sit down in front of a lady behind a desk and she say's hello. She ask's my name, says "welcome to Adana" and then asks "How are you?" I reply "I'm fine..... iy iyimm" (I'm well in Turkish) I think she was impressed with my feeble attempt at speaking the language because she says "You're normal?" and when I reply yes she signs her name on the paper, gives it a stamp and I'm done. I walk out of the office thinking "is that it?" It wasn't..... More walking from here to there... then.... a door opens and I'm ushered in. This time there is a man at a desk that I sit in front of. He takes his instrument and looks in both of my ears. Asks if I have any problems and when I say no he say's okay, signs the paper stamps it and I'm done. Again, I think "Is that all?" It wasn't... more walking from here to there.... another door opens and I'm ushered in... this time the "doctor" takes his stethoscope and listens to my lungs as I breathe.... he signs and stamps the paper and I'm done. I walk out thinking "Okay, now I get it.. I'm going to see one doctor for each thing they want to check. This could take a while." It does. More walking from here to there and another door opens for me to go through. This time I don't sit down. The doctor has me stand and hold my arms out in front of me. He has me stretch my fingers out and then clinch them into a fist. I do this like 3 times. He says okay, signs and stamps the paper and I'm done. I'm thinking "What the hell was that? Is that really part of the exam?" It was. More walking to and fro.... a door opens, I go in. This guy has me lift my shirt to show my Tarzan chest. He say's okay, signs and stamps the paper and I walk out. This time I'm not thinking anything but "that guy only does his job because half the time it's women in his office. Freakin' perv!" More of the same.... the next person I see has me extend my arms and do the fist thing again. I walk out thinking, "What a joke! It wasn't. More to and fro.. more waiting. Finally a door opens and I go in. My immediate reaction was, "Wow, a real doctor. This time she checked my eyes. By covering one eye and having me read 3 letters in a column. She covers the other eye and has me read a different column of 3 letters. That's it... she signs the paper, stamps it and I walk out laughing. I try to tell my captors/guides that in Amerika, it only takes one doctor to do all this.... not only that, but they actually check me for glaucoma and other eye problems. They actually make me turn my head and cough... you know, they actually do a physical exam. Then I realize by their dumbfounded look that they don't understand a word I'm saying... I start laughing again, this time shaking my head. The good news is we're done.... at this place. Now we hop in a taxi. I'm wondering why we don't take the car we came in.... we head back into town by where the other two hospitals were. I just happen to notice the piece of paper that one of my "buddies" gave to the cab driver.... on top in big letters is EEG. Wondering why a big prominent state hospital can't give me an EEG, I enjoy the same sights of the city that I saw a few hours ago.
We get dropped off at an office building right downtown. My two companions look at the piece of paper and up at the building. I look up at the building and notice 3 signs. Each for a doctor. Each of them have the word "psykiatry" on it. (I know I don't know the language, but I can figure this one out) I'm figuring that they felt that since they couldn't find anything wrong after such a "thorough" examination, there must be something wrong in my head.... Again, we walk around the building asking people for directions or maybe asking if they've ever had an EEG, I don't really know what the conversations were. All I really know is that these two looked really lost all the time. Imagine how lost I must have looked. We finally find the correct psychiatrists office and go in. Some Turkish conversation (I hear "Amerikan") and everyone laughs. No one here speaks any English. I'm led into a room and sit on the hospital bed. The doctor connects 21 different wires to my head, using a white substance that I swear is half Brilcream and half Elmer's glue. What seems like 10 minutes later and the wires are connected. I'm told to lay down and close my eyes. (Just to get me to understand that took 10 minutes). An hour later after some open your eyes, close your "capella's", breath like this, now breath normal and 10 minutes of some bright flashing light (luckily while my eyes are closed)(also lucky I don't have epilepsy) I was done. Before I walk out I think "I feel like Frakensteins' monster. This is all I need, for them to see my brain waves and know what I'm thinking about this whole thing. I'll never get to fly here." By the time I walked out of the psychiatrists office, it is about 4:30 pm. We find a place to eat, (again after much to and fro) and head back to the psychiatrist. I think she must've not signed and stamped the paper or something. Because the elevator is too small in that building, the "lead honcho" went up first. By the time I got there with my other "friend", the conversation was all but over. So we turn around and leave. This to and fro thing and not understanding conversations as to why we are wandering to and fro has gotten me quite worn out. After leaving the shrink for the last time, I am told we are going to spend the night in Adana and will leave for home at 10:00 am the next day. Mixed emotions at that, because on the one hand, I had brought nothing with me and most of all was going to miss my evening video call with Joanne. (For those who don't know Joanne, she is my girlfriend, (you can click here for a picture of her) and the twice daily video chats have become a lifesaver for me). On the other hand, a chance to experience a city and part of the country that I didn't expect to get to see, and maybe... just maybe.... the hotel would have a shower with hot water! Of course after I was told we were going to stay in Adana (and I had really started dreaming, no . . . fantasizing . . . of the hot shower), we drove back and forth, with many cell phone conversations (in Turkish of course) for quite some time. Finally we pull up to a corner where a man is standing, and I think they're just going to ask directions again, but they get out and after about 30 seconds of talking, give this guy the paper we spent all day getting signed and stamped! I swear.... it was straight out of the movies.... I have no idea who this man was or why they gave him the paper or anything... all I know is it sure seemed.... uh... clandestine. They got back in the car, gave me a high five and said we would be going back to Uçhisar tonight after all. Once again, I get told something and then something different happens. It's okay, I was rather tired and it did feel good to get home, even though it was 11:00 pm. Of course, then I had to deal with getting the soba going..... But that was yesterday. Today was beautiful... sunny and (relatively) warm, about 45 degrees. Most of the snow is gone and the supposedly hot water isn't nearly as cold... you can actually hold your hands under it for a minute or two. I didn't bother lighting the soba until almost 6 pm tonight. Tomorrow I get to fly!
Chapter 9
Finally, Another Flight
Well, it's been 9 days since I last flew. What better way to get a feel for the larger balloons and learn the area, than to fly once every couple of weeks, eh? (sarcasm, in case you didn't realize it). At least I've gotten a chance to get accustomed to the place without having to worry about the flying part. Hopefully I'll start flying on a more regular basis soon.

Today's flight is why I came all the way over here to fly. I cannot possibly describe what it was like, The English language does not have enough adjectives, and even if it did, they wouldn't be descriptive enough. You know the old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words? Well, this chapter will have lots of pictures, so if the page loads slow, that is why. Believe me. . . it's well worth the wait.

Today, I'm sure, the boss was using as a kind of test. After my first flight (which wasn't really that bad) I'm sure he was watching closely. I nailed it!

The weather was near perfect. Slight overcast, wind at about 7 km/hr (3 mph), temperature between 35 and 38 degrees. I had 17 passengers altogether, counting 2 hotel owners that were getting comped and Sancho (to make sure I behaved), eleven of them were Korean (so we were really light). This area is nothing but valleys and hills or mountains so the winds vary direction quite a bit just a few thousand feet from where you are. We did not have any pibals today, I think because the company was out of helium. Of no concern to anyone around me, including Sancho who just pointed at the other 2 balloons that were flying today, and said, there is your pibal. I didn't really like that, as I know nothing about the pilots here, and after seeing them fly in the fog the other day, don't know that should trust them that much. It wasn't like I didn't want to fly, but I do like to have somewhat of an idea about what kind of steering is available. Especially in an area I don't know all that well. But like I said, the weather was good, so off we go.
Just after launch, you can see my "pibal" almost dead center of the picture, in the background is the mountain we couldn't see for the fog the other day.
Closing in on the valley's that we want to get down into
As we approach the beginning of the valleys, the first balloon to launch climbs
The first point of interest, a little closer
Just as we pass the first feature, the other balloon has climbed out of the area
One of my favorite shots of the flight.
The back side of the first point of interest with Uçhisar in the distance
Why Red Valley? Compared to everything around it, the rocks are red
Someone actually lives here, most likely in summer only
Summer home up close
Just a week before, we would not have been able to see the light green stripe in the rock nor the green vegetation because everything was white with snow.
We flew within about a foot of the yellowish rock to the left and bottom left in the first two pictures. I have taken the photo at left above, and drawn our flight path on it to give you a better idea of what it was like.
The purple line indicates our flight path
Flying right between the two larger pinnacles, we buzzed the smaller one in the center. It looked like something straight out of a Tolkien novel. That was pretty much the end of the valley and we climbed up the wall at the end to land on the plateau just beyond. There was a nice park or something overlooking the valley right there at the end and we spent the last fifteen minutes of the flight flying at tree top level over an apricot orchard until I could find an open area big enough to lay the balloon down. We were going slow enough that the crew was waiting for us.
Home for a hobbit?
The end of the valley, notice the steps
Flight path in relation to Uchisar
closer look at flight path from different angle
The wind was very kind to us this day. As I dropped down into Red Valley, not only did we take a right turn and go right up the valley, but we were going the perfect speed. Slow enough to get a great view and take pictures, but there was definite direction and we weren't just parked over one feature...

