14. Apr, 2016

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TUESDAY 28-4-15

The alarm rang at 01:00 and we were up, faces splashed and dressed by 01:15. By the time I had unhooked the mains electricity cable and dumped our grey water it was about 01:30. We bade farewell to our 'campground' in Istanbul and headed out of town. I think perhaps we'd left too early as there was still a lot of traffic about, especially taxis who have their own rules of the road.

We had learned from our neighbours Reece and Norma that you buy preloaded toll passes to place in the windscreen from Shell garages, and there is a lot of paperwork to fill in to get one. Therefore we intended to buy a vignette at the very first Shell garage we passed by. Unfortunately we passed no such garage.

After clearing the city we approached the same toll road we entered the city on. Picture of registration number taken remotely, off we went again. Lumps, bumps, and potholes.

I was sorry not to have seen inside the Blue Mosque whilst we were here, and am consoled by promising myself a visit to ‘Homebase’ and ‘Tile Giant’ to look at their ceramic tile displays when we get home. It’s not quite the same but at least there won't be any queues.

At the end of the toll road was a sign saying that the use of it required a subscription. Spotting an office building just before the exit with a light on upstairs I thought it prudent that we should make every effort to pay the necessary fee. The Chef knocked away at the door and I tooted the horn (an accessory on the steering wheel a seldom use). Eventually a security guard came to the door to tell us he “No speaky English but ok- go through toll - no problem” - we await the fine.

We were heading towards Eceabat, a stone's throw (well on a map anyway) from the Gallipoli Military Historic Sites. Having been on the road since 01:30 to clear Istanbul we were looking for somewhere to pull over for a rest. At 05:00 we came across a garage-cum-restaurant area where we parked for what was left of the night.

We dragged ourselves out of bed at 08:00 and got back on the road to complete our journey. It was rather taxing as there were areas of new dual carriageway and tunnels on the peninsular that hadn't been completed. Clearly the Turks had intended to have everything completed by the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Gallipoli landings on 25th April, bigging-it-up on the International stage. However they obviously got behind schedule - now that's the real Turkey. Had the military commanders at the time attacked in the September of 1915, the Turks one hundred years later would have had time to finish the upgraded roads to reach the centenary celebrations.

We stopped for lunch in Kalitibahir, a community right across from Canakkale on the mainland. There was a large lay-by right underneath a castle and it seemed an ideal spot (GPS: N40.147751 E26.380157). The sun was shining and I thought it would be a good idea to put the two lightweight folding chairs out on the grass on the opposite side of the road so that we could sit there and enjoy the view across the Dardanelles.

After I'd put the chairs up The Chef decided it was a bit too fresh to sit out, so having gone to the trouble of getting them out I sat there and ate my lunch on my own. Having done so I popped my plate (on this trip we're using disposable everything at lunchtimes to cut down on water usage for washing up). The Chef had made me a cup of tea and I took it back to my chair. It was then that I noticed a stockily-built old chap sat in The Chef's chair enjoying the views himself. I joined him and I think he then realised the chairs weren't public property, I gestured to him that he was fine sitting there, and so it was, that two old gits who couldn't understand a word each other spoke, sat enjoying the view together. After about ten minutes his wife and grown up son joined him and off they all went together.

We missed the turning to Lone Pine Cemetery where ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) are buried and so carried on towards Cape Helles (GPS: N40.045660 E26.180269) at the tip of the peninsular just south of Abide. We'd stopped off at one British cemetery on the way down and wanted to stop at others but there were just no car parks. Here was the landing place of British and French troops.

We were fortunate in that a mini bus of Aussies pulled up by the Cape Helles Memorial complete with a piper, who they told us had been flown out there by his regiment which had fought at Gallipoli. We were then entertained with a few tunes on the bagpipes courtesy of the Aussies. This is the site which, three days ago, held the centenary ceremony marking the landing here at Gallipoli of British and French forces on 25th April 1915 attended by Prince Charles. Look out for the new Duchy Originals Gallipoli Ginger Nuts, the profits from which will go towards his travel expenses.

Also at the site were former gun emplacements, a Turkish military cemetery, and beside the shoreline 'V Beach Cemetery' a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery for our lads. What a wonderful institution it is, I don't begrudge one penny of my taxes that goes towards the work this organisation does on our behalf. Standing in the Turkish cemetery and looking down to the British you could tell the difference. Theirs was lumpy and bumpy ground, straggly grass and bare soil in places; ours looked lovely and neat with lovely well kept manicured lawn.

Clearly there has been coastal erosion over the years as the British cemetery was now right near the waters' edge with a stone wall protecting it. I made a point of taking a picture of the British amphibious landing site, which includes the cemetery which I shall attach.

We set off back to the motorhome hoping we might find our way to Anzac Cove. Seems an easy enough thing to do, but our Turkish Satnav had never heard of any locations that I tried to put in to it, and our road atlas failed to show most of the roads here on the peninsula. After a few bad turns we came across it, the Australian Memorial at Anzac Cove (GPS: N40.240717 E26.281326), and as expected they hadn't yet removed the grandstanding erected for the ANZAC ceremony attended by dignitaries and which was broadcast on TV.

Armed with a camera, the staging gave me a chance to get a few shots before walking down some steps on to Anzac Beach. Again erosion had taken its toll and there was a lot of stonewalling here to try and protect it all. Back up the top the wreaths laid at the ceremony were still there, some of them quite ornate, but looking rather sorry for themselves. Rather touching when you see them with comments like 'Lest We Forget' on them, yet the flowers clearly had already been, not a drop of water and wilting very badly, and that's in about 3 days. Still they served their purpose for the showbiz TV ceremony for the folks back home on the 25th.

Before I went down to the beach with the video camera I noticed a couple of older bikers arrive on something that looked like a Honda Electraglide. The Chef tells me that while I was down there they were posing next to our motorhome, having their picture taken with it - how flattering is that.

After today's experiences I would suggest that in future, before any amphibious assaults can take place Commanders tasked with identifying the landing site should ask the following questions-

1. Is it liable to coastal erosion? Don't want cemeteries to disappear in to the sea.

2. Does it have a nice sandy beach? Future generations will need to bring the family along.

3. Where will the Cemeteries be located? Need to know where to start digging when the shooting starts.

4. Will they have space for car parks? Can't pay your respects unless you can park.

5. Will there be space for a toilet block and cafe? Visitors have needs.

6. Is there good road access, large enough to take parties of tourists? Coaches are big

7. Is there a florist nearby? Wouldn't want to travel too far in the heat with flowers, they'll wilt.

Once all the boxes have been ticked then they can go ahead and plan their attack if they really must.

The Gallipoli campaign was a disaster with some 131,000 lives lost on both sides, the 'Turkies' gave us a real stuffing, and from the British and Allied perspective - all for nothing. After nine months it was decided to withdraw the troops and relocate them to the Western Front, another dream posting for those lucky enough to get it.

We then headed north back up the peninsula looking for somewhere to lay our heads. Today had been a long day; I'd been driving on and off since 01:00 with just three hours sleep. 

We ended up at an HGV rest area (GPS: N40.446125 E26.676053)