In travel, and in life, one has to learn to go with the flow and things don’t always work out as planned. Sometimes it’s better to go in without expectations, that way one doesn’t miss out on the present moment by comparing to what it could have been. Keeping this in mind, we tried to let go of the dream of flying over Cappadocia via hot air balloon and just go with it.
Still in a bit of a stupor and researching where to go and what to see, we received a call from the staff letting us know that the owner of the tour company was waiting for us in the lobby. What?! Kelsey and I scrambled to our feet, subconsciously hoping and wishing that he had worked some kind of miracle and we would be able to go up after all. Making our way back to the lobby, we met Halis of Voyager Balloons, and his lovely wife. Standing up to greet us, he firmly shook our hands and said it was so good to finally meet us. Seeing the disappointment on our faces, he apologized for the dreary weather and we assured him that he had no control of it.
Then Halis blurted out, “So I know it’s not what you had in mind… but how do you feel about a private guided tour of Cappadocia, wandering the caves and seeing the fairy chimneys?” Kelsey sparked up, I was all for that. Making lemonade out of lemons, Halis called up one of his teammates and reported back that our driver would be here in twenty minutes.
Kelsey and I dashed back to our room — changing into warmer clothes and comfortable shoes, arriving at the door two seconds before our chariot arrived. Well, maybe not a chariot, but for us – the Tahoe was a 4-wheeled chariot to explore the treacherous terrain. Our fearless driver began winding down the canyon roads, swerving at each curve and speeding up to make the drive all the more exhilarating. Intermittently making stops to show us the views and explaining a bit of history about the area, Kelsey and I kept imaging that we were actually on set of a Star Wars film, exploring the rugged terrain of Tataouine. We may have even used our umbrellas as light sabers when trying to fend off a while dog, however we failed as jedis in training and our driver had to save us.
Blue glass against a cobalt sky, the ‘nazar boncugu’ or evil eye talismans decorate this tree in the Goreme Valley.
The evil eye is a symbol commonly seen throughout Turkey that is said to ward off evil and protect those that are shielded by it, similar to the folklore that goes with horseshoes or garlic cloves (although vampires weren’t the root cause of this superstition). The evil eye is probably the number one souvenir found in Turkey, and the one I picked up from the ‘Evil Eye Tree’ overlooking the Goreme Valley will forever remind me of this magical journey.
Places we visited along the way:
Evil Eye Tree in Pigeon Valley
Crazy Ali Tea Garden in Red Rock Valley
As the sun set, Kelsey and I took in our final views of the Red Rock Valley, feeling the crisp air around us. Watching the fiery sun set beneath the hills, the canyon was illuminated with a deep red glow and the call of birds rang through the hills. To think back that just that morning we had been in Istanbul, and now, we were here – in Asia (or Asia Minor)…. absolutely mind blowing. Heading back to our humble cave abode, our driver stopped by Voyager Balloons for one last meeting with Halis. Although we had been bummed earlier in the day, the incredible tour of Cappadocia left us feeling like ‘Yeah. This is what we came here to do. This is what we were supposed to do.’
Discussing the drive with Halis, Kelsey and I both expressed that we saw and experienced more, had we just opted for the balloon tour. Yes, it would have been super rad – but we were so thrilled by the outcome and no amount of disappointment remained. Thanking our driver profusely, we trudged our way back to our room and fell to the bed in utter exhaustion. Traveling takes it outta ya, man! We got to experience his version of Cappadocia, taking us to private spots for the best viewings and introducing us to some of his friends along the way. I swear, this guy knew just about everyone! When we arrived at the Evil Eye tree, he introduced the owner of the shop and ‘care-taker’ of the tree as his friend, and then again, later at the juice stand overlooking the Red Rock Valley.
His friendliness and the genuine nature of each person we came across here really embodied the spirit of Cappadocia and just how warm of an environment it was. The place wasn’t about getting every penny out of tourists or seeing them as dollar signs (as were many areas in Istanbul) but the people here just truly wanted us to experience the land, the people and the culture for what it truly was. And that’s a beautiful thing that is so often lost in the tourism industry.