|The van from Sultan Balloons picked me up on-time and took me to the lift off zone outside of Goreme. The early morning air was cold. It was dark and surreal as I stood in a crowd of people in front of four balloons that were on their sides in the process of inflation. I paid no attention to the table where coffee tea and breakfast was provided because I was mesmerized by the glow of the balloons and the bright flames from burning fuel that created the hot air. As the darkness began to fade, it was time to load up. My balloon had a basket with four compartments each holding up to four persons. Thankfully, there were only three of us in my quadrant leaving some much needed space to at least turn around. Firat, the balloon pilot welcomed my group, providing reassurance as to his qualifications and a basic security briefing. Before I had time to process what was happening, we were as they say- up, up and away. My experience was heightened by the periodic wooooosh sound when the pilot opened the valve igniting the flame and causing the balloon to ascend.
For whatever the reason the confines of the basket made me feel secure and safe. It was like I was looking out from a balcony. And what a fantastic view. It was incredible. The sky was full of colored spots which became more vivid as the sun rose from the east. I've never seen so many balloons in the sky.
There was an ever slight breeze and my balloon seemed to hover over what is known as Love Valley. It's the place that brings out in many snickers and giggles. It's the valley full of rock formations parents tell their children are mushrooms, but most adolescents and some adults perceive differently. Those and other formations are a sight to behold. The various shapes and shades of color produced by the rising sun are amazing. Having two cameras, I snapped a record number of photos during the hour I was airborne. It was an unforgettable experience.
It was only 9:30am when I arrived back to Hotel Cave Konak. I went to the office to consult with Colleen about my plans for the day. She suggested I walk to Rose Valley and continue to the town of Cavisin. If I had the energy, she said I could continue the walk through an area known as Passabag continuing onward to the open air Museum at Zelve. There, I could take a taxi back to the hotel. It all sounded good to me.
The friendly taxi driver took me to Sunset Point, a couple miles up the road from the hotel. It leads to the trails though Rose and Red Valley. Off I went, down the hill into a rather rugged wilderness. Colleen gave me a map that her associate Adnan drew. The map was appreciated, but it wasn't long before I had no idea if I was on course or not. However, I had a good feeling for the direction I was headed and knew the valley would eventually lead me to the town of Cavisin. One thing became clear to me as I walked along the trail - tourist here don't hike. For the first hour I crossed paths with one man who was dragging his bicycle, which would have been impossible to ride (at least for the first segment of the trail). Other than him I saw a crew of workers picking up litter, very selectively I must add. It was a great walk with plenty of fairy chimneys and other rock formations.
The trail through Rose Valley eventually turned north into a wide area that was open and flat with large fairy chimneys scattered about. I stopped to take a couple photos and in the distance I saw someone from a nearby hill heading my direction. As the person came closer I could see it was a woman. She was walking rather fast and walked up to me. She smiled and greeted me in broken English. She said she walked to Rose Valley from Goreme. I'm not sure why she came up to me, but perhaps she was surprised by the remoteness of the trail and as a solo traveler was glad to find another tourist. I really don't know, but in any case we shared the trail to Cavisin and toured the caves around the town. Her name is Magda and she's from Poland. She looked to be in her late twenties and has traveled all over the world. She remarked that she's always happy to return home from her trips, but it's not long before she's eager to set off again. From Cavisin she was headed back to Goreme while I continued my walk to Passabag.
The trail through Passabag was fantastic with many chimney's and interesting formations. It was quite a trek, but in by late afternoon I finally made it to the Open Air Museum at Zelve. It is an abandoned cave community honeycombed with dwellings carved out of hillside. During my visit, Zelve was hidden from the sun so walking around the complex, in and out of carved out chambers of volcanic rock was cold and stark. It all felt ancient, isolated and empty. Upon reflection I remembered that Colleen told me that time and erosion is taking a toll on Zelve. Much of what is there is not expected to survive over the long term, she said. I understand.
Instead of a taxi, I opted to take the bus from Zelve to Goreme and another bus from Goreme to Urgrup. While I waited for my connection I stopped in a cafe and enjoyed a hot bowl of lentil soup accompanied with stone oven baked bread. Oh so good, it was delicious.