We spent around 45 minutes flying through the valley, over and between rock formations with dovecotes, windows and doors carved into nearly every one of them. Some of them we could nearly reach out and touch. As we neared the end of the valley, I snapped the following sequence of shots. Keep in mind, I'm flying the balloon, trying to make sure I don't actually hit any of them as I'm taking these photos . . .
You can see from the above photos that the first balloon might have got a whole 10 minutes down in the valley. . . and at the very start of it. Once he climbed, he stayed high for the rest of the flight.
We start off low and heading in the right direction but only a few minutes later we turn to the left and I'm going to miss the valleys. I climb up a few hundred feet and we're back on track, although too high to get the good views, but we're not to the valleys yet so I keep it there and snap some photos. I also keep an eye on that first balloon. Looks like he got into one of the valleys so I'm looking good. As I approach the target area I notice the first feature to show the passengers. As I drop down to get the good look (keeping an eye out for any direction change) I notice the first balloon is climbing.
To give you an idea of the general area we flew over, here are a couple of images saved from Google Earth. The one on the left shows the path of the flight and also Uçhisar, with my house, company headquarters and such labeled (there is a closer Google Earth image of just Uçhisar, also labeled, here). The second just shows the flight path, from a different angle. If you have Google Earth installed, you can click here to load the file that will allow you to zoom. rotate, etc. (Google Earth is a free 3D satellite image program that you can download here).
In the above photo, notice to the left just below Castle Uçhisar are 3 peaks, getting shorter as they go to the right. We flew between the shortest one on the right and the big formation, so close you could almost touch them. You can barely see our launch site between the tallest one and the middle one.
This story and the photos can not even begin to describe this flight. This is why I came to Turkey to fly balloons. I wish all of you could have been in the basket with me. Or at least someday, get the opportunity to experience a flight like this.
Chapter 10
January 10, 2009
I've been here two weeks now. I've flown twice. Didn't fly today, but the weather was beautiful. Went to the office for breakfast (like usual) around 10:00 am and got back home about 11:00. Sunny and blue sky, but stayed home for a while to talk with Joanne. Her daughter Stephanie is getting married today, so she would only be able to talk first thing in the morning (her time). We chatted for a while and then I just kicked back and relaxed, not doing a whole lot. It was such a gorgeous day that I wanted to go out and take some photo's but really, the best time is sunrise and sunset (just like ballooning), that's when the light is the best. So I did a little surfing on the 'net (looking for a solution for my picture galleries) and around 4:00 pm, grabbed my camera and headed out. I had planned on getting a few shots of some street scenes, to give you an idea of what the village of Uçhisar is like. But as soon as I got out to the street, I saw the full moon rising. I live one block away from the west ridge of Pigeon Valley, so I headed in that direction. Not only was the full moon rising, but with the sun low and starting to set on such a nice day, Mt. Erciyes was also very prominent on the eastern horizon.
I had to get my wide angle lens out to get both the moon (far left) and Mt. Erciyes (far right in the picture).
The full moon over Pigeon Valley
A wider shot of the full moon over Pigeon Valley
zoomed in on Mt. Erciyes, the top of which is over 12,851ft above sea level
A gorgeous Mt. Erciyes looms over Pigeon Valley
The full moon between Uçhisars' two peaks
A wider shot of the moon and Uçhisar
my favorite shot of the night
Uçhisar Castle, the SE part of the village of Uçhisar and part of Pigeon Valley, from the south.
As quickly as the sun was setting, the moon was rising. The light was gone for good street scenes, so I headed towards the castle with the hopes of trying to capture an image of the castle with a full moon. I had of course never been here for a full moon this time year (or any time of year) so I didn't realize what I was about see. And these photo's can't capture the ambiance of the moment... the call to prayer had sounded about 5 minutes earlier, so the village was pretty quiet. I walked up the narrow cobblestone street and when I got to the side of the castle that put the moon behind it, this is what I saw . . .
I actually left the house about half an hour late . . . once it starts, the sun sets pretty quickly, and I was running out of good light. I didn't get any good shots of the beautiful Red Valley. It is wonderful at sunset! Well, I've got a few months left and I did get these . . .
The full moon between the two peaks of Uçhisar! What an incredible sight! I feel so fortunate to be able to have this whole Turkey experience. It really is a beautiful place. Everywhere you look is breath taking scenery. It is pretty third worldish in a lot of ways and the living conditions certainly could be better, but once I get out of the house, I forget all that because everywhere around me are views you can't get anywhere else.
Chapter 11
Sunsets and Moonrises
The weather was very windy most of the day today. We haven't flown for a couple of days now. With all this free time, I decided it was time to grab my Canon and wander about the village now that I'm comfortable that I know it well enough not to get lost. And yes, it's a small village, but it's large enough to get lost in (unlike Driggs). I wanted to get out at sunrise today, but when I got up, the wind was howling and it was only about 25 degrees, so I decided that since the moon is full, I would wait 'til sunset and get a little earlier start than I did yesterday. Well, I left the house about an hour earlier (around 3 pm) than I did yesterday, which gave me time to shoot some typical street scenes, before the sun got to where it was throwing color onto Red Valley.
A house I pass on the way to the office.
close up of wall
Another house on the way to the office. This one has a huge yard.
I've noticed quite a few times, while walking to the office, a couple of houses that I wanted to get photos of. The first one (photo on left, above) struck me because of it's thatched top wall. You can also see in that picture, the solar panel and water tank for their hot water. The other house (photo above right) struck me because of the size of its yard. Huge by Uçhisar standards, I'm imagining that the owners are probably considered fairly wealthy.
Walking around the village afforded ample opportunity to get shots that are very representative of what the village is like. That is what I'm hoping for, to give you the sense of almost being there. Very difficult to do through photos, especially in a place like this. There are walls everywhere (some crumbling) and almost all the streets are cobblestone (okay, actually they're paving stones, but let's not quibble). The closer you get to the castle, the narrower the streets and more of the houses and business are carved into the hillside. Also, the more decay and crumbling you see...
A typical street. Notice the minaret in the background. There are mosques everywhere.
A vacant lot. I could not have staged this any better. Again, a minaret in the background.
Looking up one of the narrow streets at Castle Uçhisar.
The Ahbab Hotel. Genghis' place and Alpers' second home.
The view from the Ahbab Hotel. There is a small valley between the hotel and Castle Uçhisar
The Ahbab Hotel is on the left of the rock in this photo from the castle.
The sun was getting low in the sky, casting the valleys into shadow, but still throwing light onto higher spots. We got some good shots of the castle before deciding to make haste for the other side of the castle in an effort to get some pics of Red Valley bathed in color.
One of the formations in the valley between the castle and Hotel Ahbab
I think this is my best shot of the day. The smaller (NW) peak of Castle Uçhisar
I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted this houka shop.
Sancho with his bike and a very friendly chicken
A close shot of the shop window.
The sun was setting fast and I had to jog a bit to get to where we could see Red Valley. I got there in the nick of time, but could only get this one shot before the sun was down and the color was gone.
Just in time to take what I think is my second best picture of the day.
Göreme in the foreground with a bright Red Valley as a backdrop.
Watching the sunset from the castle.
Zoomed in on the sunset, literally seconds later.
Though yesterday was clear, today we had a lot of clouds. The clouds made for some good sunset pictures (including Red Valley this time) but alas, the moon was not to be seen. Kind of makes yesterday a little more special.
The sun was finished painting the valleys and rocks, but it wasn't done giving us a show. As we turned to go home, we walked past the castle one more time. The high point gave us a good look at the mountain near Nevşehir and the splash of sun spilling over it.
As we made our way toward the other side of the castle, I noticed this shop and had to snap a few pics. There were also some chickens in the street and Sancho was making some new friends.
I had told Sancho about the full moon pictures I took yesterday and just after I left the house, I met him as he was coming home. I told him where I was going and since in a technical sense he is a professional photographer (people pay him for his photo's) he went home and got his camera. I was still shooting street scenes, when he called (we both have company cell phones) and said he was over by the castle. So I headed that way. I realized last night, that where I was taking the pictures from, is right next to the Ahbab Hotel, which is owned by the very first person I met in Uçhisar. His name is Genghis (pronouned jing gis) and he is good friends with Alper (my boss). In fact, from what I hear, he will also be the next mayor (or what ever the Turks call it) of Uçhisar. His hotel has an awesome view, and he is a really nice guy.
Chapter 12
Balloons In The Morning, Of Course
The past couple of days has been slow business wise. The weather good enough to fly, but no passengers scheduled. Since I had some sunset and moon rise pictures, I made a point of getting outside right after I awoke, to get some sunrise shots. Lately, when I'm up this early, either I'm flying or the weather isn't good enough for me to want to go out and take pictures. The past couple of days have been much better. So I'm out and about around 6 am, looking for some good pics. The sun isn't shining on the castle quite as dramatically as in the evening, but one thing about the morning that the evening can't match . . . balloons! There were 3 of them flying on this morning.
A balloon behind the SE part of Uçhisar
Two balloons above Göreme, SE Uçhisar in foreground
A balloon over the valleys east of Göreme
A balloon over Göreme, Uçhisar in the foreground
Once I spotted the balloons, I walked toward the east side of the castle (for better shots of the balloons and also hoping to get the low rising sun painting the castle). As I made my way, I took more pictures.
A balloon over Göreme, framed by an Uçhisar building
A balloon hovering above an Uçhisar doorway
A balloon high above Göreme
A balloon seemingly lands on the ridge in the background
After getting the best shots I could of the balloons, I made my way back around to the west side of the castle to try and catch some shadows at work.
Along the path to the castle
Pigeons on the castle. You can spot them every morning.
Once at the castle, I spotted the pigeons sunning on its south side
One of the old dwellings in the valley west of the castle
The shadow of the castle. Notice the spot of sun in the shadow.
You can see right through this rock!
On the way, I walked past ancient ruin side by side with modern housing and once at the castle noticed the pigeons sunning on its south face. This village is only around 3,000 people and is very tranquil early in the morning. The sun was rising fast and dramatic shadows disappeared fast.
Sunrise begins to douse the valley west of Uçhisar Castle
The sun lights just the tip of the rock in the foreground
Another shot of sunrise in the valley west of the castle
Convinced the best shots were gone for the day, I made my way back towards the house. It was Tuesday, which meant that the local market was being held in the square just a couple blocks from the house. I stopped and bought some fruit. Once the locals started noticing me taking photographs, they all started to come up and ask me to take their picture.
A vendor at the weekly Uchisar market
Two locals, very proud that I was taking their picture and not someone elses
One of the many fruit and vegetable vendors
A snow covered Mt. Erciyes towers over Pigeon Valley
Zoomd in on 12,851 ft Mt. Erciyes
Another zoomed image of Mt. Erciyes
I hope I don't bore you with similar pictures of the same old things. This place is just so astounding that on a beautiful day, you can't help yourself. The longer I am here, the more places I will go and see and have pictures of to share.
It actually got to be a bit bothersome and I didn't want to be the center ring of a circus, so I left the market. Since the house is so close to Pigeon Valley, as I approached it, I couldn't help but notice the ever present Mt. Erciyes. It was so clear and the mountain so prominent, I couldn't help but snap a couple of shots.
I got another chance to fly yesterday, so I'm averaging just over one flight a week. Take my salary and on a per flight basis, I'm doing pretty good. I'm sure, once spring gets here we'll be flying pretty much everyday though. I didn't bring my camera this time, because I wanted to concentrate on flying the balloon. We had both balloons out this morning, Sancho with 20 passengers in the 400 and I had only 10 passengers in the 315. It wasn't even 25 degrees outside and I've only got 10 people on board! I didn't think I'd ever get the thing back on the ground! It was almost airborne before it ever came out of the bag! Once again, the weather was great. When the flying is good here, it is really good. You can fly almost all day long. Not like Teton Valley, where the wind picks up significantly in the afternoon, here, from what I've seen so far, if it's calm enough to fly, it stays that way. We started out going the usual (for me anyway, after only two previous flights) direction toward Red Valley. However, after crossing the first ridge east of our launch site and dipping into the valley, the wind was going in a direction away from all the sights. As we came down the back side of the ridge into the valley, there was this large opening that we could see into. The opening was large enough (and on the east side, so the sun was shining right in) that the paintings on the walls were very clear and easy to see. I got my first look at some real frescoes! I wish I had brought my camera with me, but since I didn't, I will post the Google Earth image of the flight path and link to the Google Earth file only. Also, on the way back to Uçhisar from the landing spot, I saw my first bird of prey. Looked like a Red Tail Hawk. If we were back in Teton Valley, I'd positively say it was, but I'm not sure if that's exactly what it was here. Very similar and certainly had a red tail! I really haven't talked much about the wild life here, maybe because compared to Teton Valley there really isn't much. Lot's of fox (we saw one on our last flight) and of course rabbit. Some deer, but not really here where we fly, more to the north. There are asian black bear in Turkey, but not around here. They do have wild boar also, and that is the most popular hunting here (the bear are protected) . Most of the birds I've seen are magpies, (kind of makes me feel at home) a lot of pigeons, and some sort of wren or small songbird of some type.
The bigger news of the day is that Sancho and I moved into a different house! We complained enough that the boss found us another place to live. One of the passengers I flew on the 9th is a local businessman that owns several houses here in Uçhisar and rents them like a hotel. He gave the boss a deal on a two bedroom, two bath house. We went to look at it the night before last and then last night moved in. This house has central heating (still powered by coal, but no soba!) and real hot water. All the time, not just when the sun shines. It is on the east side of the castle and has an excellent view of Red Valley and Pigeon Valley (as well as Mt. Erciyes). It even has a dishwasher and maid service twice a week! There is a patio off of the dining room with a fireplace to use as a bbq and below that a fairly private courtyard. It is costing both Sancho and I 125 Euros a month (deducted from our salary), but for me... it's worth it to have hot water and a warm room. Not to mention having someone come in and clean twice a week. It is a really nice place built into the side of the hill, so it's almost a cave house. It's all stone and very traditional. The bedrooms are kind of small, but it's a hotel and we have a nice dining room and kitchen. Did I mention hot water?
I took lots of photo's of the place, so Joanne could see what she's in for when she comes over in March. For a tour of the house, click here.
Google Earth image of flight path
Chapter 13
Another Flight - Another House
Chapter 13
Another Flight - Another House
The front door, showing the address number (10) and the name of the suite.
The front of our new place.
One of the first things you notice when you walk in is the stairway leading down to the right. This is where the bedrooms and bathrooms are, as well as the "back" door. As you enter, straight ahead of you is the dining room and to the left is the kitchen (which has hot water!).
So Sancho and I finally convinced our boss that our living conditions were not up to snuff. Once we had a look at the house that Jacques had available, it was a no brainer for us to switch (this place has hot water!).
Looking downstairs from just inside the front door.
Looking downstairs from the kitchen. The front door is to the right.
The door on the right leads to the dining room. On the left is the door between the kitchen and dining room (thru the door to the kitchen from the entry)
Looking at the entry and door to kitchen from downstairs
We'll save the downstairs for a bit later. Moving straight ahead from the entry, you go past the door to the kitchen on the left and enter the dining room.
The dining room, from the entry. The door on the far side goes outside to the "deck"
The kitchen, viewed from the dining room
From the dining room. On the left is the entry, the right the kitchen
There is a door to the kitchen from this room and a door outside to the "deck" (more like a patio) where there is a stone table and "bbq" (a stone fireplace).
Steps up to the dining room, the "bbq" and Castle Uchisar as viewed from the patio
The steps to the dining room and the "bbq"
table on the deck
The table and bench on the patio. The 4 windows are the 2 bedrooms
That's about it for the upstairs, so let's go back in and head downstairs. When you take an immediate right after entering the house, you go down some stairs to a hallway. The two bedrooms (both bedrooms are identical) open into this area and the two bathrooms are at either end of it.
Bedroom as seen from the hall
The bedroom ceilings are arched
Yes, those are real candles on the wall
Both bathrooms are identical as well, although the one at the opposite of the entry, is back up some stairs from the hall, while the one that is basically underneath the kitchen, is down a few steps from the hall. Did I mention that both bathrooms have hot water?
Looking down the hall towards the other bathroom from the "downstairs" bathroom
The sink and counter in the bathroom
The shower isn't large, but it has hot water!
Looking out the backdoor into the alcove
The backdoor as seen from the opposite end of the alcove
Seen from the courtyard, these steps go up to the alcove and backdoor
When you get to the downstairs bathroom, on the right is the "backdoor". Out this door (and through an alcove) is a courtyard of sorts. Also here is the boiler room, where the coal fired boiler for the central heating system (which keeps the water hot) is located.
The courtyard as seen from the steps
From the backdoor, walk to the other end of the alcove, turn right and take the stairs that descend between the house and boiler room and you enter the courtyard. One end of the courtyard is open and you can see some ruins beyond. These ruins are being restored by the hotel owner into a 10 room hotel proper. Right off the end of the courtyard there will be a swimming pool.
From the far end of the courtyard, the door to the boiler room is at right, and the steps to the backdoor are between the boiler room and the archway. You can see the "deck" is actually the roof of the boiler room
A close up of some of the ruins that are part of the restoration project
The restoration project, seen from the courtyard
Two archways under the bedrooms lead to cave rooms
One of the entrances to the cave rooms
In the back wall of this alcove is another way to get to the cave rooms
I have always been fascinated with being underground and enjoy visiting caves all over the country. I have been inside the Oregon Caves in southern Oregon near Crater Lake National Park, Shenandoah Caverns in Virginia, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico (including the Slaughter Canyon cave) and the Wind Cave at the head of Darby Canyon in Teton Valley. Not to mention all the "underground" forts we built as kids. So you know I just had to take a look under the house!
One of the two ways into the cave rooms
Looking down into the room from the courtyard entryway
Looking toward the courtyard from the main room
The main room seen from the entrance
Looking back at the entrance from the back wall of the main room
This house is very typical of the dwellings up near the castle, as opposed to the other place we stayed in, which was typical of most of the village further down the hill from the castle. Very neat place and definitely adds a flavor of experiencing the "true" Kapadokya to my adventure, and it has hot water !
Also off the courtyard, back under the house through the archways, are some original cave rooms. There is also an entrance to the cave rooms right next to the back door.
Chapter 14
A Short Walk
The first item of interest along the way
Inside the first one I came upon
Looking out from inside the first one
I'm about halfway down the side of the valley when I notice a rock sticking out with a hole in it. I decide to try and make my way over to it and look inside. Well, to my surprise, I can walk right inside! Cool! It's pretty small, so I snap a few pictures and head further down into the valley.
I didn't really know what to expect or how far or how long I was going to follow the valley (I had only seen the valley from the west rim). I know that you can take it all the way into Göreme, but I knew I wasn't going to go that far. For one thing, Göreme is about 300 ft. lower, so it's quite an uphill walk home from there. Once I get down to the bottom of the valley, the trail is much clearer (though it may not be in the spring and summer with the vegetation and trees) and I kept turning my head from side to side to look at all the doors and windows cut into the walls of the canyon.
The first rock I went in, taken from the bottom of the valley
Another Tolkien like dwelling
A hillside full of openings
The view as I got closer
It looks like I can get in!
The ruins I recognized from standing on the west rim of the valley
The view when I first looked inside
I couldn't believe what I saw when I got to the back wall
Different rooms of the ruins
As I made my way around to the back side, I was hoping I could get in up there
The back of the very top of the ruins
One last look up before I leave
The view of SE Uçhisar from the back of the ruins
The Kaya Hotel as seen from the floor of Pigeon Valley
Entrance to cave
Cave entrance as seen from inside the cave
Just one of the many exits available to me. This is not the one I took
A couple of frescoes spotted along the way
Zoomed in on the lower frescoe
A close up of the top frescoe
The distinctive and familiar formations of lower east Uçhisar
I chose a path between the two rocks in the foreground
More pigeon holes thru a pigeon hole
The ancient window makes a perfect frame for the spire
The same house as seen from our "deck"
Holed up in the house getting this narrative caught up and not flying for a couple of days had me pretty antsy. The weather was rather drab and overcast and not really the best to take photographs, but I needed to get out and do something, so I decided I would take a walk around and scope out photo opportunities for when the light was better (I did take my camera, just in case). The first place I went was to the NW side of the castle to figure out a way to get down to where I could get a shot through the hole in the rock that has appeared in some of my previous photos. The good news is I found a way. I didn't bother with trying to get a shot right then, as I figured there would be plenty of opportunity with better light. Not content to walk around the village, I headed out toward the Pigeon Valley trailhead. I had all afternoon so I decided I would at least take the trail a little ways and see what it was like. The first thing I noticed was that the ground was much softer than I thought it would be. One of the reasons this area has the underground cities and troglodyte dwellings is that the rock is soft. The eight or ten inches of snow that was on the ground when I got here has also melted, so in places the trail was downright muddy. Not a problem except for some inclines, which of course is the first thing I have to do is scramble down the side of the valley. The next thing I noticed was that the "trail" really isn't a marked specific pathway through the valley. There are several worn paths to follow and of course most of them are also the way the water finds it's way down. In summer it wouldn't be a problem, but this time of year I had to watch my footing.
I was struck by the fancily painted door on this house
I recognize this house!
As I picked my way through lower east Uçhisar, trying not to go through peoples houses, there were still some good photos to be had.
I think during the summer, or at least when the ground is drier, I could have made my way to a lot more places, but you can see how steep the hill was in the photo above. Anywhere that there wasn't vegetation, was muddy and very slick. So I couldn't get in any other places in this ruin, but I got a great view of Uçhisar from here and there was still the rest of the trail to explore!
One of the few photo's of myself.
As I get closer, I notice an opening that looks like I can get to. I scramble up the hill side, and sure enough I can get to that large opening at the bottom right of the photo on the right above. I peer inside . . .
Yes, I climbed the ladder
Wow! It looks very large! I think I can get in here! I climb into the opening and walk back towards the darkness. As I approach what I thought would be the end of the cave, I look to my left . . .
Needless to say, I wasn't expecting to see what I saw. This place was huge! I was in awe. I couldn't believe this place. I must have spent half an hour in here, just walking back and forth through the 3 rooms and connecting halls. Except for the exterior wall, all the other walls were filled with those square pigeon holes. I also have to apologize for some of the pictures being out of focus. It was pretty dark, and without a tripod for the camera, it's next to impossible to hold the camera still enough for the necessary long exposure. But at least you get an idea of what it was like inside.
I could spot the very familiar and distinctive rock formations of lower east Uçhisar and knew I was getting close, so I started looking for a way up the hill.
As I climbed past the large landmarks I quickly got into the village proper. As I did, I noticed this house with a painting on the side of it. I can see this house from our "deck" and had taken a photo of it when we first moved in. Not much further was a house with its front door painted real fancy.
Finally down to the valley floor, I made my along the path, wondering at each opening that I couldn't get to, what lay behind. Not much further, looking to the west side, I noticed a hotel. It is the same hotel (the Kaya Hotel) that I've walked past many times as I strolled along the road taking pictures of the valley and Mt.Erciyes. All I've ever seen of the hotel (besides the sign along the road) before now, was it's roof, which is just below the road. It looks a lot nicer from inside the valley.
I probably could have spent most of the day just looking around this one area of ruins, but I didn't start this excursion until the afternoon, so I only had a few hours. I decided to see if there were any more places like this (with multi rooms), that I could get into. So reluctantly, I exited the ruins, but before I carefully made my way back down the hillside to the trail at the bottom of the valley, I noticed I could get around to the back side of these ruins. Hoping I could get into some different rooms, I walked the treacherous path to the other side. The wet hillsides were pretty slick and fairly steep, but I was motivated.
I soon came to a very large feature on the east wall of the valley. I recognize it from some of the photos I've taken from the west rim. (See Chapter 10, the first set of 4 images, at the very bottom of the far left image). I walk over to see how close I can get to it.
Soon, I see a large opening to my right. It's actually a bit lower than where I am. I walk over and see what appears to be a large cave. It is in the streambed that drains the valley, but there isn't very much water flowing and it looks like I can get in there. Sure enough, not only can I get in, but I see a light way back towards the back. I think I can walk completely through and come out on the other side! Which is exactly what I did. There was more than one place to exit the cave, but I took the last one I thought I could get to easily.
After some two and a half hours, I was back home. That was quite the "short little" walk! It had just started to lightly rain right before I got to the house, so I put the camera away and took a nice long hot shower!
For a walk to just look for photo opportunities for another day, this turned out to be quite the experience. It was starting to get on the late side of the afternoon and the sun goes down early this time of year, so I headed further down the valley, trying not to be distracted by every feature I saw. Pigeon Valley starts to the south of Uçhisar and runs to the east of the village before opening up into the main valley that the village of Göreme is in. I was hoping that as I got to Uçhisar that I would be able to find a way up the hillside to the house. The house that we're now staying in is actually very near the castle and pretty much at the top of the rock, so I still had quite a climb ahead of me.
Chapter 15
Another Walk
So another couple of days without flying or doing much and I'm looking to get out some. Since I didn't really finish the Pigeon Valley hike, I thought I would try. I walked down out of Uçhisar the way I came up the other day and headed down towards Göreme. The first thing I noticed were the different views of Uçhisar.
Uçhisar viewed from the NE, in Pigeon Valley
From this point the valley got rockier and the sides got steeper
The rock wall in the foreground seemed to mark the beginning of some dramatic scenery
Uçhisar, between the rocky sides of the valley
After going through the break in the rock wall in the photo above center, the scenery suddenly became much more dramatic. I walked around the next bend in the canyon and this view hit me. The first thing that came to me was it reminded me of the Grand Canyon. Much smaller scale of course, but an incredible sight!
You can see that the trail winds around the bend in the valley in the photo above. Before that, off to the left, I noticed something halfway up the wall of the canyon. Not the big opening, but what's that right below it at an angle?
In the center of the picture, you can see the ladder that intrigued me so
A stunning view of the east canyon wall
(a baby Grand Canyon)
Why.... it's a ladder leading up to the opening! Cool! Obviously there's a way (or was a way) up there, let's see if I can find it! I start to make my way up the side canyon, following a fairly distinct (for here) trail. I walk under an archway, up the hill on the other side and come to a tee. To the left is a path going up hill and probably the way to the stairway. To the right is a doorway in the rock. I've just GOT to find out what is inside the rock beyond the doorway. It probably doesn't go very far anyway, so I decide to check it out first.
On the way, I saw this door....
and had to go in
Just inside the door
Looking back at the doorway, from the spot in the previous photo
I can see a light, this tunnel exits soon
Looking back at the exit of the first tunnel
Looking out the exit of the second passage
I'm here!
I'm getting there, I'm at the right height now
Not too much further
From inside the second passage, looking back at its entrance
Looking out the exit, towards another door
For the first little ways, the trail was unremarkable except for the brush and the wet footing. I soon got to a part of the valley that narrowed and had less vegetation. The water that flows through here had started to cut deep trenches and the further I walked the deeper these got. Luckily no water was flowing, as I had to cross a couple that were difficult enough just from the steep and muddy banks.
I reach the ladder! I immediately start to climb. . . then it hits me (now that I'm 10 or 15 feet off the ground) . This thing is very rusty and who knows how long it's been here.... I hope its secure and doesn't come tumbling down as I climb! (Those that know me and know how I feel about ladders, can imagine how white my knuckles were at this point) As I approach the top I take a good look at where it's bolted into the rock.... it looks good to me, so I continue my climb.

As I get to the top, I look in,
figuring I would need to scramble up into the opening to see where I would be going next . . . 
(insert the theme to "Jaws" here) . . .

What DID I find, once I got to the top of that latter? Click here to find out
The second door
This actually leads somewhere! Cool... I keep going.... As I pass the small opening on the right where I snapped the two photos above on the right I can see more light ahead that looks like an exit. As I look out the small doorway into the light, I notice that the path continues along the side of the canyon.... and leads to another doorway!
I follow the path and peer into the second doorway. I can see light! This passageway is not as long as the first one. I follow it and look out the opening at the end. I'm not going any further unless I want to slide about 50 feet on my butt to the bottom (nice view of the valley however). I decide to go back to the intersection where I decided to investigate the first doorway and take the other route further up the hill. Even if I can't get to the stairway, the side trip through the doorway was worth the walk up the hill.
As I got higher up the side of the valley, the trail became less and less distinct, but it was pretty easy to find a way. As I neared the ladder, my anticipation grew. This had to be something cool to have a steel ladder constructed to enable access! I bet it goes into the cliff side pretty far. I can't wait to see what's in store.
Another Walk
Chapter 15
Disappointment !
I need not even get off the ladder, as I see only a small locked door that I couldn't get through even if I had the key.

I'm smiling as I descend the stairs. Just the thought of what that ladder might lead to, made me hike a half mile up the side of a (fairly steep) canyon, led through two tunnels and lent me views that I would have missed if I hadn't of noticed the ladder from the bottom of the valley. It was a perfect metaphor for life. It isn't the destination, it's the journey there.

Well, since I was up here, I decided I would make my way just a little further and get on top of the plateau. I'm sure the view is awesome.
The source of my disappointment
A great view of the canyon and Mt Erciyes in the background to the right
Turning to go back, the view of Uçhisar. Notice the archway and exit of first passage toward the bottom
It was. One direction was the beautiful canyon with the Mt. Erciyes volcano in the background. The other was Uçhisar and I could see the path through the arch and the exit of the first tunnel way below me.

I made my way back down into the valley with the idea of getting to Göreme and having some lunch. Once back down to where I started my side trip to the ladder, I headed down valley. The canyon got real narrow and steep and the trail along the side of it did the same.
The canyon got narrower and steeper
I soon came to a place where the valley floor had a sheer drop of some 50 feet or so. I walked around a bit and decided that there was no way around. Again a bit of disappointment, as I had heard you could walk all the way to Göreme.
I couldn't get past this point, but what a view!
Oh well, this walk has been totally worth it. I walk back past the stairwell and onto the top of the plateau thinking maybe I could start at the head of the next side canyon and work my way down on the other side of the drop off. It wasn't to be, as that next side canyon had a similar drop off. Not as high, but still impassable without equipment. It's around noon anyway, so I head back to Uçhisar to get some food in my stomach.
Chapter 16
More Flying
It's been a week. The last time I've flown was the 14th of January. It's the 20th and I finally get to fly again. Only the one small balloon as we only have 9 passengers, including 3 freebies. I take my camera as I leave the house, but I'm so into flying that I leave it on the ground in the chase vehicle. We didn't have that awesome of a flight anyway and I really need to get a little more comfortable with the area and the big balloon.
Below is the Google Earth image of the flight path.
Click here to load the file into Google Earth so you can pan, zoom, rotate etc.
Google Earth image of the flight path on 1/20/2009
I didn't get any pictures from the air, but I did get a couple of our landing spot. It was a little different in that we usually land on a plateau after flying through the valleys. On this day, since I was only in the next valley over from the launch site, I landed on the edge of the valley that the launch site is in, which meant Ianding between rock formations.
Straight ahead from where I landed
Looking to the left of where I landed
Looking to the right of where I landed
In the photo above at right, notice the openings in the rock. After we landed, Sancho and I walked over to take a closer look. In the upper niche, was the best fresco I've seen yet. All of the ones in Pigeon Valley have been merely geometric designs, this one was actually detailed. It looked like maybe people. I think this was a church at one time.
Sancho next to one of the rocks I landed next to
Closer look at the upper niche
A close up of the fresco
Google Earth image of flight path on 1/21/2009
We flew as high above the ground as I ever have here.... about 3000 feet AGL. Quite the view. Once again, I didn't have much weight in the basket so I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to drop fast enough to get into the valley (they're fairly narrow) but it all worked out quite well.
Sancho has descended and is about to enter the valley. Uçhisar at top of photo
We're both in the valley now, Uçhisar in the background
A better view of Love Valley. Sancho at far left
Sancho and his passengers
We weren't getting anywhere near any of the interesting stuff (just going straight down the valley) so we climbed higher to go west over towards Love Valley.
It's been a few days since I've last updated this tale of adventure and I've actually flown twice. I actually got to fly today also, which is the first time I've flown on consecutive days since I've been here (over 3 weeks) . This time, we flew 2 balloons and I did take my camera with me. Sancho had about 18 people in his balloon and I had 9.
Below is the Google Earth image of the flight.
Click here to load the file into Google Earth so you can pan, zoom and rotate.
Chapter 17
Three Days In A Row
Google Earth image of flight path on 1/22/2009
We definitely had the best flight of all the balloons that flew today. We got closer and spent more time amongst the formations than anyone. The last couple of days I've had great passengers. We laughed and had a great time and they all had to have their photo taken with the pilot. Not just while we were flying but once we got on the ground too. The photo session on the ground was quite the deal. So much so, that I joked with one of the crew guys (who is working on becoming a pilot) , "See, that's why you want to be a pilot, they treat you like you're like a rock star". Even though they don't speak much English, they all understood "rock star" and got a big kick out of it. I've finally gotten to where I'm fairly comfortable with the area and the big balloon. I don't think I'll ever get over the fact that they're so slow, but I'm starting to really have fun now.

