The alarm sounded at 4am.   I had received my Whatsapp text message the night before that had requested that I be at the security gate to my hotel at 4.40am.  I got dressed in layers and I wasn’t sure what to expect – this was my first ever hot air balloon ride!  

At 4.30am I walked around to the front of the hotel.  It was still dark and the call to prayer was booming around through the village from the mosque down the road, the minibus was there waiting for me.  

We drove for around 20 minutes and then stopped on the side of the road next to a paddock in the middle of nowhere.  I asked the driver what was happening, and he said we need to wait for about 10 minutes.  I sat and waited and as I did, my imagination went into overdrive.  ‘What if I am not dealing with a legitimate tour company?  What if I am going to get thrown into the back of a truck and trafficked?’  I started sharing my location and booking details with a friend back in Australia – just in case!

20 minutes later and we were still sitting there. The driver had been outside pacing and talking on a phone so I asked him again what was happening, this time he explained that another tour bus with 10 passengers was supposed to be meeting us here but it was late.  My imagination settled a little.

10 minutes later the bus pulled up and 10 excited tourists climbed on board – we were ready to go!

We arrived at the parking area near the Cleopatra pool and across the road around a dozen balloons were in various states of inflation.  The sky was becoming lighter as the first traces of sunlight started to glow on the horizon.  I was directed to my balloon and introduced to our pilot, Furkan and my fellow passengers that were travelling from Columbia and China.  We climbed into the basket, were given a safety briefing and some instructions on how to land and then Furkan turned up the gas as we were off the ground and in the air.

Much like the horse ride in Santorini, my inner child was doing cartwheels in excitement, thinking of every time I watched the Wizard of Oz and dreamed of riding in a hot air balloon one day.  

Seeing the white travertines from above was so beautiful and then the sun broke through the clouds and the sky filled with a deep orange glow – it was simply breathtaking.  

The orange sunrise over the hills

We floated above the hills for around 40 minutes before coming down to land in a nearby field where we celebrated our safe landing with some rather odd pink ‘champagne’.  

We made it!

I arrived back at the hotel at 9am and spent the day by the pool before calling the friendly taxi driver at 4pm to take me to the airport for my 7pm flight into Istanbul, my final destination in Turkey.

On the way to the airport he suggested that he take me to the caves he had spoken about when we were chatting (using google translate) the other day. We would be driving past the exit and he said the airport was never busy. So we stopped off at the Kaklik Cave and I am so glad that we did! The caves were remarkable, with blue water cascading over white shelves and into clear pools below. We were the only visitors there and I thought it was a perfect final discovery for this very unique place in the world.

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