I had a lovely birthday as we travelled from Ankara to Goreme via Nevsehir. We stopped for a coffee and ended up having a
wonderful lunch and being spoilt by the chef at the cafe next to the Shell service station who spoke reasonable English. He had worked in
a restaurant on the coast of Turkey for 27years. A strange place for a birthday lunch but it was the best we had had in Turkey. Sometimes the most unlikely places to eat have turned out to be the best.

We had 300 odd kilometres to drive to Goreme and it was a nice leisurely pace on the secondary roads via an enormous salt lake where some tourists were sitting on chairs in the lake. We passed through Nevsehir which was a large town and on to Goreme which is a very touristy town full of carpet and souvenir shops and incredible rock formations and what they call fairy chimneys in and around the town.

Kaya camping gave us a wonderful spot overlooking a canyon like landscape and a vineyard our friendly Adelaide couple just happened to
come back to the same campsite that night so we had a bit of a chat before they left the next morning for the north eastern part of Turkey. At 5am the next morning we could hear the hot balloons firing up above us so I got up, took some photos and retreated back to bed. Goreme is the hot ballooning capital of Turkey with over half a million tourists in a year taking the flights. Scores of companies were ready to let one part with between 175-250 euros for a one hour’s ride. I had always wanted to take a balloon ride so that was my birthday present. We could only get a booking for the 13th July and we understood why when we saw the number of tourists around the town, mostly Chinese and a few Italian tour groups. The previous day the balloons had been cancelled due to high winds.
Maurice chose Royal Balloons who were well recommended and the pilots were trained by Australians so considered to be the safest bet.

Many walking trails were located near the camp which was on top of a hill so we set off for a ten kilometre walk through the interesting rock formations and valleys which were planted with fruit trees and small market gardens. We visited the open air museum with it’s many ancient carved out cave churches from the 11th century.

A steep cobbled road took us into the town where we chatted to many shop owners and had many carpets thrown out in front of us. The Turks are very good salesmen, just chatting and showing you things without any pressure. We asked the last one we visited to call us a taxi as we couldn’t face the steep long walk back and he straight away got one of his guys to take us back to the camping site even though we bought nothing from him.

I had a second birthady dinner at Top Deck Cave restaurant where the Turkish chef and his South African wife served up delicious food.

Maurice was using his stick only if his ankle felt a bit weak and it proved very useful. We were waiting for the normal bus to town when a tour operator’s bus obviously took pity on Maurice and picked us up and deposited us in town and wouldn’t accept any payment. It happened on the return later in the day which was very opportune as we had done a lot of walking. Another day we took the bus to Uchisar and spent a few hours there walking to the up the hill castle and finding a particular carpet shop which was recommended to us. After looking at hundreds of carpets in a few shops we settled on a runner for the hallway and another colourful Sumac carpet.

Our hot air ballooning day started at 3.30am with a pick up time of 4am for firstly a substantial buffet breakfast for the 147 people before being transported in small buses to the take off site. We scored the chief pilot with Royal Balloons and it was an experience of a lifetime. We floated over the amazing rock formations sometimes very close and sometimes much higher and it was such a peaceful sensation with no noise, drifting with the wind except for the occasional rush of gas into the balloon. There were about a hundred balloons in the air and it was a fascinating sight. We were given champagne, caps and they kindly gave me a birthday cake after we landed.

The chief pilot told us that 21years ago when he started flying there were four balloons in Cappadocia and they carried 100 passengers a year. Now there are 200 balloons. He also told us that Cappadocia has 3 million tourists visiting in a year.

We later caught the bus to Urgup for me to visit the Hamam for a scrub and polish, have lunch at a nice little cafe and was the only one there and the it was a maseur this time but he was very discreet and gave me a great massage. I felt squeaky clean.

Maurice needed a haircut and we found a modern hairdresser’s salon (or saloon as it is usually written here) who also cut and treated my hair but the three young people there spoke no English so it was up to google translate again which won the day. It is very useful and we have found
it invaluable on certain occasions. Some things you can get away with sign language but not everything.

The bus took us back into Goreme where we bought a lamp and had the best coffees and cold chocolate at the Oze coffee house.
I guessed because of the 100th year anniversary there were more Aussies in Turkey and the shopkeepers confirmed this.
We had another nice treat before we left the next day with many hot air balloons flying very near the campsite again.

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