Got some interesting news today. I was informed that the CAA (the Turkish equivalent of the FAA) has recently (like within the past month or something) got a new head physician. So I was told that that whole fiasco with going to Adana to get my medical was sort of a waste of time. That medical wouldn't be reviewed, much less accepted, for at least 10 days to 2 weeks. In the mean time, I'm actually not legal here in Turkey. So, I get to go to Ankara and see the doctor that gives the military jet pilots their medicals. (Alper tells me that since he gives the military medicals, the civil authorities can't reject it) . I'm actually leaving Uçhisar at midnight tonight, to catch the bus in Nevşehir. I will get to Ankara at around six in the morning. Get to the doctor as early as I can so I can hopefully return to Uçhisar by tomorrow night. The weather isn't supposed to be good enough to fly this weekend anyway. Let's hope that this isn't the Chinese Fire Drill that the last episode was. So again, I get to see a part of the country I wouldn't otherwise. Sancho is actually going also, because he wanted to drop by the Spanish Consulate (Ankara is the capitol of Turkey). I might stop by the US Embassy as well (if I have time). Tomorrow is going to be a looong day.....
Well, what do you know... I got to fly again today. I know that in about a month or so, flying 3 days in a row isn't going to be that big a deal, but for only having a total of 6 flights, having 3 of them in a row is nice. One balloon, 11 passengers. Of course I didn't have my camera but it wouldn't have mattered much. I was pretty busy flying between the rocks. Would have made some good pictures, but I was having fun just flying! This is such a great place to fly!
Below is the Google Earth image of our flight path and you can click here to load the file to zoom, rotate, etc.
Chapter 18
Am I Healthy?
A shot of the departure  area in the Ankara bus terminal
Sancho standing under the "Arrivals" boards
My guide chats up one of the locals. Notice the look the guard is giving me
My guide returns from his visit with the guard. I don't read Turkish, but this is the gate we went through
Unlike my trip to Adana, my guide walks up to the reception counter and a minute later I am ushered down the hallway, down some stairs and down another hallway. A door opens and out walks what I assume is a doctor (could have been a male nurse). These two seem to be friends. We walk to another room, enter and I am surrounded by 4 guys in fatigues (no guns) and 3 other "administrative types" in business dress. A bunch of paperwork is taken out and after everyone has given me the once over (about 3 or 4 times) one of the young guys in fatigues starts to speak in English. He asks if I know any Turkish words so I tell him the few I know. He says he knows English and that he will help me out today while I'm there. A very nice guy, his name is Cenk (pronounced Jenk) and he knows English better than anyone I've met here in Turkey outside of the few people I've met that speak English as their native tongue. Without his help, I would have spent a week there. As it was, it still took all day. So we fill the paperwork out, Cenk translating what the forms are asking for. Once that is complete I start to make the rounds, seeing different doctors. Turns out that the first guy we met at the hospital, works in the blood lab. So that's where we start. They draw 4 vials of blood and as we're all waiting for my heart to pump the stuff out (luckily for me, my heart is good at that) I can start to tell just how much of a celebrity I am there. For one thing, not everyone (especially at a military base) is a pilot. So once they all learn I'm there for my pilot medical there's an "Ahhh..." then they learn it's for a balloon. Now there's some real interest, as very few of them have ever seen a balloon outside of pictures. About this time they notice I haven't said anything and ask where I'm from. Seems like being an American balloon pilot on a Turkish military base is evidently not that common of a thing. Because of this and because his command of English is so good, Cenk is quite the celebrity today also. Not to mention that he only had 5 days until he would complete his military service. So all who would come up and ask how long he had left would soon ask about me.

After getting blood drawn, I got my hearing tested. You know, put the headphones on and press the button when you hear something. It's at this time that I realize this isn't going to be anything like my trip to Adana. No to and fro (Cenk knew exactly where he was going) and no waiting. Once Cenk told the nurse who I was, the doctor saw me immediately. So after the blood draw and the hearing test, I got an EKG done, they measured my lung capacity by blowing through a machine (I thought for a second there, I had been arrested for DUI), took an ex-ray of my chest, saw an eye doctor (this time they used computerized equipment to measure my eye etc., not just read these 3 letters), had my blood pressure taken about 3 times, saw a psychiatrist (who only asked a couple of quetions and didn't do an EEG, thank god, as the last one took an hour), and a neurologist (who also only asked questions). I thought we were done at about 11 am. This was nothing like my trip to Adana and I was actually thinking something was about to go smoothly for the first time since I've been here. That's when we went to the final doctor to get the entire process signed off. I should have known better. Evidently, there was a small problem with my blood test. I was asked if I had a Thyroid problem. The test showed that something called TSH (thyroid stimulation hormone) was out of range. It was supposed to be between 0.2 and 4.5 and mine was over 9. So I asked about everything that could cause something like that on a temporary basis. Something I ate or drank? Anything like that, because I have never had a problem. My first thought was that someone screwed up the test of course. So now I'm thinking "there is no way on God's Green Earth (or anywhere else for that matter) that I'm taking any kind of medication over here without a US doctor looking at the test data and agreeing that I need it." Well, before it got too far, they did another different test on my blood, looking at 3 other chemicals or something that would either confirm or dispute that I had a problem with my thyroid. Unfortunately, blood tests take time, so that meant I had to wait. We finally got the results around 3:45 pm. From what everyone (besides the doctor that mattered) thought, this test was okay. By now, it's almost 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon. So do you think that the doctor who had to look at the test result and sign off was still anywhere around? NOOOOO! What this means is that I will take the 5 hour bus ride back to Uçhisar and when the doctor gets in on Monday, he will look at the test result and make some sort of decision as to whether he signs off and everything is good or if he needs to see me and run more tests or whatever. Which would mean me returning via bus on Monday or Tuesday. I leave the hospital at just after 4 pm, having spent the entire day there, and I still don't have my medical certificate!

The are only two buses returning to Uçhisar this afternoon. The first one leaves Ankara at 6:30 pm, the next one leaves at 2:00 am Saturday. So I have maybe 2 hours to kill. My guide (and yes, he turned out to be a guide not a captor) takes me into the city center. But because it is rush hour (when isn't it in Ankara?) we can't really go anywhere to see anything because the traffic is so bad it would take too long. So we enter this big mall. At least 3 stories maybe 4. As we enter from the street and head for the escalator, I am absolutely flabbergasted! This is the first thing I see.
Joanne will be dying to go to Ankara
There's nothing quite like the friendly face of the colonel
After our tea, my guide writes down where I need to go and what bus line to use to get back home. Then he puts me on a city bus that will take me there. Boy, this is fun.... a city bus at rush hour. There wasn't even any standing room on this thing. At least I got back to the bus terminal and in plenty of time to catch the bus. Oh yeah..... Sancho..... wonder how his day went? I get a call from Alper saying that he spoke with Sancho and I will meet him at the bus terminal. Sure enough, when I get there, he is already there and has our tickets home. That is some good news, since it's almost 6 pm and I've been up since about 11 pm the night before. I'm tired, grumpy and don't really feel like dealing with a whole lot right now. I can't believe I've been up for almost 24 hours, traveled what seems like halfway across the country and still don't have a medical certificate that will allow me to fly here legally. Not only that, but I might have to come back here Monday! ugh.... I just want to go home and sleep. I did tell you about the bus. Well it's pretty nice for a bus. Did I tell you it even had a TV? Two screens. One in front and one halfway back. Well, we sat right in front of the back screen. On the trip home (it was only 6:30 pm) they showed a movie. Not just any movie. It was a Turkish version of a cheap Chinese martial arts movie..... it was hard to tell if the sound was in sync or not. The actors speaking chinese and the Turkish overdub made it so it didn't really matter. Oh my god..... had I not been so tired, it would have been hilarious.... and of course they had the volume turned up so everyone (I mean everyone, me included) could hear it over the couple of screaming kids that were on board. So much for getting any sleep on the bus. Oh and when we finally do arrive, right at midnight, because we've been gone a full 24 hours, the house of course is cold. No one has been here to light the fire. Sancho must have been cold, because he went and lit the fire. I was just going to go to bed. Can't wait to see what happens Monday.
Depends on who you talk to. If you ask a doctor in the United States (even one examining you for a pilots license) they will say yes. If you ask a doctor (not a quack like half of the "doctors" I saw in Adana) here in Turkey (even one examining you for a pilots license) chances are they will say no. Hopefully by now, you've all read or heard the story of my trip to the city of Adana to get a medical certificate so I can fly legally in this country. Well, for reasons that remain rather murky to me, I was told that I needed to go to Ankara and visit the military doctor that gives all the Turkish Air Force pilots their medicals. Ankara is the national capitol and is about a 4 hour drive from Uçhisar. Well, this time I wasn't sent with any of the crew as guides/translators/captors. I was told when and where to catch the bus. At least the ticket was purchased for me.

As I mentioned above, Ankara is a ways away. So in order to get there early enough in the day to complete the examination (and the fact that there is limited service to Kapadocya) I need to catch the bus in Uçhisar and midnight. Uh huh... after I had been up at five o'clock in the morning that day to fly, I now have to catch a bus for a 4 or 5 hour bus ride at midnight. So I try to get as much sleep as I can during the day. After hearing about my plight, Sancho decides this is a good opportunity for him to go to Ankara and visit the Spanish Embassy. He can do that and do some sight seeing and generally have a good time while I'm being poked, prodded and generally being treated like livestock. Well, at least I have someone to talk to (sort of, Sancho's english isn't very good) on the way there and someone to vent to on the way back (who cares about their english, I'm venting!).
So we catch the bus at midnight and ride it into Nevşehir (you didn't think the bus went directly from Uçhisar did you?) where we wait for about 30 minutes. The bus to Ankara was a nice bus. A large Greyhound type, with comfortable seats that reclined and the whole bit. It leaves Nevşehir at 1:00 am Friday, the 23rd of January. It was about half full or just over (I didn't expect to have even THAT many people on it) so Sancho and I each have two seats to ourselves and we're pretty comfortable (for a bus). We will be arriving in Ankara around 6:00 am and Alper has arranged to have someone pick us up at the bus terminal. The trip there is fairly uneventful. I did notice however, that we had what would be a flight attendant (stewardess is not politically correct any more, right?) had we been on an airplane. But we're on a bus.... so.... I guess she was a ride attendant then. Anyway, not long after we get on the road, she starts walking down the aisle serving water. I'm thinking "hmmm.... okay, that's different but it IS a long ride and I've never had service like this on a bus!" Then a little bit later she comes down the aisle serving coffee and tea. Then again with a snack (again, had we been on an airplane it would have been peanuts, but this was a chocolate brownie type of thing). Then once again with water. Then again with a cologne or something that the Turks use after eating. (Most if not all restaurants will offer this to you after your meal). About halfway through the trip, the bus stops for half an hour at this place that has a market and restaurant. It's like 3:30 am.... but it looks like this place is open. (I don't bother to even get up. I stay in the bus and try to get what ever sleep I can as I know what lays in store for me this day). These places are common here. There is a lot of bus travel (not just tourists, but that's how the locals travel as well) and these "rest areas" cater to the bus loads of people that stop on a regular basis. Alper and I stopped at a couple of these on our way from Istanbul to Uçhisar when I first arrived.

So we arrive in Ankara around 5:30 in the morning and I am immediately astounded by the bus terminal. It's larger than the airport terminal in Idaho Falls and the terminal in Jackson. Put together!
I'm sure I still would have been quite surprised, not realizing that they were international, but because Joanne is such a fan of their coffee, it just made it more astounding. I haven't even seen a McDonald's over here. So... thinking "that's cool".... we take the escalator up a couple of floors to the food court. My guide wanted some "Cay". Pronounced like Chai as in Chai tea... that's exactly what it means. To order tea here you order Cay. Anyway, so we get some tea and turn around to find a place to sit (we're just going to chill here for about 45 minutes until it's time for me to go back to the bus terminal) and what do I see? Nope, not a McDonalds, but real close.
Okay, I know, Ankara is a large city (somewhere around 5 million or so), in fact it is Turkey's second largest city, but the bus station in Phoenix isn't nearly this size and Phoenix is about the same size population wise. I have never been to the bus station in L.A. (and don't think I ever want to go either), but I bet it isn't half this size. Like I said earlier, there is a lot of bus travel in this country. So, once I recover from the initial "wow!", I realize that I have no idea who is picking us up, much less what they look like, and I can almost guarantee that they won't speak much English. I am hoping that my spoiled American tourist look is enough that I won't spend all day in this very interesting but not THAT interesting place.

What would my life be like without cell phones right about now?
A three way cell phone conversation between Sancho, Alper and the man who is greeting us finally results in an awkward "I see you on a cell phone, you must be the one" type of meeting. Really rather comical in way and certainly a brash reminder to me how cell phones really have improved the quality of life (as long as you know when to turn them off).

So after some coffee (okay, so it's really NesCafé) and a bite to eat, the very pleasant gentleman (who speaks not one word of english or spanish) explains the best he can to Sancho, how to get to where the Spanish Embassy is. We walk over to where you catch the train and wave goodbye to Sancho as some Turkish is spoken between the security guard and the man who met us. I'm thinking to myself "man, if I was Sancho right now, I would be feeling quite abandoned" and I hope he finds his way around okay. Then I realize, this is Sancho. This is what he does. His favorite city in the world is Cairo for crying out loud. He will be fine. I better start to worry about me and whether this very kind gentleman (I never did get his name) is going to turn out to be a guide or a captor. I use the word captor in humor here. I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I use "captor" to convey the very helpless feeling I get when I don't know where I'm going, how to get there, can't speak the language and have to totally rely on some stranger I've never met and can't communicate with. In a very large city I've never been in, that happens to be the capitol of a very different country that I've only been in for about 3 weeks. Good thing I don't think about those type of things... I might have run for the bathroom crying for my mommy. Except of course it costs 75 cents to use the bathroom...... So we walk out to his car, I get in and off we go. Remind me sometime to talk about being in a car on the streets in this country.... that's a whole 'nother story. We drive for maybe 30 minutes and I notice that we're entering a military base. For some reason, I knew that I was going to a military hospital, but I didn't stop to think it would be on a military base. Elevated guard posts everywhere. On these guard posts are.... yup..... guards. With guns. I think they're probably even trained on how to use them. Just as I start to think "Well at least we're not stopping every two blocks to ask directions" we pull over and stop right in front of this military policeman. With a gun. And the gun is in his hands, not hanging over his shoulder on his back by the strap. A short conversation in Turkish (as the guy with the gun eyes me suspiciously) and we're off. Whew! I don't know how many Americans that you know that have ever been on a military base in Turkey. Chances are if you do know anyone that has, they were on an American military base in Turkey. I'm on a Turkish military base.... in Turkey. I start to do my best to change that "spoiled American tourist" look that I thought would help me so much at the bus terminal. We pull up to the entrance of what might be where we need to go. My guide/captor (is this where they interrogate me?) gets out and walks over to another guy in camouflage holding a gun and strikes up a conversation. They are standing a ways away, so..... forgetting my previous thought about not looking like an American tourist, I grab my camera to try and take advantage of this opportunity to show you that I'm not making this up. A little (okay... very, very) nervous about taking pictures inside a foreign military location I managed to get these two.
Chapter 19
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
I'm not that big of a movie buff, but the title to this chapter just seemed appropriate. Where do I start? With the good, the bad or the ugly?. Since it's been a few days since I've written, I'll just start in chronological order, since there is at least some good and bad in every day. The ugly didn't really come along until today. Oh, and today is Wednesday, the 28th of January.

So I really haven't had a very good past few days. It kind of all started with the trip to Ankara and the very long Friday. I obviously wrote the previous chapter about that trip on Saturday. So it must have been Sunday, when the following little tale happened.
It was late afternoon, and time to get the coal furnace fired up if we weren't going to freeze overnight. Don't know if I've mentioned this, but the furnace is in its own little building. Our "deck" is actually the roof of this building, and its entry is off our "courtyard" downstairs out the back door. So I go out to fire up the furnace. I rip open the bag of coal and while doing my best Al Jolson imitation (or maybe while looking like a raccoon if you prefer) I carefully make a nice little stack of wood that is sure to burn long and hot enough to get the coal started (cause I sure as heck don't want to come back out here and do it all again). I light the match and . . . whooosh! out it goes immediately. Okay, it's windy (we haven't flown since Friday) so I push the door to this room to get it a little more closed than it is. Yep, it's windy all right, the door slams shut with a nice loud THWACK!
CRAP! I did not want to do that! The door has no handle on the inside! Now I am stuck in here!
This would be filed under "The Bad".
Our "boiler room" where the coal fired furnace is located. The roof of this building also serves as our "deck"
A picture of the inside of the door to the "boiler room". Notice the lack of door handle
So, before I commence to light the fire, I make sure I can actually get out of here somehow. It would be bad enough to be stuck in here long enough to make someone come look for me, but if there was a fire going, I would probably die of dehydration (or, more likely, some sort of carbon poisoning, be it monoxide, dioxide or some other sort of ide. Now that I think about it, "die" oxide sounds right) before anyone even came looking. And for those quick thinkers.... I did not have my cell phone on me, and Sancho was home but didn't know I was out here.
I could have screamed as much as I wanted to, it wasn't going to do any good. I'm not one to panic, so I just started looking for some sort of anything, that would allow me to grip the small square part of the exterior door handle (that an interior door handle would slide onto, had there been one) that happened to be sticking out. Again, for the quick thinkers, yes there is a window in this building, but after surveying the situation, it was going to be much easier to exit via an open door. So I grab and grab and re-grab that little piece and try to turn it enough to where I can pull the door open. Would have been easier had I only had to push, to get the door open, but of course I'm in Turkey and absolutely nothing has gone the easy way here. Wouldn't have mattered anyway, because I could not get a good enough grip to turn the handle enough to open the latch. If I would have had to push to open the door I would have ended up pushing the exterior handle out of the hole and then I would have been up a certain creek . . .
So anyway, I look around the room, searching for anything that will allow me to get a grip.... (yeah, that's what I thought... get a grip Kev....) all the while I'm eying the window... of course this room is absolutely barren of anything other than fire making ingredients. Some bags of coal... some bags of kindling... some matches.... (the building is stone, so no burning it down to get out). So at some point (I think it was a little bit after my palms started bleeding) I decide that I'm not going to be able to get out through the door, and the window is going to be my only exit. Again, this would fall under "The Bad".
Now, I've looked at trying to get out this window.... and I decided it was worth the half hour or so spent bloodying my palms trying to get the door open, okay? The window looked at first like a fairly easy proposition, but the longer I looked, the more I liked the door idea. Since that wasn't going to happen, it was time to get serious about how I was going to be able to use the window. If you notice, that window does have a very small ledge on the outside. It is also above my head. Another thing to go under "The Bad". (No short jokes here, please, I'm in a predicament). Luckily for me, on the inside, there is more than a ledge. The window is set to the outside of the wall and the stones are quite thick, so there is enough room for me to sort of perch while trying to contort my body through the opening. This would actually fall under "The Good".
Now if I could only find a way to actually get my body up there. You would think (at least I did) that since the wall was stone, that it would be rough enough that I could find some small outcrop or something that I could use my foot to push off of. Not really.... dang thing is way smoother than I would have hoped or liked. Now, I'm not a 96 lb weakling or anything, but I'm certainly not Mr. Musclebound either. I can do more than 3 or 4 pull ups. But that is on a bar where my feet can swing under it. My feet aren't swinging through this 2 foot thick stone wall. We're now starting to even the scale by putting some things under "The Good", as there are enough bags of coal in here to get me a couple of feet off the ground as I try to lift my overweight and out of shape body up onto this "perch" at the window.
The "perch" inside the window
Once I manage to get up there, I find that this 50 year old body that hasn't done any "stretches" since high school gym class, isn't so comfortable pretending to be a pigeon. It is even less comfortable trying to contort into a ball small enough to fit through this window. Maybe that was the problem, I was trying to put this round (I am swearing to lose a few pounds after this) body through a square opening. Hah, and you all thought I was a square peg!
Surprising myself, I get through the window without suffering serious injury, and I'm sitting there with my feet dangling outside the window about to jump to freedom . . . what do you think is going through my mind? For those that know me, this won't come as a surprise, but for others it might. I'm thinking (now I know better, but the mind works in strange ways) "Dang, this is higher than I thought, I hope I don't kill myself trying to get down from here." I fly balloons (sometimes to heights over 8,000 feet off the ground) and yet I'm scared to death on a ladder or in a glass elevator or riding a ski lift.... and although I wasn't scared like on a ski lift, I was certainly very nervous about the prospects of hitting the stone "courtyard" below me. Well, I wasn't going to spend the night in the window either, so I close my eyes, hold my nose and jump. I was a fairly good student in physics class so I know that if I can bend my knees and maybe even tuck and roll as I hit the ground, I might be able to avoid a sprained ankle or worse. Yeah.... like I had a choice.... these 50 year old knees were going to bend alright. I did manage to avoid losing any skin on the stones below. This would definitely be part of "The Good". Not only that, but I was now free. This too, would be considered "The Good". Acting like nothing happened, I open the door and walk back in to the boiler room, (tell me why any sane person would immediately go back into the life threatening situation that they just safely escaped a mere seconds ago?) after all, the whole idea was to try not to freeze to death overnight and the fire still needed to be lit. Putting a stone in the door jamb, and making sure that the door can only close so far, I light the fire. I just get the fire lit and turn around to see Sancho. Turns out I wouldn't have spent all night in there. I tell him the story and he takes one of the extra keys (we have 3 for this lock) and stashes it inside the boiler room. I believe that he doesn't think he could have made it out the window, as he made some remark about my incredible athletic abilities that allowed me to crawl out the window. A bit embarrassed, I laugh and make my way back into the house, with this black coal dust cloud following me like I'm Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon. For those keeping score, this falls under "The Good".
That was Sunday, now for Monday . . .

