The Butterfly Balloons van picks me up at 4:15 at my hotel and takes me to its office in Goreme where I pay my balance, am assigned to Pilot Mike, and eat a continental breakfast.
I board my new assigned van with the others assigned to my balloon and we are delivered to the Butterfly Balloons launching site. The crew is busy preparing our aircrafts for launch.
The 16 of us are divided into groups of four and placed in a quadrant of the basket. Pilot Mike educates us on crash landing procedures with enough gravity that we pay attention and sufficient humor that we don't become nervous.
And off we go.
Our ascension to 7,000 feet, interrupted by occasional bursts of fuel to push us upward, is peaceful. We're one of the first balloons off the ground, giving us the advantage of viewing the other 50 or so of them ascend over the sunrise-lit horizon.
PIlot Mike strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and next-door-neighbor likability. He answers our many ridiculous questions and regales us with Cappadocia hot air balloon stories.
The other-worldly Cappadocia countryside is breathtaking from above.
We land, the Butterfly Balloons crew and Pilot Mike's yellow lab rush us. Once released from our communal basket we're treated to sparkling wine and cookies.