Day 87 - Tuesday 27th June - Urgup

I am an early riser. But usually as the sun starts push back the darkness and add some colour to the sky, so getting up at 3.45am is generally not my preference. However, for some reason when you go riding a balloon, they make you do this.

When we were in Cappadocia 12 years ago, there were 2 balloon companies and 4 balloons. When we arrived at the take off point, there were acres of the things in states of half inflation and the bus driver had to find which were ours. I tried to explore the issue of whether there was any order or scheme to the array, or it was just a matter of when the balloon was inflated and the passengers ready, they took off, but the language skills were lacking.

The morning was clear and a very gentle breeze was blowing as we ascended with 120 other balloons each carrying between 8 and 28 passengers. We had two 8 man balloons. As we ascended we started to blow in one direction, but as we got higher, the wind had changed and we blew back to where we started. After getting to nearly 1000m and expansive views of the landscape and looking down on everyone else, we descended and rode up a valley below the cliff line.

On the ground recovery vehicles were scurrying in every direction following their responsibilities so that they were on site before the balloon touched down. Ours landed pin point on its trailer. The team scurried about, picked some wild flowers, adorned the balloon basket, set up a table with tip box containing a lazy 50 Turkish Lire and opened a bottle of local, non alcoholic sparkling wine, as is the tradition when one goes ballooning.

We were back at the hotel by 0800 for a leisurely breakfast. The others were off on a bus for a guided tour of the cave houses, the underground city, pottery workshops and a bunch of other stuff which we had seen on our previous visit. As I had conference calls back to Australia with lawyers, we gave the tour a miss and decided to drive to Avenos after the calls had finished.

Our recollection was that Avenos was a small town at the centre of the Turkish ceramics industry. We had bought some beautify pieces there previously, cheaply from the studios. We watched old men play cards and drafts under the spreading shade next to the river.  

Like the number of balloons, things have changed in Avenos. Bus tours all visit the studios, the deserted streets are now crowded. The old men must have all died off or something as the river banks were crowded with young families enjoying their last day of the Eid holiday break following Ramadan. Venician gondolas ferry families along quieter spots on the river, while a jet speed boat roars up and down with thrill seekers in brightly coloured life vests. The relaxed pace was difficult to find, especially in the ceramic studios.

We ended up in a carpet shop. Loris was looking for a kilim. They were traditionally woven by girls as part of their bride package, a sort of dowry that they kept to warm their new home and husband when they married. They were traditional in the Anatolian region. Many of the pieces are now 50 to 100 years old.

Ali was a rug wholesaler. He travelled eastern Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and up to the Kazakhstan in search of rugs. He had a wealth of stories and lots of rugs to share. We spent most of the afternoon with him and eventually bought a couple of older rugs to be shipped home by FEDEX.

The next day we were leading the team to Beysehir, so headed back to Urgup to work out the itinerary for the day. On the way we stopped for a photo and I picked up a new navigator.

After dinner in town, we set off to see if we could find an antique jewellery shop that we had visited on our previous trip. On that occasion we had spent some hours with the owner chatting about sources of his wares, his travels and his family. There was not much else happening in town back then. And today, not much had changed. The shop was still piled with antique silver jewellery, head pieces for brides, arm bands and even stuff for camels. While the restaurants and bars were crowded, his shop was quiet, so while we passed another hour or so catching up on the last decade, the jewellery was unchanged.