Monday, we have two balloons scheduled, a total of 40 passengers. This is "The Good". Now, keep in mind that over the weekend (we cancelled on Saturday and Sunday) the weather was predicted to be windy and rainy through Thursday. Granted, I don't trust any prognostication for more than about 3 days and Monday was our biggest day (as far as number of passengers) so far, so we had to at least go to the launch site and take a look. Because on Sunday we had spent an hour "kicking dirt" hoping that the wind might die while the passengers milled around drinking all the coffee and eating all the pastries, the boss decided that the pilots would go to the launch site early and make a "go/no go" decision before we committed to having the passengers brought out. Well, we didn't really need to go, but by the time we got to the launch site, we (the pilots) had pointed out enough indicators that we stepped out of the car and said "too windy" and got back in the car and came home. Now, according to contract, we get paid whether we fly or not, but the reality is, if the company doesn't make money, we won't get paid. So not flying on Monday falls under "The Bad". At about 6:30 or 7:00 pm Monday night, the boss calls to say we have 39 passengers scheduled for Tuesday, so we (the pilots) will again go out early to make a decision. "The Good". Oh yeah, he also informs me that immediately following the flight I will be travelling to Ankara again, to try and finish my medical certification. "The Bad". Very bad.

Tuesday. Both balloons scheduled with a total of 39 passengers. For the first time since I've flown here, I will have more than just nine or ten people in the basket. I will have 17 today. This is "The Good". Flying conditions were on the marginal side, with winds right on the surface of around 6 mph but winds aloft were closer to 20 and the forecast was for surface winds of 10 to 15 mph. At launch time it was flyable but my concern was an hour later when it would be time to land. The direction was also right at the tall mesa behind the Red Valley. I had never been on the other side and didn't know what was there (although I had been told it's fine for landing) , plus I knew that if I needed to be high enough to clear it, I would be going pretty fast, which had me concerned about the rotor on the other side. I voiced my concerned opinion and while saying I didn't want to fly, inflated the balloon. As the passengers get in, I look up and notice that I have two panels flapping in the breeze. Evidently I got the flame a little close at some point during the inflation. "The Bad". Luckily the burned panels are right above the nomex ("The Good") and I decide that it's not going to stop us from flying, so off we go. I take my camera with me, but soon after snapping the one below, abandon any idea of taking many pictures.
One decent photo before deciding I better concentrate on flying
Google Earth image of flight path on Tuesday 1/27/09
I also take this opportunity to examine the "burn". The two panels that gave out are on top as the balloon is laid out for inflation and right above the nomex. The nomex is not even discolored, and the nylon isn't even black where it is curled. It's definitely heat damage but like I knew at launch time, not from direct flame. I have a hunch that while I was trying to tighten it up after getting it standing, the mouth closed just enough to get the panels too hot. I don't have much time to worry about it because no sooner have I examined the damage than I'm whisked away on another trip to Ankara. Evidently, my second test was okay but for some reason I had to be there in person for them to give their approval. So one of the two crew members who had taken me captive . . . er . . . uh, I mean taken me to Adana, is driving me to Ankara. He speaks basically no English and drives like Mario Andretti. He is a very nice guy though and either I understand Turkish a lot better or he speaks a few more words of English now (maybe both) . He is also the crew member that wants to be a pilot. I know that I have a very long day ahead and so just kind of settle in and try to enjoy the countryside as it blurs by at 80 or 90 mph.
An eroded cliff side along the way
The "highway" meanders through the countryside
A closer look at the "highway"
This map is labeled with the
different routes to Ankara
Village main street. We're already past the busy part
Shepherd and his flock
The city looms ahead. Actually this is only a part of the city
The newer tall apartments next to the "slum"
Okay . . . We've had "The Good" and "The Bad".
Now it's time for me to give you "The Ugly".
The whole drive to get to Ankara would fall under "The Bad" as it was long, on very bad roads and all the while knowing I was in for a bunch of bureaucratic B.S. once I got there. So once we do get to the military base, I can show Speed Racer exactly where to go. "The Good". We walk in and don't even stop at the front desk this time. As we walk down the hall, one of the doctors I saw last time walks by and we exchange merhaba's. My chauffer seems rather surprised that I would know anyone here. After the second such exchange, I think he started to think it was cool. We go right to the lab and see the doc that helped last time. But of course it's lunch time, so no one is around. We head up to the canteen and have some lunch. I take this opportunity to give Cenk a call. Cenk is the guy who helped me out so much last time I was there and I hadn't had an opportunity to tell him I was coming back. He is heading into Ankara to get his bus ticket to Istanbul, as he only has 42 hours left. Definitely nice to see him again even if it was for only a few minutes. "The Good". At 1:30 lunch time is over so we go to see whoever it is I need to see. We get there and I'm told I need 4 photo's. Nice to know ahead of time so I can be prepared, eh? Well, luckily enough, there is a photographer in the next building. So we run over there (I think the photographer is used to this type of thing) and get my picture taken and run back, now we go make copies of some papers and I sign a couple of them. Back to the administrator or what/who ever he is. 45 minutes of waiting/nodding off later and I have a medical certificate that allows me to fly balloons in Turkey!!!
This my friends, definitely belongs in "The Good"!
I'm sure the boss will be happy also. It is 4:15 when we jump in the car and head back to Kapadokya. Or so I thought. Now the paperwork that has taken me forever to acquire needs to be sent somewhere official. I think probably to the CAA (Turkish equivalent of the FAA) . So we spend an hour going to and fro, stopping to ask directions every two blocks trying to find a particular company to send the paperwork via. Don't ask me why it had to be sent via "Arskargo", it's the way the Turks do business. So after a short stop for some dinner, we are on our way home. Not quite so bad this time, as we finally get to the house at about 9:15 pm. Of course we are scheduled to fly in the morning. Two balloons again. But hey, I'm now legal! After 3 entire days spent either in or travelling to (or both) a hospital, I am finally done dealing with getting my Turkish medical!
Soon enough (okay, so it wasn't really soon enough, but about 4 - 4.5 hours later) we get to Ankara. Once we get into town (okay, it's a city. Turkey's second largest city with about 5 million people) I am struck, not by the fact that all the buildings are the same, because every city I've been to in this country (outside of Istanbul, and it was dark when I was there, so I can't really say) is built with every building looking the same. No, I find it interesting how all these newer tall apartment buildings are built right next to the paupers and their who-knows-how-old houses.
Click here to continue
We have a nice flight through the valleys east of the launch site although it's a bit fast. My first time with a real load and I'm a tad slow with the heat as I brush one end of the basket against a rock. "The Bad". No big deal except that the resulting recoil sends us into the next rock. A little harder but again no big deal as we were ascending at about the same rate as the taper of the rock. I play it off fairly well and get the passengers to laugh about it but I'm disappointed in myself, I don't like to do things like that. Especially after scorching the envelope earlier. I'm thinking "I better get it together". As soon as I climb up the end of the valley, I pick up speed. This would again be "The Bad". At least the wind is slow enough to be pushed around the mesa instead of carrying us over the top. So as we start to skirt the south side of it, we fly over some valleys I didn't know were there. Very beautiful, and some of the wider ones I can get down into a little bit (not only for a better view but also to try and slow down). Above the ridge tops we're going about 15 mph and the air going around the big mesa and through the valleys is pretty squirrelly. I get into a couple of small downdrafts and several times can feel the shears shake the envelope. Nothing major and my real concern was finding a spot big enough to land at 15 mph. (Not to mention some doubts about my skills on this day). Even though these valleys don't have near as many carvings or signs of inhabitants, they are quite pretty. I am not enjoying the view near as much as I should because I'm trying to focus on flying the balloon and getting a decent landing on a day when I obviously don't have my best stuff. To the east side of the mesa is another larger valley much like the one Göreme is in only slightly larger. The town of Ürgüp is to my right at the head of the valley and it looks like there are several large farming areas and good spots to land to my left and in front of me. "The Good". I can see several of the other balloons that flew this day already landing in some of these areas, so I start to breathe a little easier as I also notice that the wind is much calmer there. Sure enough as I get to the flatter area and look for a place to set down, we slow down quite a bit. I find a nice spot right next to the road and land as soft as a butterfly. "The Good".
Below is the Google Earth image of the flight path.
There is just under 12,000 people in Avanos and that is where most of the crew lives. The route we took wandered through rolling hills of farmland and after about a quarter of the way there, pretty much turned into a dirt road. Well, more like a muddy winding pathway. Too many places it was one lane wide and even where there was patches of pavement, it was so rough that Mario had to slow to normal speed (where he should have been actually going slow) . This was obviously not the main road to Ankara, but what the heck. I wasn't going to be able to tell him "No, go this way!" Besides being narrow and dirt most of the way, it also went through the center of any little village that might happen to be tucked away out here in the middle of nowhere. One village we went through, the street was extremely narrow and I don't know what was happening, but it seemed like the entire village was in the street. I tried to get a picture, but of course this obstacle course didn't slow Mr. Racecar a bit. So the only pic I got was out the back window after we had already passed the busy part of the village. Sometimes it was hard to tell if we were in a village or just out in the country. I saw this shepherd and his flock in a village.
The trip is fairly unremarkable actually. I stayed awake just so I could see the scenery this time, as the last time I went to Ankara it was dark both ways. We took a different route than the bus did anyway. Where we landed, we had to take the road to Avanos to get back to headquarters, so instead of heading to the office, we crossed the river into Avanos and headed west from there. I hadn't been to Avanos yet, so I got to see a little bit of that town also.
Chapter 19
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Wednesday morning at 5:30 am Sancho and I go to the launch site with the boss to take a look at conditions. It's breezy, around 8-10 mph, but it's early and we decide to go ahead and get the passengers on the way and we'll see what it's like closer to sunrise. The forecast is for 12 -15 mph all day. While sitting in the car, all kinds of comments are made by Alper about surface winds being okay or good. I keep telling him that the balloons are 30 meters tall, who cares what the table cloth or grass is doing. Especially after the day before when I was doing 15 at about 200 feet up. Given that the normal winds here are 3-4 mph and it's already about twice that, I am not feeling real great about flying. We wait around, it gets light and passengers show up. The crew are cold packing the balloons and we watch 3 or 4 pibals. The surface wind has stayed constant but not very high probably around 500 feet, the wind is about 15 - 20 mph. No steering, just fast, faster and ridiculus, all in the same direction. There are quite a few balloons out this morning (for this time of year) and everyone is inflating. I voice my concerns a couple of times to Alper and several times to Sancho. The problem is that we have 43 passengers today (22 in the 400 and 21 in mine) and all the other companies have multiple balloons out also. I tell the boss that we are not going to get into any valleys and the flight might not even be 45 minutes. He says he knows and that's not a problem, so we'll fly today. It looks like I'll be able to stay low and stay in the 10 mph layer, so I tell him that even though I don't want to, I'm a professional and we can't always have ideal conditions, so I will fly today. All the balloons I've seen that have launched, have gone across the valley we launch in quite briskly. I'm no exception. As I scoot across the valley staying as low as absolutely possible, I spot Sancho (who launched before I did) to my left and it looks like he found an eddy or something because I go by him like he is standing still. As I climb up the west side of the launch valley (this will be our only close encounter with rock formations today) Sancho has climbed a bit and zooms over me. The higher up the rock face I get, the faster we go. I'm not looking at the gps, I'm not taking pictures, I'm not doing anything but watching where we're going and watching the other balloons, trying to get an idea of where we want to go, how to get there and hoping to slow down somewhere. Most of the balloons that didn't land after 20 minutes climbed up pretty high. Sancho and I are no different. We climb to about 3,000 feet AGL and all that happens is we change direction. I made sure that I briefed my passengers very well before we left the ground and through out this flight kept them aware of what was going to happen in the very near future.
We didn't want to head toward the river where there was some flat open areas (but all crops and red zones) and where all the power lines were. Instead we descended into the layer headed in a more westerly direction. The flight was actually quite scenic and we definitely flew over an area that very few do. The problem was it was mountainous, so we were up in the fast stuff. At one point, I got into an air mass that was spilling into a canyon and had to get on all 4 burners to get out and miss the other side. To make a long story short, once we could see the other side of this mountain, there was an enormous open desert area and then more canyons. We decided to ditch in the open area. About all I can say is how glad I am that I finally had a full basket. According to the data my gps recorded, I landed at 17 mph (27.2 kph) ! Sancho's gps indicated 29 kph (18.1 mph). Afterward, while still at the landing site (but I hadn't yet seen my gps data), I told Sancho I would guess about 18 mph when I landed. We couldn't have picked a better spot. It was slightly uphill, the ground was very soft but not muddy and when you see the pictures, you'll see just how wide open and void of obstacles this area is.

First off is the Google Earth picture of our flight path.
The Google Earth picture of our flight path on 1/28/09
We travelled 8.3 miles in 45 minutes
Where we ended up. Looking to the SW
Looking to the NW
Where we ended up. Looking to the SE
Looking to the NE
In the background you can see where Sancho landed
Zoomed in wih my 300mm lens
The first 3 divots left from our initial impact and drag. You can see the basket in the background
A close up of our initial impact divot. The ground was quite soft and we were headed up hill
Just had to get a picture of this tank
Overall, besides the decision to fly in the first place, I thought I did pretty good for my first high wind landing in a big balloon. Like I said, my last burn was too late and I opened the smart vent a little late, but I came in nice and low and we didn't hit the ground very hard. Course I did have lots of room to play with as you see. There were a couple of good things to come out of this event. Number one, I think the boss has a much better understanding and will respect the pilots opinions more in the future when it comes to marginal conditions. Sancho and I also flew together much better than we have. We are starting to better understand how each other flies. We were also on the same page when it came time to choose a landing spot.

That is pretty much the good, bad and ugly from the past week or so. I know it's been a while since I've updated my little Turkish adventure story, so I hope this episode has been worth the read. Before I end this chapter, just one more picture.
Now some shots of the landing area.
Hah! Fooled you! This tank is NOT from one of the balloons. It is the inflation tank that was on the trailer as the crew chased us down.
Luckily no one was hurt. My inexperience with big balloons showed a bit though, as my last "feather" burn was a tad late. I hit and drug about 50 yards (making 3 divots) and as the basket caught up to the envelope in the pendulum swing, we swung about a hundred yards before making 3 more divots and stopping. All in all, from first impact to where the basket stopped was about 200 yards (give or take a few) as I paced it off. Not only was I glad I actually had some weight in the basket this time, but both of these balloons have "Easy/Smart" vents. Another feature that although I'm not used to using (I actually grabbed the other line first) I certainly benefitted from having.
If you look close in the bottom left picture, you can see Sancho's landing spot in the background. Here are some close ups.
A Little Explainin'
Okay... so I have a little explaining to do.

The first 19 chapters of this saga were written and published while I was in Turkey. Then, while I was still there, the hard drive on my laptop failed. That was on Feb 7, 2009. This laptop was purchased in the USA specifically so I would have a computer while I was in Turkey. Now, I knew once it happened that I would be extremely fortunate if I got it fixed. Didn't happen. I didn't get it repaired until after I returned home in April. I did however, record with pen and paper, the rest of my time over there. The following chapters were written from memory and that paper record, once I got home. So if the tales seem to have a different tone or view, that is most likely why. I hope you are still able to enjoy the rest of the saga, as I did have some wonderful experiences that are worth sharing even though I couldn't share them at the time like I had been able to.

I also have to say, that once I got back home, the responses about how much you all enjoyed reading about this adventure, and how amazed I was at how many of you were reading this, gave me reason to add these next chapters. If it wasn't for you all telling me that, I don't think I would have bothered. Hopefully, you enjoy (as Paul Harvey would say) "the rest of the story".

Of course when the computer broke, several things resulted. Not only could I not update the web site with new chapters, I lost the capability to email and Skype (a video phone application) with Joanne and others back home. I also lost a lot of information that was on the computer, including a ton of pictures and the gps data of some of the flights.
Please keep this in mind as your read the following chapters.
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
February 15, 2009
It's been just over a week (last Saturday) since my laptop died. I finally got to Nevşehir (pronounced nev-sheh-here, the nearest "city") yesterday and spent several hours looking for a notebook that I could use to write in and continue to record my experience here. I can't believe how hard it was to find such a common simple item (or at least what I thought was common and simple, maybe it's quite the luxury to have pen and paper in Turkey).
Since it's been a while, I'll update you a bit about the happenings between Chapter 19 (1/28/09) and now.

I flew two flights, both in the 315. One on the 30th of January, the other on the 3rd of February. Unfortunately, I have no gps data (to allow you to view the flight path in Google Earth) or photos from either of them. But hey . . . two more flights is two more flights!
I don't remember the exact day or date, but I also visited the Open Air Museum in Göreme. And of course, those photo's were lost with the hard drive as well. The pictures weren't as cool as the memories anyway, and hopefully this little web site of documentation will help keep those memories from fading too far.I also took a some walks, and I do have some photo's from them.

Although I had been to the top of Uçhisar Castle, I really hadn't spent much time in the immediate surrounds. As you can probably tell from some of the pictures you've seen, there are lots of caves/holes to explore in the castle rock. On the 5th of February, I did just that. I walked all over the castle exploring all kinds of niches, holes and caves. There were several entrances that led to multiple rooms with curving climbing passages in between.
Me climbing through a passageway
Me inside one of the rooms
Outside of the view once you get to the top of the castle, I enjoyed this part of the castle (which was free) more than the climb to the top. As I walked around and poked my head in all sorts of places, I found a passage that led high up into the secondary spire.
One passage led to this opening high in the rock
This shows the size of the opening
After a while, I made my way down the hillside on the North side of the castle, to where the road winds towards Göreme. This is a popular stop for the tour buses, as it affords quite a dramatic view of Uçhisar Castle. The picture below left is taken from this spot and is labeled to show how high in the rock I was.
Uçhisar as viewed from the tour bus stop
Despite popular belief, this is not how I got around
Because the tour buses stop here, there are of course, several shops selling trinkets and souvenirs. One of the "tourist traps" is an opportunity to get a picture of yourself on the camel. I did not take this opportunity, as the camel smelled worse than week old cat urine.

The next walk I took was on the 7th of February (my hard drive failed that evening, after returning from this walk). This time, I walked much further, a total of just over 11 miles. I was tired when I got home and needless to say pretty upset when my computer puked. Luckily, I hadn't downloaded the photos from this hike yet.
On my previous trip to the Open Air Museum, I had noticed a marked hiking trail about 3/4 of a mile before the Museum. I noted then that I would come back to see where it went. The sign said Zemi Valley, but I had never heard of it. So I headed up the trail. The trail follows the valley directly west of the Open Air Museum. There are lots of pics from this hike, so I made a separate page just for them. To read the narrative and see the pictures of this hike, click here.

Ever since we moved into this new house, I've really enjoyed the fact that every morning (Okay, maybe not EVERY morning, but every day the weather is good enough) I wake up and out my bedroom window I have an absolutely wonderful view. In the afternoons, the setting sun turns snow capped Mt. Erciyes purple and in the mornings the sun plays shadow games as it rises above the huge volcano.
The days first light hits Mt Erciyes
Sunrise on 2/11/09
A couple of other events took place recently. Actually, the two things happened on the same day. One, Sancho left to go to home to Spain for two weeks and Alper also left. He went to Albuquerque (yes, that Albuquerque) to attend a balloon flight school so he could get his pilots license. In some ways that's a good thing, in other ways it's not so good. The good is, he might learn something and come back with a little more respect for his pilots opinions and actually realize when conditions are good for flying and when they're not. The bad is, he could come back with a "now that I'm a pilot, I know everything" attitude. But the really bad is, he spent what..... several thousand dollars on a round trip plane ticket, the schooling itself (which isn't cheap) and living expenses for the six weeks he'll be there. That wouldn't be any of my concern except that I haven't been paid yet. I should have been paid two weeks ago for the month of January. The way I look at it is, he took my money and went to Albuquerque with it. I wasn't too happy. But at least he won't be around to bad mouth my flying like he has constantly done. So he left his wife Banu in charge. She speaks even less English than Alper does. Ought to be a fun couple of weeks until Sancho gets back.
Chapter 22
Between Snow Storms
So now you're pretty much caught up through the middle of February. It snowed for a couple of days and I didn't really do anything or go anywhere. Without a computer, I just tried to pass the time. I was starting to have some trouble coping with being here, actually. I talked with Joanne only once every other day or so, because we were trying to keep the phone bill as low as possible. I have mentioned how the boss always had something negative to say about my flying, and the fact that I hadn't been paid since I arrived. With the weather keeping me inside, Sancho gone and basically no one to talk to, Turkey was beginning to be not as much fun anymore.

