Clio's Adventures

Of hot-air balloons and summer snow

21 November 2015 | Ataturk airport, Istanbul, Turkey
Francis and Chris
On Monday November the 16th we treated ourselves to a sleep-in and a lazy morning before exploring the shops of Görëme and doing some (?) gift shopping. Ilyas arranged for our balloon flight for the next morning and we spent the rest of the day wandering through the open air museum which was a cave city full of churches and dwellings carved into the fairy chimneys on the edge of town.
We ended the day watching the sun sink at sunset point (top-right) while drinking tea and hot chocolate in the very cold wind. Did I mention how very cold it is here? Quite a change from wearing swimmers just over a week ago to now rugging up in thermals and lots of layers. We have two heaters going in our cave room to keep us nice and warm through the night.
The photo on the top-right also shows how the erosion process forms the fairy chimneys. On the right side you see the 'original' not eroded and layered geology. The more you go to the left, the longer the erosion process has carved out the hoodoos.

Tuesday morning we are up at 4.00 a.m., ready for our hot air balloon adventure. The company bus collects us at 5.00 and takes us to their headquarters where we check in and have a light breakfast, hoping all the while that is not our last meal. We then all pile back into the bus to be whisked away to the launching site. Along the way we see the many other balloon companies lighting up their crafts. It all looks like something out of a fairytale in the predawn light.

When we reached our balloon the very efficient ground crew already had preparations underway and we were soon climbing into the basket. Due to what we thought were weight distribution reasons, Francis was directed to the other end of the basket which was a bit disappointing. Once we were all settled our pilot Erdal looked at Chris and said "where is your husband", "at the other end" she told him, he asked if we had an argument and we laughed and told him that was how we were directed into the basket by the ground crew. Well that was not good enough and before we knew it Francis was lifted out into the arms of a large crew member and deposited into the section with Chris.

Before we had time to even think about being nervous we were floating skywards as the sun was peeking over the horizon. Words cannot describe the wonder of this experience. Chris was grinning like a Cheshire Cat from the minute of takeoff until a couple of hours after we had landed. We were sharing this experience with about 50 other balloons (photo mid-left) which made a nice picture, and lured us into believing that that would improve our odds to safely return. It was truly a highlight of our road trip. After the balloon ride we took the rest of the day off as nothing could top that experience.

On Wednesday the 18th of November we had to say goodbye to Ali and Ilyas as we headed to the underground city and nearby valley on our way to Pamukkale. The underground city consists of a complex network of tunnels with smaller and larger chambers covering functions like stables, food storage, living quarters, air ducts, communication ducts, wineries, hospitals, public areas etc.. The extensive tunnel network consisted of four layers and reached up to 40m underground. It was dug out over a period of about 2500 years, including by the Hittites and Byzantine Christians. You wouldn't like to get lost in them and we were happy to accept one of the security guard's offer to of a guided tour, payment required though.

Having finished our mole-activity for the day, we continued our journey back to Konya on the way to Pamukkale. On our way we stumbled upon a beautiful gorge, Ihlara Valley, with many dwellings hewn out of the cliffs that formed the gorge.

Ihlara Valley near Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz (two of the three volcanoes of Cappadocia) is a canyon with a depth of approximately 100m and was formed by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago. It begins at Ihlara village and ends with the Selime Monastery at Selime village after making 26 bends along 14 kilometers. It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes. Around eighty thousand people once lived in Ihlara Valley (borrowed from here).

The restaurants on the side of the Melendiz stream had constructed little platforms over the running water with roofs and cushions, the Turkish way. It would have been very nice to have had a meal on one of those platforms, but we had to push on and lunched on some of the bread and cheese we bought this morning.
Climbing out of the gorge on the other side, we spotted an abandoned Byzantine church cut from the rocks with many weathered frescos, the Ala Kilise or Mottled (spotted or blotched in coloring) Church, which has lots of frescos from the 10th or 11th century in it. The cave next door was the monastery, but now obviously used by the local cooperative as it had an antique wooden linseed press of about 4m height and 6 meter length. Linseed oil was used in lamps.
We overnighted in Konya in the Sumi (dervish) hotel and got a nice complementary fruit basket because of Francis' impending birthday.

Next morning, Thursday the 19th, we were on our way to Pamukkale, 'pamuk kale' literally means "cotton castle" in Turkish. It is located in Turkey's Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year. It is situated in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey that harbours hot springs, heated by the volcanic lava, and high in calcium carbonate. In Pamukkale the water flows down a mountain side and when it cools it deposits the carbonate thus forming the travertine terraces (bottom and mid-left photos). Stories have it that shopkeepers used to put bottles of local wine into the channels of hot water, and after a few days each bottle would be completely coated in pure white calcium. Unfortunately, management had turned off the tap (Turkish frugality?) and only a couple of man-made terraces on the top of the mountain had water in them, a bit of a disappointment really. We spent half a day wandering through the pools and down the stunningly beautiful terraces in our bare feet (picture mid-right and bottom).

Tourism is and has been a major industry in the area with around 1.5 million visitors each year. People have bathed in its pools for thousands of years. As recently as the mid-20th century, hotels were built over the ruins of the nearby ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis, causing considerable damage. An approach road was built from the valley over the travertine terraces, and motor bikes were allowed to go up and down the slopes. When the area was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1988, the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with the manmade concrete pools covered with calcium carbonate.

But all things must pass, so on Friday we drove back to Yacht Marina in Marmaris. Having heeded Güçlü's warning, we arrived safely back to spend one last night of the season on Clio.

Saturday 21st of November: at 4.00 in the morning we did a final check that we had completed the 'check-before-you-leave' list, said our goodbyes to Clio and Cloe, and drove 90 minutes back to Dalaman to drop off the car and catch our flight to Istanbul.
After a one hour delay we boarded only to find a young Muslim woman and her brand new baby sitting in our seat. The steward, sorry, flight attendant, asked if we would mind allowing her to move away from her window seat as she was scared of flying and did not want to sit near the window. So Chris happily agreed to take the window seat and leave her sit in the middle seat. As soon as Chris had settled in and fastened her seat belt, much to her delight, she had the newborn plonked on her lap (bottom-right picture) as mum got herself sorted. The rest of the flight was spent admiring baby and comforting scared mum. Due to bad weather, there was a huge backlog of planes waiting to be allowed into Atatürk airport. That meant being parked in a waiting pattern over the Bosporus for almost an hour in a bumpy plane, which wasn't helping the now slightly panicky and crying mum. But we finally landed in Istanbul and the moment we hit the tarmac the mum recovered miraculously and had a long conversation on her mobile, while Chris was holding the bub. After all that excitement we got ourselves seated in an airport restaurant, known all over the world for their repulsively high prices and notoriously bad food, to wait the 3.5 hours till check-in at 7.00 p.m. Around 8 pm we had settled in our half of a square meter of Boeing 707, and were on our 26 hour way to Dubai, Singapore and finally Oz. Hope they have some decent movies.
Comments
Vessel Name: Clio
Vessel Make/Model: Bavaria 47 Cruiser
Hailing Port: Brisbane, Australia
Crew: Christine and Francis
About: Happy laid-offs, with Greek and Turkish privileges
Extra: Also have a look at http://sailingclio.org/ Map of our 2016 journey anchorages: http://sailingclio.org/Map.html
Home Page: http://sailingclio.org/index.html
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