Our alarm clock went off very early this morning - early enough to get on a bus at 3:30 AM.
Why? So we could be here by 4:30.
If you Google "Best Hot Air Balloon Rides" you'll come up with a list of the best places in the world for taking a ride.
And the number one destination listed? Cappadocia!
While I knew there was a possibility for doing this while in Cappadocia, I had no idea what a big deal it is here!
All around us, balloons were being heated up and readied for a flight before sunrise.
Once the hot air is at its peak, everyone quickly gets on a small ladder, lifts your legs over the basket, and climbs/falls inside. Don't think "graceful" at this point! You just do what you have to do.
With four compartments to the basket, each one holds 4-5 people. It feels tight at first, with not much room for moving around. Claire and I were next to each other.
Before you even know it, the ropes are let go and off you fly, into the air with 100 other balloons rising at the same time!
At this point it's just 5 AM. All the balloons are rushing into the air in order to get into position to see the sun rise.
It's not long before we're up in the air! It is positively magnificent, and almost too much to take in that we're going up in a balloon!
You might think that it's completely quiet up here, but it's not.
Aside from the other passengers who are exclaiming and chattering, we also have a pilot onboard. Ibrahim introduces himself to us as we begin our balloon trip; he's the only crew member onboard, but is in constant contact by walkie-talkie with the crew on the ground, and constantly turning on the hot air to keep the balloon afloat.
Up, up we go, sailing over the incredible rock formations below!
Just across from us was a balloon from the same company - it looks exactly like the one we're in. Crazy to see how big the balloon is, and how small the basket is!
As we float, I seriously feel like I'm in a movie!
And while I'm slightly petrified to lose my phone overboard, I manage to take a pano view to remember how amazing this is!
Just a month or so ago Claire told me that she had a "bucket list" wish to go up in a hot air balloon. I have never thought of that before, but here we both are living out a dream she had, and a dream I didn't know I should have! 😂
At about this point, Claire gave me one of the ear buds to her ear phones and told me to put it in.
With epic music playing in my ear, we made the turn to see the sunrise!
All I could say was "WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!!!!!!!" What else is there to say???!!!
The gloriousness of seeing God's creation from up here is something I'll never forget.
Not only are people up in the air early this morning, but there are countless couples out taking wedding photos too!
Those will be some amazing photos! Too bad I couldn't send them these from the air too.
On and on we flew, an hour in all. Instead of it feeling like we were in the air for a short time, it actually felt like it lasted much longer.
With barely enough room to turn around for a group photo, I did manage this one with Claire and Cotter (our friends' son), and Dave in the background taking a photo of his own! 😂
I couldn't help but think of the verse in Lamentations that says, "The Lord's unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise."
Oh the joy of every new morning with the Lord! His love and mercy present and available to us, as sure as the sunrise!
The chase vehicle caught up with us as we began making our descent. I could have stayed up in the air for hours more enjoying this fantastic ride!
While we'd been prepped for a rougher landing (they show you how to get into position "just in case"), it was as smooth as could be as these guys "caught" and brought us right to the trailer.
You don't get off right away as time is needed for the balloon to deflate.
But then, it was time to climb out of the basket and come back to land.
While we all took pictures with balloons that were still in the air (100 balloons go up at once, and then a half hour later another 50 balloons take off, perhaps for the pictures!), the crew readied our celebration for having made it back to earth.
Our pilot explained the tradition of champagne after the ride, a custom that started back in 1780 when the first balloons began to fly in France!
Mixed with sour cherry juice, we clinked our champagne glasses and said, "Cheers" to having experienced such an amazing ride together this morning.
The experience of riding in the balloon on this glorious morning brought to mind Psalm 139:9.
"If I rise on the wings of the dawn (which I just did!), if I settle on the far side of the sea (which I did 32 years ago!), even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
There is nothing better than following God and being held by Him! I've prayed that for myself for years...that no matter where I go, I'd stay close to Jesus, letting Him guide and hold me. He's brought me to some incredible places, both physically and spiritually as I've stayed tucked under His wings.
I wouldn't want it any other way!
Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10