I did fly on the 18th and 19th (Oh boy! 2 days in a row!) and here are the Google Earth images and the link to the Google Earth files :
Flight path on 2/18/09
Click here for the Google Earth .kmz file for the 18th
Flight path on 2/19/09
Click here for the Google Earth .kmz file for the 19th
It started snowing again on the 20th and didn't quit until the 23rd. I could have stayed in Driggs for this kind of weather. It cleared enough late on the 23rd that we actually flew on the 24th.
It was foggy, early on the 24th, but cleared in the direction we were going early enough to get the flight in. I only flew for 45 minutes (which is fine for the boss). If I would have been a little more on my game I could have gotten an hour in by dipping down into Love Valley. It was my intention to do so (dipping into the valleys is pretty much always the game plane here) but my first attempt was a little short of the valley and we started to head back the other way to the east. I jumped back up into the higher altitude wind that was going west, but I didn't get back down quick enough and this time, the wind right at the top of the valley was still going west instead of to the east like it was 5 minutes earlier. Just one of those days where I was off only by a few feet, but it meant the difference between getting into the valley or not. In some ways, flying here can be quite tricky. There are so many valleys and different rock formations that the wind will eddy and curl and do some funny stuff. The valleys are also small and narrow and a bit tricky to get into, especially with such large balloons. Take a look at some of the pictures, the balloons are as tall and nearly as wide as a lot of the valleys we try to get into. On the other hand, the winds are generally light most of the time, so there is really good flying here. When the weather is good for flying it is really good, and stays that way. In that sense, it's pretty easy, especially when compared to Teton Valley and other mountain flying.
Google Earth image of flight path on 2/24
Click here for the Google Earth .kmz file
So I missed the valley, but still had a decent 45 minute flight and landed in a great spot right next to the road on the plateau just west of Love Valley (where we land all the time). But of course it had been snowing for two days prior, so the road was still very snowy, wet and muddy. Which meant that the van (the crew call it the micro bus, it's a Sprinter type thing) couldn't get to us and the passengers (all 22 of them) had to be ferried out using the two smaller vehicles (that carry 4 people at a time). So while 6 to 8 passengers take the ride out to the van, the rest of us stand out in the snow and wait. Keep in mind no one speaks English, not the passengers, the crew, or anyone. Of course this was a tour group, so that meant that the passengers all had to be somewhere in Göreme to catch their tour bus that was leaving. Stressed out about that, the boss was of course not happy with where I landed. Didn't really seem like my fault, but oh well, I'm getting used to the fact that there is always something wrong with the way I fly. Have I mentioned that I haven't been paid yet?
So the passengers finally all get ferried out to the van and it's time for the balloon, crew and me to go. I hop in and away we go. Finally. I don't know, but if I had to guess, everyone in Turkey learns to drive at the "Skip Barber School For Racing". Now, the driver isn't the same crewman that drove me to Adana and Ankara, but he's got his foot in it none the less. In his defense, I will say that because of the snow and mud, he kind of had to keep his foot in it or we would have gotten stuck. Still, we're swerving and sliding and bouncing along this road at a pretty good clip. Well, wouldn't you know. . . about halfway out the transmission breaks. Now we are stuck. Once the crew and vehicle that are bringing the balloon get to us, we get a ride back to the office. The routine is to go back to the office after the flight and the company has someone fix the pilots breakfast (according to the contract, breakfast is included as part of the pilot compensation). By the time we get back to the office, it's past lunch time. So I'm hanging around the office while some food is prepared and Banu (Alper's wife, who is charge while he's in Amerika) says she needs to talk to me. She evidently has a bill for the cell phone they gave me (also included according to contract, is a company issued cell phone. The pilot is responsible for paying for any non-company related calls). I tell her that I haven't made any calls. Then I realize I have made a few.... like 5. She is adamant that I made all these calls and wants to know what calls I made and to who. Have I mentioned that I haven't been paid yet? So I tell her that I have only called Cenk once (the really nice guy at the military base) and Çetin (pronounced "Chettin") maybe 3 times. Çetin is the assistant to the owner of the hotel where we are living now. We had some internet issues and other general questions that we needed to talk to Çetin about so I called him). Well she goes off... raising her voice, being all indignant and wanting to know who Cenk is and who Çetin is. My take on this situation is : It's none of her business. I'll pay for all the non company related calls I've made. It's only like 5 calls and even in Turkey can't be that expensive. So finally, I've had it. I tell her "If you pay me, I'll be glad to pay for the calls!". I left the office that day incredulous at the fact that they owe me like $1500 (and in 5 days will owe me $4000 more) and she has the gall to bring up a cell phone bill that at the most is probably $20. I knew that I had made a few calls and was expecting to pay for them, but I can't pay for them until I get paid. Sheeesh! I told her I would give her the two numbers I had called so she could cross check them against the bill. It's always something.
Chapter 23
More Flying, More Drama
So I end up flying on consecutive days again, having flown on the 24th, I fly again the 25th. Another one of those great flying days in Kapadokya. Winds of about 3 mph and different directions available at different altitudes. The main objective of every flight here (as I have mentioned before) is to get into the valleys and fly as close to rock formations as possible. So on this day I climb up pretty high for here (around 2,500 feet above the ground) so I can head towards the Red Valley. I'm up there heading right where I wanted to go and the clouds start to lower a bit. I descend in order to stay out of the clouds and now I'm going south, towards Ortahisar. The only direction you don't really want to go, the same direction I went on my very first flight as a pilot here. So I descend some more to try and get a different direction, and as I get to about 1,000 feet AGL, I notice that we're right above the Open Air Museum. So I continue my descent and fly as low over the O.A.M. as I dared. I did know that our flight area is actually inside a National Park and I wasn't sure what the rules were as far as flying over the Open Air Museum. I could have landed in the parking lot, but a couple of things were going inside my head as I'm making some flying decisions. One, I don't know exactly what the rules are and I know that this is a very revered place. I also know it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. If this were America, I wouldn't be allowed to even fly here. I do know that the town of Göreme has a 300 meter (1,000 feet) minimum altitude rule. Another thought was about how I'm the only American to ever come over here and work for a Turkish balloon company. I know of one other American pilot who has flown here, but he came here with an out of country company that comes here every summer and flys for a week. So, knowing that I am an "outsider", don't know the exact rules and considering the nature of the place I'm flying, I keep the basket above the top of the tallest rocks and hope I don't get scolded for flying too low over the Open Air Museum. We still get a great view of the Museum and its formations, and the real treasure of the Open Air Museum is actually inside the rocks. That's where the frescoes are.
So we fly over the Museum and just as soon as I can, I descend so that I can fly amongst the rocks. Even right outside the Museum there are some great formations and fun flying. As I get south of the Museum, the wind changes (when the winds are real light like this, the direction is prone to change) and I end up doing a real lazy slow 180 degree turn. So now, I'm a bit west of the Museum, but heading north again towards our launch site. I also notice one of the balloons from one of the other companies, is way down inside the Open Air Museum. Hmmm, must be legal and okay to do.... to bad I didn't know that, or I could have done that also. That's what I get for being the wind dummy I guess. Oh well, better safe than sorry and at least I won't be looked at as disrespecting a sacred site or anything (might be considered not a very good pilot, but hey, they already think that anyway). As I fly towards our launch area I start to drift to the east ever so slightly. By the time I reach the road to the Open Air Museum I'm heading right for the launch site of another company, Anatolia Balloons. This is a good thing, as the launch area is a big wide open space with plenty of area to inflate (or in this case deflate) the balloon. Just as I reach the road the already calm wind dies and I'm stalled out over the power lines. Wouldn't you know.... I just need to get another 50 feet.... I can't even use the drop line yet. After about 10 minutes of small, slow, lazy circles that just tease me about getting away from the power lines, I finally get far enough to the north of them that I could land.... except now I've also drifted just far enough east that I'm over some rocks. At least now we can use a drop line, which is what we do, and the crew tows me over to an open spot. Overall, a great flight. The passengers had a great time, tipped well and the crew was joking around laughing and having fun as we packed up the balloon.
Google Earth image of flight on 2/25/2009
When we get back to the office, Banu once again brings up the cell phone bill. I give her the only two numbers that I would have called and tell her I will be glad to pay for the calls I made, but there are only a few. Oh and I still haven't been paid.

We fly again on the 26th, which makes three days in a row. Not only am I getting some flight time in, but this also means that the company should be making some money and will hopefully pay me someday. Below is the Google Earth image of the flight path and link to the Google Earth file.
Google Earth image of flight on 2/26/2009
Click here for the .kmz file
Click here for the .kmz file
The flight on the 26th went well. More of a "typical" flight, we went west and dipped into Love Valley. However, we just barely got it in, as by the time I left the office (after breakfast), the wind was really blowing. Once again, in what is becoming a rather upsetting daily routine, my employer seems to hassle me about something. Today, instead of my medical certificate or the phone bill, Banu says to me, "Kevin, your license end in March". Okay, for one thing, my Bi-Annual Flight Review (which every pilot is required to have) is due in March. But every other March, (hence the Bi-Annual part). My BFR is due in March of 2010. NEXT YEAR!
Now for another thing, my employer has had a copy of my pilots license since early November! Don't ask me why they are just now broaching the subject when they knew I was supposed to be here into May. You would think that the minute they got a copy of my license they would have looked to see when it expired. And if they thought it did expire while I was there, you think they would have brought it up more than just two days before March!
Try explaining to someone who doesn't speak (much less understand) English, that no, my license doesn't expire and I only need a Bi-Annual Flight Review once every two years. It's always something.
Chapter 24
Not My Decision
It's getting to the point where when I find out I'm flying the next day my heart sinks and I say to myself, "oh no". It isn't the flying part, its all the drama associated with it and wondering what I'm going to be hassled about next. When I woke up on the 27th, I could see the fresh dusting of snow from overnight but couldn't tell if it was still snowing or not. Knowing I was supposed to fly today I immediately started to stress about the fly/no fly decision. By the time I went outside to catch my ride to the launch field it was snowing pretty good. I think "Oh well, what else have I got to do besides wait for the weather to clear". We get just past the office when Banu gets off the phone and says "The other company is waiting, so we will wait". Heaven forbid that the pilot actually gets to make the decision to fly or not! Well, it was a no brainer for me, but I already know they don't want to hear my opinion. We go back to the office and wait around. And then wait some more. I sat around for over an hour before Banu finally said we were cancelling the flight. No doubt the right decision (and probably not hers) and I didn't even have to make it! A little relieved at not having to argue about whether to fly or not, I go back home and take a nap before taking another walk around Kapadokya.

I walked through a valley that was Northwest of Uçhisar this time. A small valley, but filled with pigeon holes and caves. It's incredible sometimes to see just how the people here make every little piece of land count. They farm absolutely everything they can.
A closer look at the orchard
Another small farm
An orchard among the caves
As I walk along among the small farms and caves, I spotted something move on the other side of the valley. I stop and watch but don't notice anything. About the time I start to walk again, there it is! It was hard to tell what it was because it blended in so well with the environment.
Can you spot the fox?
A better look at the fox I saw
I was just able to get the zoom lens on the camera and take those photos. That fox scurried off up the cliff as fast as it could go. I have seen fox here from the air, but this is the first time I've seen one while hiking. After a nice little walk I head back to the house. On the way I saw what is one of my favorite views of Uchisar and took this picture. I'm sure in the spring and summer, when things are green and there are leaves on the trees, it looks much nicer.
One of my favorite views of Uçhisar
Chapter 25
I know what you're thinking . . . Efenden?!? What the heck is Efenden?!? Has Kev finally gone Whirling Dervish?!? I admit to being crazy . . . why do you think I'm over here to begin with?

I'm not really sure exactly how to spell it, and it is a sort of Turkish slang, so my little pocket English/Turkish dictionary does not include it. I'm spelling it how I hear it. Efenden is what most of the local folks say when they answer their phone. Granted, not a lot of people here have cell phones, but the ones I've seen and been able to hear, answer their phone with one word : "Efenden". The first time I heard it, I thought they said "I found him". It is so common, that Sancho uses the word all the time. So much so that I should call him Efenden . . . It's kind of a running joke with Sancho and I . . . anytime we don't know how to say something in Turkish we just say efenden. Like I said, it's a slang or informal way of saying "Hi" to answer the phone. It's the only thing Sancho ever says anymore.

Enough Turkish lessons . . . by now you're saying okay, I get it, but why is the title of this chapter called Efenden? I've explained to you about our "deck" out the back door. It really is a nice place to enjoy the morning sun. Well, one day I was out on the deck enjoying some sun (between snow storms) when I noticed this little orange tabby cat walking along the edge. Keep in mind I've been alone here, halfway around the world for about 2 weeks by now. Alone and constantly harassed by the bosses about one thing or another. So I see this cat and try to call it over to me to see if it will let me pet it. It's young and skinny (like all of the dogs and cats here) and a bit apprehensive. All of the dogs and cats here are "street" pets. The cats are almost feral and the dogs are very stray like, although most of the dogs do have owners. If you're a pet lover, it can be hard to take. So the cat comes over and as I reach out to pet it, it jumps toward my hand arching it's back and immediately starts to purr. I figure it doesn't get much attention and it loves a little bit of love being thrown its direction. At first, I petted its head and then down its neck and back. Whoa! I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not to go anywhere near the tail! Okay, I understand, it's not really used to trusting humans a whole lot. So I just pet its head and neck and halfway down the back. I'm gonna call it a he, just because (it never let me get close enough to find out which gender it was). He loves the attention, is purring loudly and walks back and forth rubbing my legs. Every now and then he just kind of turns and hisses at me, ears laying flat. Hmmm.... a little schizophrenic this one....
If he knew we were home, he would come sit at the back door
He would definitely let you know he'd had enough
It got to where this cat would come up on our deck on a regular basis and if he knew we were there, he would sit by the door at the top of the steps waiting for one of us to go out (we never let him inside) and pet him. Once the cat started to hang around on a somewhat regular basis (waiting for the only loving attention it ever got), Sancho of course had to name it. What do you think was the first thing he thought of? Yep, "Efenden". Since I didn't really have any better alternative, I too, called him Efenden.
Included with this house were deck chairs, and when the weather was nice, Sancho and I both enjoyed sitting out on the deck in the sun. If the chairs were out and no one was using them, Efenden would happily occupy it.
Efenden on a deck chair
The more I saw him, the more comfortable he became around me, the more I could pet him before he got upset and tried to rip me a new one. You were never really sure just when he would decide that he had had enough, but you were positive it was coming. Like I said, as long as you stayed away from his back end, he stayed happy longer.
close up of Efenden in the deck chair
Ooops... I guess he's had enough
It got to the point where, if I sat down, either in a chair or on the steps or even on the stone bench at the table, he would climb up on my lap, take a bath and then sleep. I think it was the only place he felt like no other cat or human was going to bother him, so he really enjoyed it. Even though the neighbors "fed" him, they would just throw some scraps out their back door and let the cats duke it out to see who ate (there were 7 or so cats that hung around, knowing and expecting the food to be flung sooner or later. There weren't any cat fights, as the pecking order seemed to have already been established, with Efenden as one of the younger ones, close to the bottom).
Unfortunately for him, he could spend a lot more time sleeping in a lap, than any person could spend letting him sleep in their lap.
Efenden on my lap in the morning
Efenden on my lap in the morning, this time I'm looking at the camera (and into the sun)
Efenden on Joannes lap,
next to Sancho
Having left two cats at home with Joanne while I'm here flying and with Sancho being gone, the weather bad more often than good, I enjoyed the company of that little schizo feline. I could tell that he also enjoyed my company. He ended up being a part of the everyday life here, so much so that I couldn't tell the story without mentioning it. I didn't realize he would have a chapter of his own, but as you can tell by the photos, by the time Joanne got here that little cat was pretty comfortable around people and absolutely loved sleeping in laps. He was also a good way for me to relax and try to forget that this trip has had more than its fair share of challenges.
Having the benefit of actually writing this several months after I got home, I can also tell everyone that "Efenden" turned out to be a female. I had been home for a month or so and while talking to Sancho one day, I asked how the cat was doing (knowing that after I left, he was the only pilot and much more alone than when I was there, I kind of figured Sancho would appreciate the company of Efenden much as I had when he had gone on vacation). He laughed and said that "he is a she, and is pregnant". That's how we found out what gender Efenden was.
Chapter 26
The Beginning Of The End
March 1st, 2009.

I could use several different analogies . . . Depending on how you look at it. No matter how you look at it, all analogies aside, it was definitely the beginning of the end.

We had a flight scheduled for that morning, but when I awoke, it was snowing and it never stopped. The ceiling was also very low, at probably a thousand feet or less. Oh yeah, we made the (by now obligatory) trip down to the launch site to wait for the weather to clear. It was while we were sitting there in the car at the launch site that the events happened that led to my departure from Turkey a month earlier than originally planned. Like I said, we're (Me, Banu and one of the crew guys) sitting there in the car at the launch site in the middle of a snow storm when Banu turns to me and says "Kevin, your license finish in March". This is like the third time in about 4 days she has brought this up about my license. Did you notice at the top of the page what date today is? I've mentioned this a couple of times already but I'll remind you that they've had a copy of my license for about 5 months and never brought the subject up until just a few days ago. They wanted me to produce some sort of paperwork showing that my license didn't expire in March 2009. For one thing, there is no such "paperwork". The only thing I have is an endorsement in the back of my old logbook, which I didn't bring with me. In fact this whole thing is reminding me that I still haven't got back my current logbook (or my license or any of the "papers" I sent just so I could get here) I sent to them before I even arrived here. If they would have mentioned it soon enough I could have produced SOME thing that could and hopefully would have proved to them that my license was good for another year, when my next BFR (Bi-Annual Flight Review) was due. But to say that it's a problem only two days before March and then expect me to be able to do something about it from halfway around the world, is . . . well . . .      I don't know, irresponsible I guess.

The first time Banu had brought this up I got pretty upset. Not with her at the time, but after I got home, the more I thought about it, the more upset I got. It's always something. This was the last straw. I had made my mind up then, that I wasn't going to take anymore. Have I mentioned that I haven't been paid for January yet? I had written up a one page "resignation" and purposely held onto it for a couple of days. You see . . . I signed a contract before I left America. However, in that contract was the clause about paying me. It stated that they would pay me the following month. So, because it didn't state specifically when in that next month they would pay, technically they had until the end of the month to pay. Well, today was March first, and I still hadn't received all the money owed me for January. So I felt like they had broken that part of the contract.

I spent a couple of minutes trying to explain the license situation and when Banu again asked me to produce "papers" proving my license was still valid, I realized I was never going to be able to satisfy them (just look at my medical situation, something I actually had official paper work for, and gave to them and they still weren't satisfied. Can you imagine what I would have to go through for this?!) so I handed her the paper I had prepared as I told her "It doesn't matter, here is my resignation, I'm going home." Her immediate response (and I completely expected it) was "You have contract." I of course immediately said "You broke contract by not paying me." She didn't say anything the rest of the day. I could tell she was not happy.

For one thing, she could not read the document because of course it was written in English. I had certainly had enough, however I knew that I had signed a contract and really felt like I had been somewhat forced into this situation. If the working relationship had been better I certainly would have wanted to stay, but I was at a point now, where all I wanted was for Joanne to get there so she could experience this place (she was due to arrive here on March 10th) and then I wanted to go home.
In my resignation paper, I was giving them 30 days notice of my intent to leave the company. I thought I was being pretty decent doing that. I knew that they were going to have a problem finding another pilot, at least until summer. I actually really wanted to fly here, just not for these folks. I had been disrespected, treated unfairly and not paid. But I was willing to work for them for another month, so they could have some time to get another pilot. It seemed like the professional thing to do. Besides, we had already planned Joannes trip over here, and her ticket back to the States was for April 1st. We're going to be here anyway, I will be a stand up guy and work for another month (at the risk of not getting paid for it).

