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Ballooning in Cappadocia

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Brel in Cappadocia

It’s almost impossible to describe the landscape in Cappadocia. Formed millions of years ago by 3 volcanoes, years of erosion, water, oxidation and wind have combined to create incredible, magical formations referred to as fairy chimneys. (You’ll need to check out the photos below to truly understand.) The towns making up the Cappadocia region are dotted with caves, now used as homes, boutique hotels and bars.

Because of this incredible landscape, Cappadocia is said to be the world’s top ballooning destination. There aren’t a lot of things that gets Brel out of bed at 4:15 a.m., but the 2 hour ride over Cappadocia was well worth it. Going as fast as 21 knots and traveling more than 22 km, our vantage point was second-to-none. Ballooning, unlike some of our recent adventures, is a smooth and gentle ride where you have the opportunity to see the fairy chimneys from as close of 1 inch from the ground, to as high as 1,000 metres.

As luck would have it, we came into the landing at 22 km/hour, which basically meant we had to prepare for a ‘controlled crash landing’. Don’t worry Mom, it happens all the time. Our basket landed sideways – see pic below.

We celebrated with champagne (yes it was before 8 a.m) in the poppy field where we landed.

High over CappadociaRock FormationsMore formations

Fun balloon shot by Photographer BBrel in a balloonClearly a popular sport…

Our landing


Bathing in a Hammam – Surprisingly only an RF 4

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008


Of course we had to partake in one of the oldest rituals in Turkey, the Turkish bath.

Basically, it goes like this: Hang out in a steam room until you think you’re going to faint. Bathing suit optional. Take a cold shower. Jump into an even colder pool. More steam room. Lie on a hot marble circular slab for additional steaming. Put hygiene (or lack of) thoughts out of your mind. Lie on a rectangular marble slab. Get violently scrubbed and exfoliated by a large Turkish man. Get covered in foam. Shower. Remind yourself to put hygiene thoughts out of your mind. Get ‘massaged’, or roughly smacked around, Rinse off in the shower.

Surprisingly, our Hammam experience only gets a Random Factor rating of 4. Maybe that’s because they didn’t paint us in war paint. (if you don’t know what this refers to, check out:


turkey-day-1-3-misc-012.jpgPost Hammam

Lessons Learned in our First 3 Hours in Turkey

Monday, June 23rd, 2008
  1. Being a blond western woman is an invitation to stare. Like 4 people at the same time,for a minute or longer, without any attempt to hide who and what they are staring at.
  2. Like other Muslim countries, the less skin shown, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Mid-Brel-Adventure Review

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008
It´s hard to believe, but the Brel Adventure is half over. Seems as good a time as any to take a look back: Random Stats
  • Countries visited: 7
  • Cities visited: about 30
  • New passport stamps: 23
  • Favourite countries: Costa Rica and Argentina
  • Favourite city: Buenos Aires
  • Number ... [Continue reading this entry]

Final Thoughts…Ecuador

Friday, June 20th, 2008
Brel!  By the Numbers
  • Number of check-ins during our Quito hotel tour: 7
  • Number of pounds Mel shed in a desperate bid to not return to Toronto at her all-time highest weight: 7ish
  • Days of consecutive sobriety after all that wine ... [Continue reading this entry]

Brendan´s Iguanas

Thursday, June 19th, 2008
Hey B….I like you too! Brendan was a bit obsessed with taking photos of the many endemic iguanas in the Galapagos, so it seemed wrong to not have a blog dedicated to them. You have no idea ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lonesome George

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008
Mel hanging with a tortoise The Galapagos Islands are famous for their giant tortoises - in fact they were named for them. Here you can see 200 kg tortoises measuring over 1 metre in length. Humans have ... [Continue reading this entry]

Birds of Galapagos

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
 Nazca Boobies There are all sorts of endemic birds in the Galapagos Islands. Some highlights for your reading and viewing pleasure:

Party Under the Sea – Black-Tie Optional

Monday, June 16th, 2008
Galapagos Penguin Snorkeling opportunities abound in the Galapagos Islands - there are multi-colored fish, sharks, octopus, sea horses, turtles, starfish... The most exciting thing to spot however, is the Galapagos Penguin. Endemic to this area, the penguins ... [Continue reading this entry]

Home Sweet Home – The GAP Adventurer V

Monday, June 16th, 2008
Our yacht With memories of our sailing trip in Brazil still fresh in our minds (16 bunk-beds in one room, no showers, crazy toilet ritual, etc.), we were pleasantly ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Best Boobie Show in Town

Sunday, June 15th, 2008
Whatchyou lookin´at? Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Galapagos Islands is spotting the blue-footed boobie.  (insert boobie joke here). About the size of sea gulls, the blue-footed boobies have, well, blue feet. The mating ritual involve ... [Continue reading this entry]

Sea Lions and Brel – Kindred Spirits

Saturday, June 14th, 2008
Brel? Lounge in the sun. Take a few steps. Flop down. Swim in the sea. Repeat. Such is the life of the Galapagos sea lion. Sound familiar? Hundreds of sea lions line the rocky shores of most of the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Galapagos 101 – Survival of the Fittest

Saturday, June 14th, 2008
Welcome to Galapagos! I remember as an 11 year-old, waking early every Saturday morning to watch Jack Hanna´s Animal Adventures. For a few years, Jack focused exclusively on the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. With every tortoise, ... [Continue reading this entry]

More Amazon Photos

Thursday, June 12th, 2008
 Return of the Titi monkey As predicted back in Costa Rica, the thrill of seeing monkeys has yet to wear off.

The real thing…an anaconda[Continue reading this entry]

Special Blog for Jack – Frogs!

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008
 la-selva-day-3-033.jpg (Jack is Mel´s 4 year-old nephew) Hi Jack! You would have loved the Amazon!  We saw all sorts of frogs: poison-dart frogs, tree frogs, glass frogs and a bunch I don´t remember the names of. We thought you might enjoy ... [Continue reading this entry]

98% DEET, 100% Amazon

Sunday, June 8th, 2008
A paddle down the Amazon  Getting to La Selva Lodge ( isn´t easy: the journey begins with a flight from Quito, followed by a 2.5 hour ride in a motorized dug-out canoe along the Napo River, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Playing Pioneer

Friday, June 6th, 2008
 Home sweet home… In a country with as much history as Ecuador, it seemed only right for Brel to spend the night in the oldest hacienda, 400 year-old La Guachala. Amidst our antique furniture, we easily slipped into the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Mitad del Mundo

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008
  No visit to Ecuador would be complete without a visit to the place where the middle of the world was declared, in 1736 . The equator, the widest part of the world, crosses only 7 countries. The museum at ... [Continue reading this entry]

Lessons Learned in South America´s Largest Artesan Market

Monday, June 2nd, 2008
We find ourselves in Otavalo, Ecuador, home to South America´s largest outdoor market. I should have anticipated this would be trouble.   Lessons learned:  1. Markets are a lot of fun. I actually hyperventilated a little when I saw it. 2. Bargaining makes me feel good. It doesn´t ... [Continue reading this entry]