We are up with the sparrows this morning (and that is something else we have noticed, plenty of wildlife – unlike China were we hardly saw any, not even very many birds). Not many slept well last night, a combination of over heated rooms and over excited big kids. For most of us it is our first balloon ride.
Although Turkey is not part of the EU there are a lot of operators and hotels here advertising their charges in Euros. We find it pretty confusing. We convert back to the NZD value so we know what we are really spending, and we also need to work out how many Lira we need because hardly anyone has Euros on them. Sounds like a cunning plan to us, to try and screw a few more bucks from the tourists. EU150 ($280) each for the balloon ride.
At 5.30am we are on the bus to the balloon flight site. It is a cool, but very clear morning, just perfect for the balloon ride. We are given coffee and biscuits while the balloons are inflated. We see many other balloons on the way, and wonder how many are going up today. The most we counted in flight at once was 51, it was an amazing sight. Words cannot adequately describe this ride, or the whole day for that matter.
The huge basket is divided into five sections, with the gas bottles and burners in the middle. Passenger sections hold about five or six people each, and we hoist ourselves up into the basket. We lift off and the amount of control the pilot has is amazing. We fly low over nearby areas and then head up to around 1000 feet above the ground as the sun rises over the hill behind us. We thought it would have been colder up here, but there is a bit of warmth from the burners, despite the heat deflectors. We stay up high and can see the other balloons around us, it is a fantastic sight. A few of us were not too keen on heights, but coped well as long as we looked out. Don’t look down, oops, just did, and there is a bit of a sick feeling as the stomach churns somewhat. Won’t be doing that again! We come down very low into a valley, you feel like you can touch the sides we are that close. We rise up over the top and the basket brushes through the tree tops, we are sure the pilot did that on purpose.
We are back at the hotel for breakfast just after 8am, and an hour later we are on the road to see some of the most amazing landscape around. We are taken to Derinkuyu, an underground city. Used mainly as defence, these cities can be up to eight stories underground. It was only used where necessary as it was a bit claustrophobic, kitchens and animal housing are near the top so the whole place doesn’t pong. They had food storage areas, even a school room and a winery! Passageways were very narrow (to reduce the risk of cave in) and we are down to a crawl in some places. The stairs are also steep, and from time to time there is a big round stone to roll across the doorway to block intruders.
It is mind boggling when you consider how much work went into this underground city, all of it dug out by hand. Soft rock it may be, but that is still a hell of a lot of work. Ventilation shafts and chimneys are not always vertical so that light and smoke are more easily concealed from the enemy. Cooking fires were only allowed at night so smoke was less visible. There is a spring deep underground, and you have to wonder how they knew it was there.
Back out into the bright sunlight and we are pleased that the day has stayed so pleasant. The rest of the day is mostly spent outdoors as we are to explore in the Goreme Valley and surrounding areas. Once again it is very difficult to describe the amazing landscape.
Here the locals have carved their homes and churches out of rock. The amount of work this must have taken is mind blowing. Amazing what people can do when there is no TV! There are small holes in the rock, and this is where pigeons were kept. They were farmed for their poo, which was the only fertiliser used in the area.
We go to a Turkish carpet factory where we are fed Turkish pizza and offered tea, coffee, raki, vodka. The work is amazing, and we see examples of silk and cotton work. Some of these are priced in the thousands of Euros, a wee bit out of our price range. A few in the group make a purchase.
At Zelve we get the chance to better explore the area. Until as few years ago Tony used to think that the planet scenes in “Star Wars 5 – Return of the Jedi” were computer generated, but here is the town in all its glory. Needless to say there was plenty of fiddling with the photography, but this place actually did exist, and it is amazing!!
We set off to explore, we have a pretty free reign on things as there are only a couple of areas roped off. Some of us are like kids in candy shop, and we have so much fun to explore. Cynthea leaves Tony to explore the steep bits on his own. Once again OSH would have a field day here as people are expected to use common sense. We follow the signs around to a tunnel in the rock – we should have bought the torch, but it is back on the bus. Some have been through already and tell us where the tunnel goes off to, it is pitch black in many places and like all caves you need to tread carefully. The first challenge is a very steep stairway, the centre of the steps are worn away and we find it easier to climb up with backs to the wall and feet planted at the sides of the stairs. We cannot see a thing, and make use of the camera pre-flash to light the way. From time to time someone sets their flash goes off, and we have to wait until we see better. Some of feel a bit apprehensive about all this, but the others had no trouble finding their way so we just need to take things very slowly and check before each step. It doesn’t pay to lean against the rock either, as now and then there is a hole in the wall. We are relieved to come out the other side where there is a steep ladder down to flat ground. A couple of us head up the other side on the way back to the bus. Tony hears a rustling in the grass, and spots a tortoise moving at quite a pace. There is beautiful colouring on the shell, and as Tony picks it up it withdraws into the shell. Tony puts it back down to get a photo, the head pops out, sees Tony and hides again. Tony eventually gets the photo and heads back to the bus.
We travel to the next valley where there are the phallic fairy chimneys. Some interesting photo opportunities here! A couple of the guys take up the challenge of running up a near vertical wall to get on to a ledge. After several attempts Andrew makes it up there.
We stop at a village store for some cheap beer, water and snacks. The beers are TYL3.25/$2.80 for a 500ml can, and the water is TYL1/85c for 1.5 litres. Tonight there is a cultural evening, but the price has changed from EU35 to EU50, and Tony thinks that $100 each for a night out is a bit much. Cynthea also decides not to go, and three others opt to stay behind. There is a dinner and show, and the promise of unlimited drinks (beer, wine, and juice) but not even that can persuade Tony to change his mind. Besides he has experience of “unlimited” drinks in other places, and it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. The others head off for a night out with the promise to drink our share, and we pikers head to the restaurant for a buffet meal. We have an early night, and don’t hear the party crowd return. The next morning there are a few sore heads, probably as a result of the room party afterwards.
We are relieved to hear we didn’t miss much, tough disappointed for those that went to the cultural evening. The meal was pretty average, and as for unlimited drinks, it is a bit difficult when the drinks waiter only visits your table three times during the entire show. After the second long wait they wise up and everyone orders up large for the last round. The show was quite good, and a Phil was encouraged up on the dance floor for a belly dancing lesson.