I didn't know what to expect after that day. Were they just going to say go home now? Were they going to try to hold me to the contract? Was I going to get the money owed me? Let's just say I was in a state of limbo for a few days, until they responded. The ball was in their court, I had informed them of my intentions and unless actions were taken to stop me, I fully intended to go home with Joanne on April first. Most likely without being paid another red cent. Or in this case, lira. The end was beginning, but not of course without more drama. This is, after all, Turkey.
Chapter 27
The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life
The very next day (March 2nd, 2009) we had a flight scheduled. Sancho isn't back from his vacation yet, (He is supposed to be home tonight) so I flew the 400 with 18 passengers. It was clear and sunny, but a little breezy at the surface, about 8 mph which is actually the breeziest launch I've had since I've been here. The pibal showed everything above the surface being pretty normal, so I decided to fly. Boy, you get a 400 rolling around and misbehaving during an inflation and it gets interesting. I wrestle it up and as soon as it gets stood up, the top comes out. Luckily, the crew here is really good and they already had passengers getting in, so I just put heat in it until the top sealed. Actually had one of the better flights I've had here. We got to Red Valley pretty quickly and then I was able to descend into the valleys a bit and slow down some. We flew north right along the edge of the big mountain for a ways before finally going over the top of it. I was a bit nervous about going over the top of this mountain. I had never been on the other side and did not know what was there. I was also very aware of the possible rotor on the other side. Didn't have much choice however, so up and over we go. YEEHAW! We were already towards the north end of the mountain and ended up cutting across the very NW corner of it and come down the other side into the fairy chimneys of Paşabağ. Once we get down into the rocks the wind just dies. That's a good thing as I had only flown for about 30 minutes and needed to kill some time before landing. After giving the passengers the best possible view of this area of fairy chimneys and plenty of time for them to get their photo's, it is time for me to climb up a bit and try to find some direction and look for a landing spot. I finally find a layer with a little direction and land right next to the main road between Avanos and Ürgüp. Great flight! Below is the Google Earth image and link to the .kmz file.
Click here for the .kmz file

Do you think it's a coindence that when I got back to the office after the flight that I got paid what was owed me for January? A little late now that they owe me for February, but hey, I wasn't sure I was going to get any money before I went home.
Google Earth image of flight on 3/2/2009
Chapter 28
Sancho Is Back
Looking across one of 6 valleys
Just inside the entry gate
Just one of many huge rooms
Zelve was actually inhabited until 1952 when the last residents moved out. The pictures above as well as the ones in the Zelve gallery were taken after Joanne arrived when her, I and Sancho spent a day going to Çavuşin, Paşabağ, Zelve and Ürgüp.
Sancho did get back late on the 2nd. But it was so late I didn't see him till the next morning. It was snowing and about 1/4 mile visibility so no flying on this day. Sancho and I went down to the office for breakfast. I actually couldn't wait to talk to him, although I knew he was going to be bummed about me leaving. We talked quite a bit before he left about how I felt and he was concerned I was going to leave before he left on his vacation, which would have meant he wouldn't get to go. He had also tried to get the company to pay him half of his February salary before he went on vacation. (He had been paid in full for January a long time ago). He had also mentioned the possibility of not coming back from vacation until he got the money. He didn't get the money but came back anyway, much to my delight. Alper had told Sancho that they couldn't give him the money because I hadn't flown since he left. Once again, I was (the only word that describes how I felt) incredulous at that statement. Why would they lie to Sancho like that?! Do they think we don't talk to each other?! "Incredible," I tell him, "I've flown a total of 85 passengers not including the 18 I flew yesterday." After hearing that they lied to Sancho, I was even more assured that I made the right decision in leaving early. I was glad to have Sancho back. Not only is he someone I can talk to about what's going on here, but he understands from the pilot perspective. He is also a fun and funny guy to have around. Of course, with Sancho being back, I will probably not fly much. That's somewhat of a quandary, as I feel like until I get paid I shouldn't fly, but if I don't fly, the company doesn't make money and I will never get paid.

The next day we have two balloons scheduled, so both Sancho and I head down to the launch site early. We've been there about half an hour (with Banu never saying one word to me) when Sancho tells me that Banu just told him the second balloon got cancelled about 10 minutes ago. Hmmm.... she can't tell me herself? She is still upset that I'm going home. Knowing Alper and Banu, I have to wonder if there ever was a second balloon scheduled and this isn't some attempt at one of their manipulative games. Oh well, no big deal. What else am I going to do? So I hop in the balloon with Sancho and enjoy a beautiful flight over the mountain and into Zelve Valley. I really do enjoy the flying here. You can see more pictures in the Zelve section of the Turkey Gallery area of the website, but here are a couple of teasers.

Their Response
I spent the next couple of days not really doing much. We weren't flying, so on the 6th, I rode the bus into Nevşehir (the nearest town of any size) and changed some of the US Dollars I had left into Lira, and to get some fresh produce and of course some more of what had become one of my favorite staples here : Leblebi. Leblebi is turkish for roasted chickpeas. I was first introduced to it (although I didn't know what it was at the time) my first night in Kapadokya while at Ghengis' Ahbab Hotel. Turns out all the bars serve this as a snack with your drink. Once I found I could get my own, I was hooked. I always had some leblebi in my room. I even ended up bringing a bunch home with me.

Later that afternoon/evening, Banu called (on the cell phone that she had finally decided the bill wasn't mine after all) and said that if I came down to the office right now, she would pay me half of what they owe me for February. Wow, what a surprise! Are you kidding me? A chance to get some money? I was there quicker than two shakes of a lambs tail! Ha! I was even more surprised when I got there! Turns out there was another, much more important reason she wanted me to come down to the office. Once I got there, Banu produced an official document on company letterhead, detailing the cancellation of my contract. She of course wanted me to sign it. Well, I certainly was going to read the entire thing, especially any fine print first! It stated the reason for the contract being cancelled was the validation issue with my license, which I didn't have a problem with. This way, neither I nor they came out looking like the bad guy. I was quite happy with that. As I perused the document, I noticed that one of the eight or so paragraphs/clauses seemed a bit odd, and didn't want to immediately agree to it. They were officially cancelling the contract as of the 25th of March (which I was semi okay with, seemed rather odd to make it a week earlier than I had agreed to in my resignation) but then it stated that they wanted me out of the pilot house on the 25th. Okay, so if I'm not a company employee, I can understand that I can't live in company housing. No problem with that (all the while my mind is trying to figure out what I'm going to do for that week. My ticket home was for the 1st of April). The last little part of that clause is what really got to me. After stating that they wanted me out of the house, it said that I had to leave Kapadokya within 12 hours. Without that "leave town before sunset" comment I probably would have just signed the thing and been done with it, but I was not going to agree to leaving Kapadokya on the 25th when my plane ticket wasn't until the 1st of April! So I mentioned that to Banu. I said I couldn't sign it because of my plane ticket situation. She said I should try to change my ticket. So I went home without signing it, and later that night (waiting for the time zone difference) called Jo and advised her of the days events. I was done being upset at the stuff that happens here. I was once again struck by the audacity of them trying to run me out of town. Anyway, after some conversation with Jo, we decided I would go ahead and agree and sign their little document. The realization that the net effect was to give us a week free to travel around the country and see some things that I would not have had the chance to see if things hadn't of turned out this way, was actually quite exciting! The longer I thought about it, the more excited I got about my last week in Turkey! Joanne and I immediately started planning how we would spend that last week, trying to figure out what we wanted to see and prioritizing the list. Needless to say, I signed the agreement the very next day. Sancho was less than thrilled that I would be leaving a week earlier than planned. I understood his situation, but I had to do what was best for me.
Joanne will actually be here soon (she arrives on the 11th, local time) so we spend most of our conversations the next couple of days planning that last week. I am getting more and more excited not only about Joanne getting here, but also about that last week. Things always work out and this is another example.
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Joanne's Arrival
So it wasn't two days after I sign their termination contract, that Banu starts to ask if I can stay longer than the 25th of March. I found it quite entertaining that here they did their best to get me out of here a week early, and now they want me to stay. (I came to find out later, that they thought they had a pilot lined up to take my spot, so wanted me out as soon as possible. Then, something happened, the pilot back out or something, anyway, all of a sudden they don't have another pilot, so they want me to stay). Well, I certainly would have stayed until the end of March, but they made such a thing out of me changing my ticket so I could leave by the 25th that there was no way I'm staying any later than the 25th. Besides, I was really looking forward to that week of seeing different parts of Turkey. Everyday up until the day I left (on the 25th of March of course) Banu made a point of asking me to stay longer. The more time that went by, the longer they wanted me to stay. They were almost begging me to stay through April. They even offered me more money (including offering to pay to change my ticket again). Heh! Like I thought they would pay me anyway! I told them it wasn't about the money (and it wasn't, it was more about being treated with a little respect) and that there was nothing they could do or say to make me change my mind. Alper still wasn't back from Albuquerque yet! They still haven't payed me for the rest of February yet! I didn't know if I was going to get all the money owed to me and I kind of figured I wouldn't, but it didn't matter. Joanne would be here in another day or so and I was just going to focus on her and I enjoying our time together over here. The first couple of weeks while she was here, I would still be working, but only in the mornings, so we could still see Kapadokya and have some fun until our last week when we could really have some fun.

Well, the day before I pick Joanne up at the airport in Ankara, I have a flight. I'm more worried about having to fly the morning after I pick Jo up, knowing that I will be getting back from Ankara pretty late. The flight the day before was fairly nice, spent dabbling in the valley to the east of our launch site and then landing just north next to where one of the other companies launches. See below for the Google Earth image and file.
Google Earth image of flight on 3/10/2009
Click here for the .kmz file
On this day, Mother Nature was on my side (for once) and it was Sancho who had a bit of bad luck. He had gotten a bit further east than I did, however he was over the very rocky area of Çavuşin castle when the winds died down. He was having a problem finding some direction, when after an hour and fifteen minutes he was out of fuel (carrying 23 passengers). He picked a nice open spot and everyone was safe, but of course the crew had some difficulty getting to him so he was a "bad pilot". Believe me, Sancho is a very good pilot, but when the company isn't run by someone who has at least been a pilot, they don't understand. His 23 passengers must have all been Europeans that day, and he was obviously very heavy. So for once, I didn't get the third degree about my flight. There was one thing about my flight that was quite a bummer though. Once I got home, I realized that I didn't have my gps. I hustled down to the office to see if it was either in the office or the balloon or the chase vehicle. uh uh.... no where to be found. Knowing I wouldn't be able to sleep if I didn't at least make an attempt to look for it, I walked down to Göreme and rented a scooter so I could go to both mine and Sancho's landing sites. No luck. Didn't find it anywhere. So, feeling like losing my gps would really just sum up my experience here, I enjoyed the scooter ride none the less. It was really inexpensive also. It was 29 Lira for two hours, including gas. At the 1.80 exchange rate I had gotten the day before, that's about $16. I don't think you could rent a scooter like that in the U.S. for much less than $25 - $30 an hour. I got it for $8 an hour.

I have arranged through Cetin, to have a rental car, so I can pick Jo up at the airport in Ankara. Boy, this oughtta be a hoot. Having been exposed to the way the locals drive, I can only imagine what the drive to Ankara will be like. Especially once I get into Ankara. No doubt I'm excited. I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins. Some from the prospect of the drive, most from finally having Joanne here. The drive to Ankara is actually pretty uneventful. I couldn't help myself from leaving earlier than I knew I needed to, but I didn't have anything to do and the last thing I wanted was to be late. I take my time, driving about 110.... (that's kilometers an hour) ..... right around 55 mph. Once .I get into Ankara I really start to perk up. For one, I really needed to pay close attention so I wouldn't get lost, plus there is a whole lot more traffic and stuff going on, so I was on my toes to prevent any type of accident. I only missed one turn on the way to the airport and luckily I saw the sign as I went by. Typical of the way things are here, there was no warning, just the sign all of a sudden pointing which way to go. At least I saw it, was able to turn around fairly quickly and got to the airport a mere 4 hours before Jo's plane arrived. Well, I'm not late.
I kept the rental car for a week. I figured the first week Jo was there we could use the car to go some places that I had been wanting to see, but were too far away to walk and took too many different buses to get there. Places like Derinkuyu (an underground city) , Ilhara Valley (a 10 mile long valley with some 150 cave churches in it) and Ürgüp, although Ürgüp was really pretty easy to get to by bus, I just hadn't done it yet. The second week she was there, I would still be working, so we would have plenty of time to walk around the local area and I could show her all the cool places I had found.

We were fortunate in that Jo's first day in Kapadokya, the weather was as nice as it had been for about 3 weeks. Clear, sunny and warmer than it had been in a long time. We took advantage of it and the first thing we did was visit Uçhisar Castle. I know that it really helped me get an idea of what and where things are, especially if you can do it early during your visit.
Chapter 31
Now The Fun Begins
Jo relaxing on the top of Uçhisar Castle
Jo and the flag on top of Uçhisar
Jo on top of Uçhisar,
with Göreme in the background
After visiting the castle, since the weather was so nice, we drove down into Göreme and parked right downtown. I then took Joanne on the hike of Sword Valley. It was a really nice day and it was fun to see her be as amazed by the landscape and caves as I was the first time I saw it. Because I had already been in all the holes, we didn't have to waste time seeing what was in each one, although Joanne really did enjoy poking her head in every little opening. I have to admit, that is part of the fun. Besides the pics below, you can see more Sword Valley photos in our gallery.
Joanne sitting in the pulpit
The view from where Jo was sitting
Joanne under some frescoes
After our exploration of Sword Valley (a hike of about 5 miles) , when we got back into Göreme, we looked for a place to sit and have a beer and enjoy what we had just done. We walked past this place that although I had been by it before (and noticed that it had the cheapest beer in town) , it had never been open (up to this point, it had been "off" season in Kapadokya) . Today it was, so we stopped and sat outside at a table. Even though the day had been very nice, it was now late afternoon and the air was cooling off and a small breeze was picking up. We moved inside and this is where we had our first "hookah". We met the owner of the place and since we were the only ones there, literally got waited on hand and foot. We really enjoyed it there and made it a point to go back whenever we could. The place is called the Panorama Cave Bar, and if you ever get to Kapadokya, Göreme in peticular, stop in. Cheapest beer in town, and it's cold! (some places it isn't!) Baris is a super nice guy and you'll probably sign his pottery.
Both of us enjoying our experience
Jo and I with Baris, the owner
The next couple of days, the weather wasn't so nice, so the next thing we did was visit Derinkuyu, a famous underground city. Derinkuyu is just over 20 miles from Uçhisar. Kaymakli (another famous underground city) is closer, but it is not as large and extensive as Derinkuyu is. Since we've got the car, 20 miles is nothing, especially now that I'm getting used to driving here (the key to driving here is just pretend you're the only car on the planet and drive where ever the heck you want to) . We picked a good day to visit Derinkuyu as the weather was snowy and windy and it was a good day to be underground. There are more pictures of our visit to Derinkuyu in our gallery.
Please note the poor quality of the following pictures. It was dark and I had a hard time getting any pictures.
And they were right above another
Jo standing by a beam of light
8 stories underground
The source of the light
Another day, we drove around the local area. We went from Uçhisar to Çavuşin (visiting the church there) to Paşabağ, which is famous for it's fairy chimneys, but Joanne found a doorway way up inside a large hollowed out area. She just had to go up and see where it went. The following pictures are a sequence showing her at the door and making her way back down. I was very impressed. It looked easy at first, but watching her made me realize how difficult a climb (and descent) it really was.
A close up of Jo at the doorway
She has just started down
Almost down . . .
WHEW! She's safely down now
Looks easy from here doesn't it?
A map showing the route we took (in blue)
Google Earth image of flight on 3/20/2009
Some of the passageways
were very short
Google Earth image of flight on 3/18/2009
You can see a few more pics of Paşabağ in our gallery here.
From there, we went to Zelve, probably the most incredible complex of caves that I visited during my time there. Zelve is three different valleys all carved out. We spent most of the day there. See more of our visit to Zelve by visiting our gallery. We then travelled on to Ürgüp to eat and do some souvenier shopping.
This is a tricky spot
Well on her way
Jo at the opening
The rest of the time we had in Kapadokya together was spent walking around Castle Uçhisar, through Pigeon Valley and the various other places I had seen something I thought was cool and wanted to show her. I don't think either of us ever got tired of poking around all the caves.

My first opportunity to fly while Joanne was there, came on the 17th of March. When I had found out I was scheduled to fly, I asked Banu if she thought it was okay that Joanne came along with me. I must admit, I wasn't sure what she would say, but by then, the company was doing everything they could to convince me to stay, so they were being overly and obtusely nice to me. As long as Jo got to fly with me, I didn't care.

I was really glad Jo got the opportunity to fly while she was there. You can't go to Kapadokya and not get a balloon ride! Unfortunately, the flight before I had lost my gps, so I don't have a Google Earth image to show the flight path, nor do I have a .kmz file that you can load. It wasn't one of the better flights anyway, as we did not get a chance to get into any of the valleys and fly next to the rocks. We spent most of the flight at a rather high altitude for here. You can see the pictures Jo took by visiting the Turkey ballooning gallery. Those are all pictures she took from the day she flew with me. Wouldn't you know it was St. Patricks Day? How fitting, seeing that Joanne is Irish. The luck of the Irish was definitely with me that day, as I had no sooner left the ground and started heading north across the launch site when for some reason I looked down at the ground. Lo and behold! My gps! I start yelling at the crew and pointing to the ground. I think they thought something was wrong at first. None of them understand English very well. Somehow, I got one of them to go to the place I was pointing and just as I'm about to fall out of the balloon from looking over and trying to see if they found it, they did. So when I got back from the flight I have my gps back! How cool. And fortunate.

I flew twice more before leaving Kapadokya. The day after Joanne flew with me and I had found my gps, I flew again. Kind of a strange flight, as we just went straight north. Flew right over the top of Çavuşin though which was quite spectacular and something I hadn't done before. I also flew on the 20th. My last flight was a decent one, my last dip into Love Valley.
Below are the Google Earth images and links to the .kmz files. (Nice having my gps back) .
Chapter 32
Go West Young Man!
Joanne and I had many a discussion (and believe it or not, no arguments!) about what to do and where to go during our final week in Turkey. One thing was a given: we were going to see someplace other than Kapadokya. One of our original plans was to take a bus tour (most likely out of Ankara, since that's where we were flying out of on our trip home) , thinking that we wouldn't have to stress about driving and finding our way about, or about having to find places to stay and trying to make the reservations (especially when you don't know the language) . No doubt, had this been in the United States, we would have just winged it, and rented a car and taken a route that allowed us to see as much as possible. With an actual tour, most things like lodging and some if not most meals are all taken care of, so we were thinking we could just relax and enjoy the vacation. We were not having the best of luck finding information on the internet, so we ended up going into Ürgüp and talking with a travel agency there. At least they could give us some ideas and steer us in the right direction.

Before I had come to Turkey, I had found myself using one particular website quite a bit in any research I did. If it didn't have the information, it was at least a good starting point. For anyone planning on travelling to Turkey, I highly recommend the Turkey Travel Planner website. Lots of really good information about a lot of different aspects of the country. Anyway, this website had mentioned a particular travel agency located in Ürgüp, Argeus Tourism & Travel. So that's where we went, because I trusted the website. I have to say, the folks at Argeus were fantastic! Right off the bat I need to compliment both the travel office and the Turkey Travel Planner website for recommending them!
When we got to the travel office, we only had a basic idea of the kind of tour we were looking for. But they sat down with us, went over our list of what we wanted to see and why we wanted to see it, listened to our individual likes and dislikes and recommended what we should see and what we should skip. That was a big help, because really, we wanted to see more than what our one week would allow. The staff at Argeus was very knowledgeable, extremely helpful and courteous, and seemed to be genuinely interested in making our wishes come true. It started with the fact that we had at least 5 pieces of luggage (not including the 3 boxes of souvenirs that we had already sent home, which is a story unto itself, in fact it's the next chapter, so read on!) that we thought we were going to have to lug around with us for a week. Well, thanks to the travel agent, we didn't. Because we were going to spend our last night in Ankara (so we could catch our early morning flight home) they arranged for all of our luggage except what we needed for our weeklong trip, to go directly to the hotel in Ankara where it would be waiting for us at the end of the week. Oh yeah... at no cost! How cool is that?!! To make a long story shorter, here is what we wound up doing:
First, on the 25th, we would take a flight out of Kayseri and land in Izmir. Pick up in Uçhisar and transport to the Kayseri airport included at no charge. Once in Izmir, we rent a car and drive south to Selçuk. We would arrive in Selçuk, and the next day, take a small driving tour even further south to visit Priene, Miletos and Didym. Three of the better sites for ancient Greek ruins. The next day, we would visit St Johns Basillica, located only a couple of blocks from where we are staying, then go to the site of the Temple Of Artemis ruins, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Temple of Artemis is about a mile from the hotel and right on the way to the ancient city of Ephesus, which is only about 3 miles away. An easy walking tour with an entire day to do it. The following day, we would then take the car back to Izmir, and fly to Istanbul, where we would stay in the Sultanahmet district. Basically in the middle of where everything we want to see is. Within walking distance of the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. We will have two days there before flying back to Ankara in time to get a little shut eye before leaving for the States early the next morning.
This labeled map shows our itinerary
Really all it took was for Joanne and I to make a few decisions based on the agents input and the next thing you know, we're walking out with all of our reservations and tickets and everything. It couldn't have taken three hours. I was so impressed. Not only impressed, but extremely excited now that I knew exactly what we were going to be doing. However, at that time, we still had almost a week left in Kapadokya.
Chapter 33
Shop Till You Drop Ship
One of the activities Joanne and I did before we left Kapadokya, was souvenir shop. There were lots of people to shop for and time was running out. Yes, we still had a week in western Turkey, but for a lot of folks, I wanted something from Kapadokya, since that is where I spent most of my time and it was why I was here in the first place. Well, that's one thing that isn't hard to find in Kapadokya, souvenir shops. Problem is, most of them carry exactly the same stuff. Most of them likely have a different price, but the merchandise is all the same. A good variety of types of souvenirs, just that once you've seen a shop, you've seen almost all of them. And if the merchant knows you're looking, it can be one of the hardest sells you've ever been exposed to. Think used car salesman times a hundred. It got so bad, we dreaded trying to find something for the last couple of people on our list. Not that we didn't want to get them something, but it meant going on to another lot, so to speak.

