I’m not a fan of getting up at 4am usually unless I’m going on holiday, but today we made an exception and were up early from our cave beds excited about the prospect of a sunrise balloon flight over Cappadocia. We were taken for a rather early breakfast at the balloon place before being driven out into the middle of nowhere where our balloon was waiting. The excitement was building with every blast of the gas and as the sun was slowly crept over the horizon we were told to load up.
Without further-ado there were one or two more blasts of the gas burner and we were off the ground, I don’t really know what I expected but it was all so smooth and peaceful, we gained altitude and floated with the thermals over the different valleys and other balloons as our pilot expertly guided us around Cappadocia. There were times when we thought he’d screwed up as we came really low over things and dropped into valleys as though we were going to collide with the rock face. There was nothing to worry about though, the pilot was a pro and he would fly us really low over things so that he could point out an eagles nest or a bird of some kind – “not bad for my first time” he kept saying, he was quite the joker!
After around an hour of floating around we began our descent back down to the ground, a smooth landing was followed by the pilot expertly landing the basket straight onto the back of the trailer before we all jumped out and trampled on the balloon to help deflate it. Whilst we had been busy doing all this the guys from the balloon company had arrived and had set up a table with champagne for us all and a birthday cake. It transpired that today was the companies 1st anniversary so we were all treated to a piece of cake and a glass of bubbly before being given a free ticket each for another balloon ride there to be used within the next 12 months, it was a nice touch and a great ending to a perfect morning.
We were driven back to “Paradise” where we were treated to yet more food from the hotel owner as we sat enjoying the morning sun from his rooftop garden. We were also shown a shorter, more direct route to Trabzon (todays destination) which would take us up and over a beautiful mountain road which was once part of the famous Silk Road. Saying our goodbyes we packed the car up and headed out of Paradise the easy way, not the way Alan had chosen to fly up the day before when we arrived. Don did his token 10 minutes of driving before I took over and drove for a few hours whilst he slept in the back of the car, turns out the old boy isn’t too good with early mornings!
The mood then took a slight turn for the worse as today was the last day for my Azeri visa to come through – the others already had theirs and although I had applied for mine at the same time, mine had still not returned from the depths of the Azeri Ministry. Atop of a mountain somewhere in north eastern Turkey I called the Visa Machine, the company we had all used to get our visas through, I was offered nothing more than a “All you can do is wait”, I explained that we needed the visa for sunday as on sunday we were planning on driving to Baku in Azerbaijan however was given the reply of “Sorry, we have done all we can do, we can’t chase them up” – so that was it, I wasn’t going to be getting my visa in time and therefore was going to have to leave the guys and let them continue without me – not something you want to do when you have spent thousands of pounds organising this trip! I handed the keys over as I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to drive and sat in the back of the car for the next few hours mulling over all the possible plans I could think of to avoid me having to fly home. There were numerous but they all were littered with various problems, its not looking good. Apparently the road was pretty epic, although sadly I wasn’t paying any attention to it.
Arriving in Trabzon, thoroughly pissed off and in need of a beer we quickly realised that we had arrived in a highly religious part of town in the middle of Ramadan with no beer for sale and no food other than biscuits available to buy for food. We returned to the hotel, dug out my emergency hip flask and some MOD ration packs we had in the car – we hadn’t planned on needing these so soon! A wonderful morning had been completely ruined by the bad news and the lack of beer availability – we went to bed as grumpy bears and I spent most of the night awake trying to work out what the hell I was going to do!