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Fly away in a balloon

Sridevi Gopalan, Feb 2 2018, 9:26 IST

One of my biggest fears has always been flying. My husband wanted me to come out of that, so he kept pushing me to be part of different flying experiences, apart from normal flights, like roller-coaster and helicopter rides.
So we decide to experience hot air ballooning in Cappadocia in Central Turkey. We flew from Bengaluru to Istanbul by Kuwait Airways. After spending two nights in Istanbul, we took a flight to Bodrum, a city in Bodrum peninsula, stretching from Turkey's southwest coast to the Aegean Sea.

The city has twin bays and offers a view of the Bodrum Castle. This medieval fortress was built partly with stones from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, which is one of the 'Seven Wonders of the Ancient World', completed in 4th century BC.

After spending two nights here, we took a EuropaMundo coach tour. We visited different cities like Marmaris, Dalyan, Fethiya, Antalya, Konya, Avanos and reached Cappadocia by road. Cappadocia is known for its distinctive 'fairy chimneys' which are tall, cone-shaped rock formations clustered in Monks Valley, Göreme.

This is a modern city with a lot of markets.. Our guide informed us that we have to start at 5.30 am the next day for the once-in-a life-time experience tour.

We woke up to a freezing morning. After a 20-minute-drive, we reached an open area. Our guide took us to the hot air balloon. Before entering, they served us hot tea and snacks. A hot air balloon is a lighter than an aircraft and consists of a bag called an envelope which contains heated air. Suspended beneath is a gondola or a wicker basket, which carries passengers and a source of heat, in most cases, an open flame. In that big basket, there were four partitions, each accommodating seven passengers.

All of us got in and the captain briefed us about how it works. The balloon took off smoothly. The next one hour was amazing. The landscape was something that one had never witnessed before.

We saw yellow, red, purple, black, white and different layers of sedimentary volcanic rocks. I was hypnotised by the spectacular landscape below me. We gently drifted over the fairy chimneys, through valleys scattered with pigeon houses, over orchards and vineyards. Our captain also flew between the mountains. It was also great to see 100 balloons flying high in the air.

A hot air balloon can fly up to 800 ft only. After one hour of flying, it was time to land. Wow! I should say that was an art. Our captain got us down close to his truck and landed it on the trailer without any difficulty. After landing, the crew served us champagne and some snacks. They handed each one of us a flying certificate.

Now after this experience, I think I can manage my flying fear. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has a fear of flying to overcome the same.

(The author can be contacted at devigopalan@rediffmail.com)

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