I am going to digress just a bit here, while I mention souvenir shopping. I've told you, all the shops (well most of them anyway) are the same. Every once in a while one will have some things that are a little bit different but mostly they're the same. Because of that, I was having a very hard time finding something for one of my sisters. You see, she has been collecting tigers since I can remember. It's to the point that to find her anything tigerish that is different from something she already has is difficult. Well, I didn't care if the tiger I got her was similar to something she already had, the one I got her would be from Turkey, and I know she doesn't have any Turkish tiger anythings. Well, now I know why. They don't have tigers in Turkey. Seriously, it's not just the real animals that aren't here, but there are no toys, stuffed animals, carved figurines, anything. In fact, every time I asked for a tiger, I was shown a lion. THAT will tell you something! So I had just about given up and had decided to give her a camel and call it a Turkish Tiger. One day, while Jo and I were in Nevşehir we went into what amounts to the equivalent of the dollar store. Again, just looking around not really expecting to find anything, but more to try to get an idea for something else to get her. I go up and down every single aisle. We go upstairs and I see a suitcase for cheap and realize we're gonna need another one to get everything home, so I pick it up. We come back downstairs and when I get to the last aisle, the only one I haven't gone down yet, what do I see? A tiger!! WOW! I can't believe it! It isn't really the right color and almost looks lionish except it's striped. It's a tiger, but a poor example of one. Still, it will have to do. As I call Jo over to show her, I turn around to walk towards the checkout counter when I see another one! This one is a tiger. Right color and everything, a little larger than your normal size stuffed animal, but it's made as though it were lying on the ground except for it's front legs. The front legs are limp, so if you were to put this thing on a mantle or some sort of ledge the front legs would dangle. Kinda cool, definitely different. I throw that first tigerish thing I saw down and grab this one. I don't even look, I don't care how much it costs, I know I won the lottery now! As I'm walking towards the counter, one of the workers comes up to me and goes to grab the tiger. I spin around as fast as I can and I think I might even have snarled at the poor guy. I wasn't going to let this thing out of my sight! (All he wanted to do was show me something I might never have known if he hadn't of took the time to show me.) Obviously the fastest I can spin around isn't fast enough, as the guy grabs the front legs of the thing and as soon as he does, this growling roar comes from somewhere deep inside this stuffed animal. COOL! He shows me how to activate the "voicebox". COOL! Now I am thrilled! I've won the lottery and don't have to pay the taxes! We get back on the bus to Uçhisar carrying a suitcase and a stuffed tiger. People looked at me strange before this.... you should have seen some of the looks I was getting now. Well, it's only a 30 minute ride back home and I've got the only tiger in Turkey! If you happen to know my sister, ask to see this thing. It's unusual and believe me, as hard as it was to find, it must be somewhat rare.

So we're feeling pretty good, like we've been pretty sucessful considering our souvenir shopping (for those who didn't get anything, come visit me, I probably kept it :-)) , and then we realize. . . . how are we gonna get all this stuff home?!? Yep, we're going to have to send some of it home ahead of us. Luckily Joanne had sent a care package or two so we had a couple of small boxes, but they weren't going to fit everything. More importantly, where is the DHL office? Well, I had talked to a couple of the locals I had met while here and eventually found out that the United Parcel Service (UPS) had an office in Avanos. That's closer than Nevşehir, and smaller which would make the place easier to find also (or so we thought) . We made sure to buy the things we knew that wasn't going to fit in our luggage and get it all boxed up during Joannes first week there, while I still had the rental car. Good thing, as the trunk was about full (granted, it was a very small car) when we finally headed for the UPS store. I had what I thought was pretty good directions (and for the smart alecks out there, no my gps didn't have this particular UPS store on it, I AM in Turkey!) but when we got into Avanos and drove to where I was told it should be, it wasn't there. Actually it was there, we just didn't see it until about the 4th time we drove by it. And to call this a UPS "store" is misleading. For one, I was surprised UPS was in this area at all. I really thought I would have to use DHL, which is prevalent in Europe. I chose to use UPS believing that if the packages ever got to the US, UPS would have a better idea of where they go from there. Secondly, this particular "branch" located in Avanos, was new. Brand new. Brand spanking new. So new, that the only things in this place were a desk with a phone on it (later, I found out the phone had only been there a few days) . The young guy that was working there was nice enough. He just didn't speak any English. None. Not even my pocket translation dictionary was much help. I'd have to look up a word, show him the word in the dictionary, then he would look up his response (one word at a time) and show that to me. Back and forth we went like that until he understood I had a package to go to Amerika. He made a couple of phone calls, then it was more passing the dictionary back and forth, coupled with some hand signals. Oh.... I had more than one package? Some more back and forth with the dictionary some hand gesturing and he still didn't understand that I needed a box also. Finally, Joanne notices that behind the soba against the wall is a folded up box. She points to it and viola! I could literally see the light go on above his head! He goes through the door to the back room and comes back with a brand new box! High Fives all the way around! Boy, you would have thought we had just scored the winnng touchdown in the Super Bowl!
Feeling pretty good about our communication success (after all, it only took 90 minutes to get a box and explain where it was going) , we proceed to start packing the box. Uh oh.... we need another. Well this time, all we need to do is point to the box and he gets it. So now we have three boxes all packed and ready to ship. Uh oh.... I forgot that I wanted to ship some Raki home. Just like here in the states, shipping alcohol is a no-no. Okay, fine, I was just trying to get it home without drinking it. So we unwrap the box that has the Raki in it and re-pack it. Okay... now we're ready! By this time, another UPS guy has shown up, I think that was the first phone call the young guy made, and he at least speaks some English. Actually, his English is pretty good. At one point, the second guy, the one who speaks English, is on a cell phone in one ear and the office land line in the other ear. I think all we're trying to do here is determine where the packages are going. Specifically I mean, not just to Amerika, but where in Amerika. While this is going on, the first guy takes his 1940's vintage, hand held, spring loaded fish scale out to weigh the packages. A little bit more hand gesturing and passing the dictionary back and forth and we're all done! Good thing I didn't have anything else to do today. After 3 hours in the UPS office, (not to mention the 45 minutes and 4 or 5 laps around the village just to find the place) Joanne and I walk out $300 poorer and seriously wondering if the packages will ever make it out of Avanos. $300 is about 300 times what we paid for all the souvenirs together! If it hadn't been such a Keystone Kops hilariously screwed up scene in the office I might have been upset, but to this day, that's one of the things I know I'll never forget. Just the effort it took to get the stuff home. Just like everything else about this trip, you had better really want to do it bad, because it ain't gonna be easy.
Chapter 34
A Fond Farewell
So the day finally arrives, March 25, 2009. For the last couple of weeks, especially since Joanne arrived, Sancho had been spending as much time around us as possible. He wasn't looking forward to living here alone and being the only pilot. In some ways it was going to be to his advantage, but mostly he was going to be a bit lonely. I had really gotten to like Sancho. He was just a big kid.
Today was difficult. Overall, I had enjoyed my stay in Kapadokya, and I knew that I was probably never going to be back here. I was also excited about this last week ahead. For some strange reason, Mother Nature was being kind as well. Considering that two days before it was rather nasty and snowing, in fact it snowed enough that Sancho made this little snowman out on our terrace. Of course he named the snowman Efenden.
Sancho made this little snowman out on our terrace
A closer shot of the snowman
Joanne is laughing,
I'm sure Sancho said something
I really like Joanne's smile in this pic
My last look at Red Valley
My last look at Mt Erciyes
Tourists on the roof of the house next door
It was time. We said our goodbyes, grabbed our bags and headed up the street to the bus stop. Sancho came along and waited with us. Good thing, 'cause like I said, we had a bunch of luggage, so he helped us out. We pile it all in the van, climb inside and say goodbye to Sancho. It would normally be about an hour drive to the Kayseri airport, but this shuttle stopped in Avanos to pick up some others. By the time we got there, the realization had started and the adrenaline and excitement had begun to build.
I did my best to permanently imprint on my brain, as much of Kapadokya as I could. But just in case, I also took some pictures. My last views of a tremendous landscape, one which photos just can't capture faithfully.
While we were out there and just before we left, we heard these voices. We looked up and behind us, and on the roof of the house next to us, were these tourists taking pictures. I had to have a shot of them.
Our last day in Kapadokya was beautiful weather wise. We were to catch our ride to the Kayseri airport at 1 pm, so we spent the morning with Sancho, out on the deck, soaking up the sun. It was much harder to say goodbye than I anticipated.
Chapter 35
My first impression of the Kayseri airport was how small it was. I guess I should have known, but I'm just not used to the fact that so many people here travel by bus instead of air. An American thing I guess. Kayseri is the main airport for Kapadokya. But it still only services flights about 3 times a week, depending on where you're going. We were headed to Izmir, on the southern west coast. In order to get there, our flight first flew east. To Sivas. We didn't get off the plane and didn't have to wait too long for the passengers from there to board. I have to tell you right now that all of our flights on this trip will be on Turkish Airlines. We had a choice between Turkish Air and another airline that I wasn't familiar with, so we went with TA. Having never flown with them (if my flight from Chicago hadn't of been cancelled when I came over here, I would have taken a Turkish Air flight from Istanbul) I didn't know what to expect. I got my first inclination when we took off from Sivas. Now understand, I'm only a balloon pilot and don't fly airplanes, but enough of my close family (Dad, Uncle and Sister) have, that I know you are supposed to take off INTO the wind. When we left Sivas, we took off WITH the wind. I also know that jets have the capability to get enough speed to overcome that (as long as the wind isn't real strong) but still.... it's bad practice and made me a bit nervous. Takeoffs and landings are always the scariest part of any flight anyway, and here I know we are going with the wind. I think most passengers don't know you're supposed to go into the wind and even if they did, wouldn't be able to tell whether we were or not from inside the cabin any way. I just happen to see a wind sock from my window seat. Well, we get off the ground okay and settle into the flight. It should be somewhere between three to three and a half hours. About 45 minutes into the flight and the attendants start serving food. Once I see this, I realize I haven't eaten all day and now, knowing I'll soon have food in front of me, I'm very hungry. We had some sort of choice between two meals and what ever choice I made was the wrong one (more on that later) , not that it tasted bad or anything. On the contrary, the sub-like sandwich I ended up with was better than I expected. I even commented to Jo, how, for airline food, it was good. Flying Turkish Air made me remember back to, I won't say "Golden Age" of commercial air travel in the States, but back to when TWA and Pan-Am were still around. Excellent service that made you feel like they wanted you to fly on their airline (because back then they did) by hosts or hostesses that were attentive and courteous. Pretty uneventful the rest of the way as I'm trying to not get nervous about being in a strange airport in a strange country and trying to find the rental car area. I calm myself down by realizing that there is really no timetable and if we are late arriving in Selçuk then we are late. No big deal, we have a whole week to relax and enjoy and that's what the focus is going to be.
We arrive in Izmir (on time, I might add) and this airport is more like what I'm used to. It's not large (not by American standards anyway) but looks and feels more like a commercial airport. Surprisingly, I find the rental car area pretty easily and now comes the first test of how our travel agent did. Do they have our reservation? Yes, everything is in order. The guy brings the car right up to the door, we get in and we're off. To where? Yeah, yeah, I know the name of the town we're going to, but how the heck do I get out of the airport? And then what? Woohoo! This is going to be an adventure alright.
Somehow, I manage to find the way out of the airport and on the right highway, headed the right direction. (Again, no the car did not have gps!) We settle in for what should be maybe an hour drive. Unfortunately, it is dark and we don't get to see much. I do know that there is water off to my right somewhere. We'll get to see more of this drive in about 3 days, when we bring the car back and board our flight for Istanbul, because that is an afternoon flight.
We arrive in Selçuk in just about an hour. Not a big town at all, I'm not worried about getting lost or turned around, but I'll be damned if I can find the hotel. We stop and ask someone at a gas station. He points and says 3 blocks, which gets us to the turn we want. We turn off the main road and head up the hill. Still no luck. Again we ask someone, and this guy says, "yes, it's hard to find" and then gives specific directions that get us to the hotel. Another test of our travel agent: "Yes, we've been expecting you" was the response I get from the guy. This place is more like a bed and breakfast. They only have 11 rooms, decorated very traditionally. Once again, everything that the travel agent has said and done, has been spot on. Very nice little place right across from St Johns Basilica. The Nilya. If you're planning on visiting ancient Ephesus, this place is a great start. The owners were wonderful folks, and I put them to the test. Not on purpose and certainly not at my pleasure, but they could not have been more hospitable. They went out of their way to help me feel comfortable.
By the time we arrived at the hotel, it was getting late and it was time to eat. I wasn't sure if I was hungry or on the way to being sick. It had been quite some time since we had eaten, I knew it was time to eat, so I gave it a shot. We decided to walk to somewhere close (pretty much everything is close) and on the way down the hill, we meet a man who asks us where we are going. Believe me, by now, with all the hard sell Turks we've come across (one of the tactics they use is to befriend you, help you out and then say to you "visit my shop" to try and make you feel obligated, since they've already helped you) , we're a bit wary. The shops are closed and this guy seems genuine enough, but just the same, we just say "We are on our way to dinner". "Oh, let me show you a great spot" was his response. We say no thanks, we just going down the hill, and he is pretty insistant... no, determined... not quite sure what the right word is, but he was not going to leave us alone. He says this place is his favorite, it's right on the way to where he is going and is only a couple blocks farther than where we've said we are going. I don't like to be a snobby American tourist and am willing to try a local favorite, so we say okay. Sure enough, it's not much further and he leads us to this kebab place. He says goodnight and we thank him for being so kind. We order dinner, but this time I'm really starting to not feel so good. I thought it might be because I was so hungry, but once the food arrives, I'm not very hungry and not feeling good. I eat what I can, Joanne, by the way is feeling fine. It might not have been, no I KNOW it wasn't the best place we have eaten in Turkey, but I'm sure it was better than I remember. I have a bit of a hard time climbing up the hill to the hotel and by the time we get there, I'm sick. No doubt about it, I'm sick. Well, it's late and time for bed anyway, hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow.
Chapter 36
Didym, Priene and Milet
I awoke that morning, not having slept much or well the night before, not feeling so great. I felt better than when I went to bed, so I thought I would get better as the day went on. But when I went down to eat breakfast (included with the price of the room) I couldn't eat anything. I think the owner thought I didn't like the food, but I told him I wasn't feeling so well. This day, our first full day in Selçuk, we had planned to take the drive south and visit the three ancient Greek cities of Didym, Priene and Milet. Not knowing how far it was and thus trusting the travel agent who said, with a car, we could see all three in a day easily, (turns out he was right again) we headed out around 9 am.
This was our route from Selçuk to Didym
It's a pleasant drive, the sun is out and the cotton ball clouds are small and few. I have a good sense of direction and am good with maps, so as we start driving, I'm confident we won't have any problems finding these places. We went by or through a couple of villages on the way. Near Söke, I saw some objects in a small field by the roadway. Luckily we had to stop for a traffic light so I was able to see what was in this field. There were some people harvesting this very tall grass-like stuff and tying the individual shafts into small bundles. They would then stand these bundles on end and lean them up against other similar bundles, so that these stood up bundles resembled a teepee. I have no idea what it was, or why they were doing it (although I assume it was to dry the stuff) , but here are the photos :
Workers stand the grass bundles on end
Teepees of grass stand in a small field
I don't know how long it took us to get there, probably around and hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. We weren't quite there yet when coming around a corner and cresting a hill, right in front of us was the Aegean Sea! I had to stop and take a couple of pictures. I had never seen the Aegean Sea before. If we had been closer to the water, both of us would have gone and stuck a foot in it I'm sure.
This is the first look I had
Joanne standing by the Aegean Sea
There was this small harbor here also
I knew immediately when we were there. How? Because long before you get there, you can see the two tall columns rising into the air.
This is the first thing you see when you go to Didym
There is still a small village at Didim, and the ruins are right in the middle of it. There is not a lot of parking real close (I wouldn't want to go during peak tourist season) and once you get out of the car, be prepared for the onslaught of hard sell souvenir vendors. After you get inside, you are safe until you return to your car. For more pictures of the ruins at Didym, see our gallery.
From Didym, we drove to Priene. Logically we should have stopped at Miletos on the way to Priene, but I didn't know where I was going, didn't see any signs for Miletos, so missed the turn. There were plenty of signs pointing the way to Priene.
Our route from Didym to Priene
You can see the armchairs in the
front row of the theater
Jo sitting in one of the armchairs
Me sitting in one of the armchairs
The last standing columns of the Temple of Athena
Jo standing in front of the columns
Our route from Priene to Miletos
The huge theater at Miletos
From the top of the theater looking
across Lions Harbor at the stoa
For more pictures of Priene, see our gallery.
As we made our way back to the main road, we stopped at the little collection of tourist trap shops at the base of the hill coming down from the ruins. We walked into this rock shop I guess you would call it. The guy had all kinds of carved marble stuff. He was very nice and even took us to the back of his shop and showed us how he does his craft. He took a small piece of stone and in about 5 minutes had made a little egg out of it. Polished and everything, he just gave it to Joanne. We asked him, and he told us how to get to Miletos from there.
For more pictures of Miletos, visit our gallery.
When we arrive back in Selçuk, I'm in no shape to eat or do anything. I go right to bed, although I won't sleep very much tonight.
Boy was I glad to get a chance to sit! Alexander the Great stayed in Priene during his siege of Miletos. Alexander had many of the temples rebuilt in the cities he conquered. The columns of the Temple of Athena here in Priene stand out against the mountain behind them. Having to crawl over and around some of the parts of fallen columns makes you appreciate the size and scope of a lot of the buildings back then.
Luckily, when we got to Miletos, there were a couple of places to eat. I hadn't eaten all day, and although I wasn't really hungry, I knew I should try to eat. It might help me feel better. Joanne had lunch. I picked at mine and had very little, I was really starting to feel worse. But hey! We're here, so I might as well walk a bit and see it, even if I am going to be a bit slow.
Miletos used to be on the coast where the river meets the sea. But the river carried with it lots of silt, and now, several centuries (1000 to 1300 years) later, it lies miles from the sea. Today it is known for its huge theater. Until the Byzantines built a fortress on the top (reducing its seating capacity to 15,000) , the theater would hold a crowd of 24,000. About the only columns you'll see are whats left of the Ionic Stoa, a market that held 19 shops and had 35 columns in front of it. It was located near the head of Lions Harbor. Miletos at one time had at least 5 harbors. Lions Harbor and one right in front of the theater, so that when seated in the upper rows, you looked out over the harbor. You see water in the photos. Places that used to be harbors are still low lying and when it rains, the water sits.
By the time we got there, I was starting to feel worse and did not feel like walking a whole lot. I toughed it out though and am glad I did. Priene was built on a high spot and the mountain that sits behind it makes it quite a site. The ruins here are much more extensive as well. The ruins at Didym were just the Temple of Apollo. Priene is almost the entire city. The most spectacular parts of the ruins at Priene are the theater, with its armchair seats and the columns of the Temple of Athena.
Chapter 37
My illness, whatever it was, got really bad the evening we returned from visiting the three ancient cities of Priene, Miletos and Didym. I was running a fever, and at times was shaking. My stomach hurt so bad I didn't want to move. I don't know if I've ever been that sick, but if I have, its been so long ago I don't remember. Maybe when I was a kid and had the measles or the mumps or something. I was in bad shape. I don't think I need to tell you I didn't eat dinner that night. When Joanne came back from dinner, the hotel owners sent some toast up with her. They saw her go to dinner alone and asked how I was doing. Like I said, they were very nice and did everything to try and make our stay there as pleasant as possible. I suffered through the night, not sleeping, up and in the bathroom every ten minutes, doubled over in pain. I don't think Jo slept that much either, just because of me. The next morning, our second day in Selçuk, we had planned on walking across the street to St Johns Basilica and then on to the Temple of Artemis and Ephesus. By the time morning arrived, Joanne was convinced I should just stay home in bed. Sorry, but that wasn't going to happen. I came all this way and will probably never be here again. I am not going to not see these things! As Joanne went down to breakfast, I stayed in bed, preparing my mind for what I knew was going to be a difficult day, trying to walk around while I'm this sick. I was determined not to let being sick ruin the day or the trip.

When Jo was done with breakfast she made one last attempt at trying to convince me to abandon our plans and just stay home. Didn't happen, I got dressed and we walked across the street to St Johns Basilica. This place was originally built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Not as old as most of everything else we've seen or will see, but this is an incredible sight. According to legend, the apostle John, author of the 4th Gospel and the book of Revelation, spent his last years in Ephesus and died there. He was buried on this hill outside of town. It was then and still is an important site to Christians, so in the 4th century, the memorial that was here was enclosed by a church. Justinian then built the magnificent cathedral that we see the ruins of today. If this place was still intact, it would be the 7th largest church in the world, even today.
Me sitting in the baptismal
Me standing next to an engraving
From behind the tomb towards the entrance
The tomb of St John
To see more photos of our visit to St Johns Basilica, please see our gallery.

