“Everyone holding on tight?”
“Brace! Brace! Brace!”
Not really the words I wanted to be coming out of our hot air balloon pilots mouth as we descended towards earth.
Even though I have always wanted to go hot air ballooning, I have not pushed it. You see, while Adela is not a fan of being underground, I hate being above ground. High above ground that is.
I don’t do heights very well.
So how did I find myself on a crystal clear summer morning above the stunning Costa Brava coastline? Being told to “brace” as we descended towards a tiny clearing between trees and cornfields?
Hot Air Ballooning in Costa Brava, Spain
Rising before dawn is usually not a problem for me. I love sunrises. Even being told we have an awesome travel adventure high up in the sky doesn’t faze me this early.
It is not until we are actually watching the balloons be filled with scorching flames that I begin to worry a little bit. How is a little bit of hot air meant to hold 10 full-grown adults up 1,000 meters in the sky? Not to mention 10 adults that have been gorging themselves silly on food and drink for the past week.
Climbing into what can only be described as a fruit basket for humans, I begin snapping away with my camera to avoid looking anyone else in the eyes in case they see my fear.
Pulling my eye from the viewfinder I quickly realise we have already drifted several hundred meters above the ground. I was so pre-occupied that I didn’t even notice how gently we had taken off.
Maybe it has something to do with the sunrise peaking its blazing head above the Costa Brava skyline. Or the tight space we have managed to all squeeze ourselves into. Or maybe it is the extreme stillness and quiet between bursts of flame.
I realise it is not that bad up here. I am even breathing normally and able to look over the edge of the basket.
Okay, maybe not such a good idea.
But I am able to gaze into the distance towards the Pyrenees and across the stunning Costa Brava landscape. Farmland and Medieval towns drift silently below our feet. People go about their daily lives without even realising we are drifting above them.
In fact, it is not until we are starting to descend that the irrational fear begins to take hold again.
Our Spanish speaking pilot is gesticulating to our guide and interrupter that we are all meant to be doing something important. They both give nervous laughs before falling silent again.
Okay now would be the perfect opportunity to have finally learnt a second language like I promised myself at the beginning of the year.
Turns out that since we basically have no steering ability we are at the winds mercy. And with the coastline rapidly approaching it is time to take this contraption down to earth.
“Brace! Brace! Brace!”
Eyeing up the only clear patch of earth within a mile, our pilot is all business. The trees and houses that looked like miniature toys just a moment ago suddenly loom large directly in front of us.
Instead of gently floating down in replication of our takeoff, we are drifting along quite quickly thanks to the wind picking up speed in the last 10 minutes.
My knuckles turn white as we brace our knees and back against the flimsy wicker basket.
And even though the command to brace is just a pre-caution, we still manage to bounce hard 3 times before settling down. A laugh escapes my lips as the tension eases from my muscles. And from the looks on the others faces, I am not the only one to be relieved we are back on solid earth again.
I had done it. I had conquered my fear.
And if I ever get the chance to go hot air ballooning ever again, then I would jump at the chance, check ETIAS spain program.
I want to give a huge thanks to our incredibly talented pilot from Globus Costa Brava for taking me on a ride that will be forever remembered. And of course the extremely wonderful team at Costa Brava tourism board for helping me face my fears by organising the hot air ballooning in Costa Brava, Spain.
This is a post from a series called Facing my Fears. It helps us to step outside our comfort zone, in comfort. Check out the rest of the series here.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Costa Brava tourism board, but as always our fears, stories and photos are all our own.
Do you have a fear of heights or another phobia? How did you face your fears?
Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos
These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.
El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.
To be honest, I was relieved.
The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.
So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.
There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.
Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.
There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.
And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.
Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.
Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.
Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!
While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.
Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.
I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.
Hammock vs Tent Camping
Camping with a hammock is slowly but surely becoming more popular in recent years with new and improved hammock designs being preferred by some campers, compared to the traditional tent.
In this article we will discuss some of the key benefits and drawbacks of sleeping without a tent, and analyze key criteria so that you can choose your preferred shelter choice!
Most tents work well in the rain; however, you’ll need to bring a tarp if you’re using a hammock. Traditional hammocks are not waterproof, and are generally open at the top, allowing water to find itself inside if you don’t have an adequate tarp. Moreover, a decent under quilt is also a good idea so that you can stay warm and cozy during cold and stormy nights.
Packing up your hammock after a long night of rain isn’t too bad, whereas packing up a soaking wet tent is always annoying. You almost always get wet in the process.
For first time campers, pop-up tents are the simplest to setup. All you need to do is find flat ground, and bam, your setup is complete! The beauty of pop-up tents is that you don’t need to worry about figuring out where to insert the poles and erect the tent. Although, traditional tents are usually more robust, and have a longer life span.
Essentially, a tent is simple, but a hammock can become a little more complicated for first timers. You’ll need to find 2 trees facing a good direction and tie each end of the hammock to them. If your hammock setup is too tight, you will generally wake up with sore ancles, but if it’s too loose, you run the risk of the hammock touching the floor, and insects crawling in with you.
If your campground doesn’t have many trees, or if the trees are dead (they could break and injure you), hammock stands come to the rescue! Basically, hammock stands allow you to pitch a hammock if there are no trees nearby. They are portable, adjustable, and are easy to setup. The only drawback is that the ground should be relatively flat, whereas if you were to hang a hammock between 2 trees, there won’t be any stands touching the ground, so a rocky floor wouldn’t be a problem.
One of the main reasons for choosing a hammock is the comfort that it provides you! It has a basically has in-built seat which is arguably more comfortable than a standard blow up mattress. You need to pick your tree’s wisely though! You don’t want a pinecone falling on your face mid-sleep.
If you have constant back pain and find it hard to sleep inside tents, you should give hammocks a try as they cause you to sleep sideways, similar to a banana shape, which a lot people find much more comfortable.
Hammocks are usually lighter and don’t include a wealth of poles and gear that tents do. Depending on the type of hammock that you purchase, they are usually quite similar to tents. You can however, find very cheap tents <$60, but they most likely won’t last long.
A good tent or hammock can cost between $200-500 without accessories. If you need a hammock stand, that will add to your cost, just like a mattress and other tent necessities will to its cost.
Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel
Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.
Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel
On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)
Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!
With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.
It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.
The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!
From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.
The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!
Middle Earth Travel Review
- The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
- We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
- It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
- In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
- Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
- Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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