by Patricia Lightfoot

We were woken by the call to prayer before the alarm clock rang and driven to a field where the balloon was already inflated. Reassured by the size and robustness of the wicker basket, we climbed up and into one of several compartments. As we talked, took photos of other balloons being inflated and listened to our pilot’s instructions to bend our knees on landing, we failed to realize that we had taken off until we were floating about 50 feet off the ground, fooled by the ease of our departure.

We rose higher over the eroded landscape and its hoodoos, locally known as “fairy chimneys,” some of which were once occupied by Byzantine Christians who decorated the walls with scenes from the Bible, which can be strangely familiar almost a thousand years later to a Western traveller to Cappadocia.

Balloons rising out of the canyon. Photos: Phillip Lightfoot

We glided over canyons that appeared to be birthing balloons, descended to take a close look at some fairy chimneys and then rose higher again to look at little fields of vines nestled in among the fairy chimneys and the cliffs. Our progress was unhurried and our landing as gentle as our departure, with no need for bent knees.