11 people died today in a hot air balloon accident in NZ. As I was reading the article and listening to the witnesses’ recount of the whole incident, I feel a shudder, thinking that this could have happened to us too.
Cappadocia is one of the best places in Turkey for hot air balloon flights due to its interesting landscape and unique rock formations which has chimney and cavelike structures.
We had to wake up at 5am that day, the sun was not even out as we departed the hotel. The companies usually operate the hot air balloon in the morning to avoid the strong wind. Usually this experience starts before dawn so that passengers get the see the sunrise in the balloon (which would be beautiful) but the Turkish government has recently banned that because it’s more dangerous when it’s dark.
It was USD 200 per person for this experience, and as their tag line says this was truly a “lifetime opportunity” foe us. Here’s why:
We reached our balloon after the sun rose. It was 7am, windy and drizzling. But the pilot and co decided it was still ok to fly. We flew with the big and reputable Kapadokya Balloons, so if they say it’s safe then it’s safe, we trust their judgment and expertise.
Inflating the balloon took a while as it was windy. After being fairly inflated, the basket flew from one spot to another a few times and we had to avoid being too close. When the balloon was ready, the 20 of us including a Japanese and Korean couple quickly hopped into the basket.
And we flew. It felt so steady and safe. 5 minutes into it, sleet was falling down. Then the sleet cleared and we flew across the Rose and Pigeon Valleys and also the Fairy Mushroom areas. It was truly an experience to see these beautiful landscapes from the above, in the open air. By then everyone wasted no time in clicking and snapping photos. I have included some of them here 🙂
After 45 minutes in the sky, the pilot, Gul tried to land. He attempted to land on the flat ground but couldn’t as there was a high tension wire nearby so we flew up again. After a while, Gul shouted “Landing position please!” and we held tight and stayed low like obedient primary school kids. There were no straps over our shoulders nor were there belts, so we had to hold the ropes in front of us for safety.
And then we hit the ground. It was a very rough and hard one, I totally did not expect that. And then another hit. This time a bit less hard, but still very rough. We were not stopping. The wind was dragging us still, I remember thinking at that split second that maybe we are flying up again because we couldnt land properly.
Boy was I wrong. Everything went downhill from there, literally. We had our third bump and was dragged downwards due to the balloon still being slightly inflated.
“Shit what if our gas tank exploded?” I thought.
Then the fourth bump, the basket got dragged down some more.
“Oh my god, it feels as though we are going to overturn. Please dont overturn, otherwise we will drop off the basket” I thought somemore.
A fifth bump, and then it all stopped. We were safe. My grandmother was safe. She is a trooper at 79 years-old. According to the driver, we covered twice the usual distance in the same time due to the strong wind.
Now you know why we call it a lifetime experience. At that point in time, it’s all happened so quickly that you don’t know what’s next. Everything just felt out of control. I felt that we were truly lucky to have escaped unscathed, all 20 of us. We were shaken and our boots filled with mud, but most importantly we were safe. Thank god for my grandmother’s prayers.
PS: I drew a cross sectional view of what happened so you get a better idea of what happened.