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TURKEY
These pages document my time spent flying balloons in Kapadokya . . .
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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 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
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.
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
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.
One of my favorite shots of the flight.
The back side of the first point of interest with Uçhisarin the distance
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.
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
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...
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 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 . . .
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
Home for a hobbit?
The end of the valley, notice the steps
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.
Click either image for a larger version

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)
Flight path in relation to Uchisar
closer look at flight path from different angle
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.
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