The Temple of Artemis and Ephesus were the other direction from the hotel, so since it was on the way, we stopped back at the room so I could rest. Jo kept saying we didn't have to do this, but like I said, there was no way that years later I say that I didn't see Ephesus because I was sick that day. Worse yet, having Joanne say she didn't see Ephesus because I was sick that day. A little rest and some more mind games with myself and I'll be alright.
We walk to the Temple site, me having to stop every so often. There really isn't much to see there, one column is all that's left. What was notable to me, was that the site is in a low spot and was very swampy. If it's summer and dry, you can walk around the low spot and tell how big the Temple was, as there are still bases to columns there and other evidence of its existence.
St Johns Basilica, the Fortress
and Isa Bey Mosque behind
The only thing left of the Temple of Artemis
To show some scale,
this pic has people in it
Curetes Street, the first thing you see
Hercules Gate
Library of Celsus
The Theater in Ephesus
To see more pictures of the Temple of Artemis, please visit our gallery.

The two mile walk to Ephesus seemed like ten, if not a hundred. Normally, two miles is nothing for me, especially on a flat paved path or road. But I was suffering and kept having to stop. At one point Jo wanted to go back and get the car, but I figured by the time we walked back to the hotel, we could be at Ephesus, so I declined. Finally, we turn off the main road and start walking towards the site. I knew we were close. The road went straight for a bit, but then made a sharp right turn and headed up a slight incline. I stopped. "I don't know if I can make it" I said. As close as we were, as far as we had come and when I saw that slight incline I just about died. I sat there for a while (not sure how long, but I needed some time to convince myself I could do this) . I was sweating, my stomach hurt and I didn't really feel like moving. Not even to go back to the hotel. Somehow, (I'm sure it was that whole "I'm not going to miss this" thing) I manage to get to my feet and complete the walk to the gate. We're here! I did it! There was a small amount of relief. In the parking lot, I notice a bunch of buses and taxis. On the way to the gate, one of the taxi drivers comes up to us and explains that what we really want to do is enter at the other gate because Ephesus is located on the side of a hill. If we enter here, we will be walking up the hill, but if we enter at the other gate, we will be walking down the hill. Well, he didn't have to work very hard to convince me, there was no way I was going to be walking up hill the whole day! Hence all the buses.... the tours drop off their people at the upper gate and then the buses meet them down here. Same with all the taxis. They know that this is where everyone comes out, and that their cars (if they happened to drive) are at the other gate, and if they're like us and walked, they are tired of walking and want a ride back to where they're going. Which is what we did. When we were done, we took a taxi back to the hotel. So of course this taxi driver stands to make some money by telling us this, but really, I'm glad he told us, so we hop in his car. Now when this guy offered to take us up to the other gate, he told us that we could take a regular taxi, and pay what ever the charge is (or we could walk, of course) , or we could ride with him for free. The catch was, he would first take us to this school, where people (mostly women) learn to weave carpets. We'd be taken on a tour of the school and learn all about how carpets are made. Then of course, at the end of the tour, they are hoping we buy a carpet. That was fine with me, I was ready for some serious rest, especially if I was going to make the 2 mile walk it takes to see Ephesus. Really, the carpet school thing was pretty cool... we saw the whole process, from the silk cocoons they collect to start with, how they process them to get the silk and the different weaving processes depending on whether the weaver is using silk or wool. We really learned a lot and I actually enjoyed it. Yes, at the end they are selling you carpets. We had already bought two very small ones in Göreme, but I kind of felt (and yes, this is what they're hoping for) like what I had learned was worth something, so we bought another one. This one is quite a bit nicer and larger. They even shipped it home for us. I know, we're suckers, but I'll never be back again, so it's nice to have a nice carpet. It gave me a chance to rest up for the walk through the ruins.
Ephesus is really impressive. You could insert every known adjective here and it probably still wouldn't describe it accurately. We were so amazed and enthralled at the history, beauty, size and everything, that I had actually forgotten how bad I was feeling. It wasn't until the very end while walking to the Church of Mary that I started to really feel bad again. To be honest with you, I don't know how I did it and I'm sure I could have enjoyed it more had I not been sick, but in the end, I made it and it was way worth it!
To see more pictures of our visit to Ephesus, please see our gallery.

The Library of Celsus is probably the most famous of Ephesus' buildings and is what comes to mind when one thinks of Ephesus. The Theater is huge and could seat 25,000 people. From the top it offers quite the view and just like the one at Miletos, looks out over the harbor. The harbor is now miles away, but Ephesus was once a coastal city. I found the Hercules Gate to be interesting. Below the gate, towards the harbor, where all the common places are found (stoa, latrine, brothel, etc) the streets were wide enough for chariot traffic. The Hercules Gate was made narrow on purpose to stop chariots, so that the upper part of the city (where the agora was, and governmental functions took place) was free of chariot traffic, and was foot traffic only. I must mention, that although Joanne and I did not take a guided tour, we did rent the audio devices and found that the audio really added to the experience. I would highly recommend them.
All in all, our time here on the South Western coast had been very enjoyable and is well worth the trip. In fact if you come to Turkey and don't see Ephesus, you'll have to come back! Even though I had somehow made the walking tour of Ephesus, I was completely exhausted. As I mentioned earlier, we took a taxi back to the hotel and I laid down and tried to rest until the next day. I was supposed to drive us back to Izmir so we could catch our early afternoon flight to Istanbul. I hope I'm capable of driving, as Joanne has never driven a car with a manual transmission.
Chapter 38
I had spent another restless, sleepless night in Selçuk, but in the morning I felt like I could make the drive back to Izmir. Once again, I did not eat breakfast. After thinking about it, I really haven't ate since I left Kapadokya. I had the one sandwich on the plane (which is looking more and more like the reason I'm sick) and after that not much. Just enough here and there to make sure my jaw still works. I may as well have been just chewing gum. We get packed and I make an apology to the hotel owner and his wife. They were great and we enjoyed our stay it's just that I wasn't feeling well. Once again, I will recommend this place for anyone wanting to visit Selçuk and the surrounding area. It's the Nilya. The link will take you to their website. Anyway, we make the drive back to the Izmir airport and return the car uneventfully. Another test of our trip organizer is passed without issue as we catch our flight to Istanbul. Once we get off the plane, grab our luggage and start heading for the door, we realize the one little thing our travel agent left up to us. Transportation from the Istanbul airport to the Otel Mavi Ev (Blue House Hotel) , which is where we have our reservation for our stay here. As we were walking towards the exit, I remembered that our travel expert had said that it will be easy to get a taxi and won't cost much, its not worth paying to have us set up your transportation now. I also remembered he said something about how to not get ripped off by the taxi guy too, but of course right now I can't remember just what it was he said about that. Well, we do get a cab fairly easily, and whether or not we got ripped off.... well it really doesn't matter now. I have to remember that we're in a big city now (with an official population of 12.8 million, Istanbul is the 5th largest city in the world) and to be a bit more on the aggressive side. Especially when trying to get a cab from the airport.
The "Blue House Hotel"
Sultanahmet Distric circled on map of Istanbul
The view of the Blue Mosque from our room
As you can tell, our hotel was quite close to the Blue Mosque. So close in fact that we heard something that we hadn't heard since we were in Kapadokya. The call to prayer every few hours. Like I wasn't already having a hard enough time getting rest with being sick and all, now the chants are so loud there's no way I'm going to get much sleep. We decide to visit the Blue Mosque anyway. It's actually the first place we went, since it was the closest. We were going to go inside, but Jo didn't bring the proper attire. Not that big a deal to me and the outside is still quite impressive. You can see more photos of the mosque in our Istanbul gallery.
Next up was the Hagia Sophia. This place was the largest cathedral on the planet for over 1000 years. The Blue Mosque was built to rival it. This place has no dress restrictions, so we are able to tour the inside. I think what was most impressive were the tile mosaics on the ceiling.
One of the mosaics on the ceiling
You can see more images from the Hagia Sophia in our Istanbul gallery.

From there we went a couple of blocks and entered the Underground Cistern. This too, was built by Justinian in the 6th century B.C., to hold water that was brought from the forest about 12 miles away. They have done a great job with the lighting down here and the effects are dramatic. Two of the columns use Medusa heads as their base.
Jo standing next to the Medusa head
The lighting effects can be dramatic
After coming out of the cistern we headed to Topkapi Palace, which is where the Sultans that ruled during the Ottoman period lived. Kind of like the White House of the Ottomans. No pictures, as I was getting tired and did not find this too interesting. Mostly Muslim stuff from what I would call the middle ages, 1400 - 1500 A.D. For some it would be more interesting, but to me, not so much. Lots of opulence there however. Seemed like everything was gold.

Well, that was a full day!

Tomorrow we will head to the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar.
The Grand Bazaar is just that. A huge indoor market place with over 3000 shops. Can be a little overwhelming. And it is certainly 3000 times worse than having used car lots lined up down the street and the salesmen paid on commission only. It took the hard sell of Kapadokya to a whole new level. I'm glad we went just to see it and not to get souvenirs. As it was, by the time we left (and we did not spend a whole lot of time there) Jo was pretty done with the whole thing. Bless her soul, I know women that would spend the rest of their life in there! Not really my thing, but it was neat to experience it, I don't think there is anything quite like it anywhere else.
A shop full of Turkish Delights
inside the Spice Bazaar
Everyone will tell you that the Grand Bazaar has been around since 1461. But that's just the building part of it. Traders and merchants have been doing business on this site in Istanbul for way longer than that. The Spice Bazaar is the second largest covered market in Istanbul (obviously the Grand Bazaar is the largest) and dates back to the 1600's. Both of these places are huge and be prepared.... the experience is exhausting. The Spice Bazaar was actually a bit of a walk, through one of the oldest parts of Istanbul, where the streets are narrow and crowded. It wasn't the easiest to find either, but we did manage. Looking back, I wonder how after having such a hard time finding it, then spending probably an hour and a half inside, I ever found the way back to the hotel. I know we were both tired of walking after that day. Big cities really aren't our thing anyway, so we were definitely ready to come home.
None the less, we're in the cab headed for our hotel.
Sure enough, just as advertised, it's a blue house. It's actually quite nice, nothing lavish like some of the more modern hotels, but 5 star and yet very traditional. The best part is its location. Within walking distance of all the sights to see in the Sultanahmet district.
We've got two days here as well, not including our arrival day. The day we arrive, it was late afternoon/early evening by the time we got checked into our hotel and up to the room. We've got a little bit of down time to relax before we go try to find Joanne something to eat. I was better than the day we went to Ephesus (which was the worst of them all) but I still wasn't feeling real well, so dinner was a scary prospect. I know I need sustenance, but do I risk eating someplace I'm not familiar with and get worse just when I'm about to get better? I know it's hard to believe, but I'm not all that hungry anyway. We find a little spot close to the hotel and I do manage to eat a little bit. I ate as much this night as I did in all the days we were in Selçuk put together. Still not much, but I'm finally starting to feel better. It's still fairly early, but we go back to the hotel so I can rest before we go sight seeing tomorrow. Our room had this great view of the Blue Mosque.
Jo standing outside the Grand Bazaar
The Hagia Sophia from across the street
Chapter 39
Homeward Bound
So we arrange for transportation to the airport the night before, through the hotel. That's the last thing I want is to miss my flight home! I don't know whether it was because I was still not feeling %100, or because of the chants from the Blue Mosque, or whether it was because I was excited to be going home, but I certainly did not sleep well that night. I haven't had a good nights sleep since I left Kapadokya. Haven't really eaten that much either. In fact I was a little concerned about what the long trip home was going to do to me. I know Joanne was concerned about that also. We get to the airport and catch our flight to Ankara without any problems. We are both pretty worn out not only from this trip, but we were on the go alot ever since Joanne got to Kapadokya. She has been gone for 3 weeks, I've been gone for 3 months. Yeah, we're looking forward to going home, but we still have a 20-some hour trip ahead of us tomorrow before we get there. It's early evening when we arrive in Turkey's capitol city and the real test of our travel agents expertise is upon us. Not just do you have our reservations, but do you have our luggage that was supposed to be here a week ago? Maybe that's the reason I didn't sleep last night. No, they have all of our bags AND our reservation. Wow. I am definitely impressed. This whole trip went off without a single problem. I absolutely have to recommend them again. Argeus Tourism & Travel. If you ever need travel services either to or while in Turkey, these are the guys. This trip could have really been a nightmare, but it was just the opposite. It was just what we wanted and asked for. Absolutely a trip of a lifetime. Especially for me, having been able to experience a dream come true by flying balloons in Kapadokya.
Well, we're not home yet... not by 20-some odd hours. We catch our shuttle from the hotel to the airport at oh-dark-thirty and get on the plane headed for Germany. Because Joanne's flight was booked several weeks before mine, this first flight is the only one we'll have together. But when Jo booked my flight, she made sure that we at least had this first flight together. When we get to Frankfurt, by the time we figure out that I need to go to the other terminal to catch my flight, I am walking out the door of the one we are in when the security guy says the shuttle is just leaving now, if you run you can catch it. Joannes flight left out of the terminal we were in. I felt really bad, because I didn't have time to kiss her. As I ran out the door I turned and waved but it was going to be quite some time and a whole lotta plane travel before we saw each other again. I didn't get over it until I did see her. Then I made up for it, but we won't go there :-)
For some reason, while we were in Ankara checking our bags, there was some confusion and all of our luggage got checked with me. So, when I get to Atlanta (which is where I flew to from Frankfurt) I've got like six bags plus my carry on to take through customs. And about 45 minutes to do it. Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world. Every year since 2000, using passenger numbers, Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world. And I've got more luggage than will fit on one luggage cart. To go through international customs. Yeah, this ought to be fun. It was surprisingly painless, if you exclude having to load the luggage cart, then unload it to put the luggage through customs, then load it back up again. It was all there and there were no glitches getting through customs. In fact, if you exclude the sheer number of hours, the trip went very well. The only thing that happened was that right as we were pushing away from the gate in Atlanta (on the way to Salt Lake City) a passenger got sick and puked. So we had to go back to the gate, get the passenger off the plane or medically approved to fly or something. Not to mention the clean up in aisle 3. We left Atlanta just over one hour late. Hmmmm.... my itenerary says I've got 45 minutes from the scheduled arrival time until scheduled take off for my connecting flight. It was going to be close without this happening. At this point, all I want to do is get home, but believe me, after what I went through just getting to Turkey (see Chapter 1) I am so close to home now that this doesn't really bother me much. Besides, I know if I miss my flight in SLC because of this, I will get another flight paid for. And if I have to spend the night in SLC I know the airline will pay for it. Although to be honest with you, if I was in Salt Lake and no flights were leaving until morning, I might just take the bus or something. Well, turns out I don't have to worry about it. The pilot had his foot in it (is that even possible?) and made up about 40 minutes of the hour we were late. My connecting flight in Salt Lake City was held until I got there. Okay, there were actually 3 of us and it wasn't just me. But after almost 30 hours of travel, I had to run through the airport to catch my last flight. When I got on the plane I was as tired as I've been in a long time.
So I get into Idaho Falls about 2 hours before Joanne. Now you have understand, Idaho Falls is not a busy airport. I'm the only one there after everyone from my flight leaves. So I've been sitting there, half sleeping with all my luggage piled around me for an hour when one of the guys that works there says "Hey! You can't stay here!". I try to explain to him that I'm just waiting for my ride home, but I'm very tired, in no mood for any hassels and there seems to be some sort of misunderstanding. He was gonna call security or the cops or something because he was afraid I was gonna live there or something. We finally get it straightened out but now my blood is pumping and I'm not going to sleep. That was pretty much the last little event. Joanne arrived on time and we were home. FINALLY!
When I first started to prepare to come to Turkey, I knew then that I didn't know what to expect or how it was going to turn out. So even though some aspects of the trip didn't work out as I would have liked them to, other aspects were far better than I thought possible. All in all I enjoyed my time there and look back with fondness and remember the good things. I am only reminded of the other parts when I am first thinking about a good memory. There is no way I would trade the experience for anything. One of the main reasons I decided to take on this adventure was for the experience. And I got it.
If you're reading this, chances are you've read the whole saga. My thanks to you, for without those people who were interested enough to read at least the first 19 chapters (while I was still blogging live) and expressed to me their enjoyment in doing so, these last chapters would never have been written. Again my thanks and appreciation for your time, I hope you found it to be entertaining and worth your while.

If any of you have any questions or comments about this saga or my time in Turkey in general, please feel free to email me. Or hopefully, you will book a flight in the Tetons with us and we can talk about it in person.
P.S. - I ended up losing between 10 and 15 pounds that last week in Turkey. About a month after I got home, I experienced an intestinal blockage and while at the hospital had some blood tests done. About a week after that, I got a call from the regional disease control office. The guy said my blood test revealed the Campylobacter bacteria, so he was required to ask me all these questions about how I may have contracted it. Once I told him I had been in Turkey for 3 months, he seemed to relax a bit. That's what had made me so sick, Campylobacter. For more some basic FAQ on the bacteria, click here.
First of all, Kapadokya (Cappadocia) is not a town or state. The term refers to a region of the Central Anatolian Plateau area of Turkey, that is world famous for its geological formations known as "fairy chimneys". It is also known for its underground cities.
The area is so popular with tourists that there are about 8 different balloon companies, each with several balloons that carry anywhere from 10 to 35 people at a time. All told, the balloon industry in Kapadokya can carry more than 500 people per flight.

The company I worked for had two balloons. One could carry 24 the other 20. For those that know balloons, we had a Cameron A-400 (400,000 cu. ft.) and a Cameron Z-315 (315,000 cu. ft.).
The 35 passenger balloons of the other companies were significantly larger than 500,000 cu. ft.!
Those are large balloons!

You may ask (and maybe not, but I'm going to tell you anyway) how I came to fly balloons in Turkey of all places. Well, it all started right after I got my commercial balloon pilots license. I was looking for a way to continue to make a living flying balloons in the winter months, when I'm not flying in Teton Valley.
I saw an ad on the internet for pilots wanted in Turkey. I did a little investigation into where and what and from the photos I saw, I thought it looked like a very cool place to fly, so I looked into it a little more.
At that time, the ad stated that the minimum requirement was for the pilot to have at least 300 hours. Most other balloon pilot jobs required a minimum of 500 hours.
Since then I had looked forward to the day that I had enough hours to qualify.

Towards the end of our season in Teton Valley, Joanne and I were talking about our options for the winter. Although I had mentioned to her when we first met, that I could pretty much go anywhere in the winter and had told her of my dream of someday flying Turkey, it was one of those "someday" things that you never really think is going to happen. Like I said, Joanne and I were discussing our options, so naturally the subject of exotic places to fly (like Turkey and Australia) came up. I went to show her the old pilots wanted ad. That is when I noticed that there was a brand new ad for pilots wanted in Turkey so I responded. A few emails, lots of waiting and some cash made it happen. The most difficult part was the 6 weeks of waiting to hear if my application for work visa had been approved (so I could board a plane a few days later) or whether my hopes and dreams had been dashed.

Throughout the chapters, you can click on most images to see a larger version.
This is where Turkey is, in relation to nearby countries. Roll over image to see the general area where Kapadokya is located.
Click for an even closer look at Kapadokya!
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Scenic Flights over Teton Valley
Teton Balloon Flights
We meet in the parking lot of the Broulim's grocery store in downtown Driggs. It's very easy to find, located right on the main highway that runs through town.
If you plan on exploring either Teton or Darby Canyons, sightsee through Teton Pass, visit Driggs or continue on to Yellowstone through the West Gate, you can meet us near our launch site.

Our local pickup site is easy to find!
Click on the buttons below to explore our photo gallery, get links to some of our favorite sites or read about Kevins' ballooning adventure in Turkey.
Our photo galleries are divided into different catagories.
Click on the catagory button to view the gallery.
First, a little background.

In November 2008, Teton Balloon Flights' owner and Chief Pilot, Kevin, was hired to fly balloons by a company in Turkey. In order to keep friends and family informed while there (phone calls being prohibitively expensive), he posted web pages every day or so, that anyone who was interested, could go to and see what he was up to. Although the pages have been reformatted and restyled since the original posting, the pictures, contents and story are the same.

This story has 39 "chapters".
The first 19 of which, were posted to "live", while Kevin was in Turkey and usually just a day or two after being written. Most of these pages were written "in the moment", as a way of trying to communicate not just what happened but also to capture the feeling and emotion of it. After chapter 19, Kevins' laptop died, so the last 20 chapters were posted "after the fact", after Kevin was back in the U.S. and had access to a computer again. These pages were written from the personal journal and notes Kevin had kept, in place of being able to "blog" live, so they might have what seems to be a different perspective than the first chapters.

Hope you enjoy the saga!

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