27/6/90

Suvla Bay.

WEDNESDAY “AND THE BAND PLAYED WALTZING MATILDA”  After having breakfast at a small restaurant we went around to the Troy Anzac Travel Agency to wait the departure of our trip over to the ANZAC battlefields at 10 a.m. Our guide was an oldish Turk called Hussain and once we were on board his minibus he began to tell us the facts about the Gallipoli campaign. The Narrows are only 1300m wide and the Allied plan was to sail up The Dardanelles and capture Istanbul, thus securing an ice free supply route for Russia. The campaign fell into 4 phases:

  1.  the naval blockade of The Dardanelles by French and British warships. This was foiled by the guns in the Narrows.
  2.  the ANZAC landings at Anzac Cove and the British and French landings at Cape Hellas.
  3.  further British landings at Suvla Bay and simultaneous offences by the hellas and Anzac forces. Both these plans were foiled by the Turkish Army.
  4.  the withdrawal from the Peninsula which was accomplished without the loss of life.

We were met on the other side by a dolmüs which drove us the 14 km to Anzac Cove on the Aegean side of the peninsula. Our first stop was a small graveyard where 365 Australian soldiers are buried beside the sea. There is always a wind blowing on the peninsula but still it was a calm and peaceful place. We walked along the dusty road to the small monument which marks Anzac Cove and Hussein told us the reason why the Anzacs landed there instead of at the correct landing site, called Brighton Beach, one 1/2 km to the south. Here, the soldiers were told, they could expect flat land and easy going but instead, they found themselves pinned down on a narrow beach with 100 foot cliffs above them. The reason for this was an uncharted current that swept the landing parties northwards in the dark.

ANZAC Cove.

On the northern end of Anzac Cove is another cemetery and a huge monument with a message from Ataturk which he made only nineteen years after the Gallipoli battles.  It reads:

THOSE HEROES THAT SHED THEIR BLOODAND LOST THEIR LIVES…
YOU ARE NOW LYING IN THE SOIL OF A FRIENDLY COUNTRY.
THEREFORE, REST IN PEACE.
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE JOHNNIES AND THE MEHMETS,
TO US WHERE THEY LIE, SIDE BY SIDE HERE IN THIS COUNTRY OF OURS.
YOU, THE MOTHERS WHO SENT THEIR SONS FROM FAR AWAY COUNTRIES
WIPE AWAY YOUR TEARS; YOUR SONS ARE NOW LYING IN OUR BOSUM
AND ARE IN PEACE.
HAVING LOST THEIR LIVES IN THIS LAND THEY HAVE BECOME OUR SONS TOO.  

The beach at ANZAC Cove.

While we were there we had a half hour break so I took the opportunity to have a swim in the warm, clear water of Anzac Cove. Back in the dolmüs again we drove up to Lone Pine Cemetery where the names of all of the Australian soldiers killed at Gallipoli, more than 4700, are and where the youngest soldier to be killed, a 17 year old, is buried.  Linda and an Australian girl laid a wreath on the monument and another Australian guy read a short prayer.

From Lone Pine we drove up to Chunuk Bair, the ultimate objective of the Allied forces because to control the heights of Chunuk Bair was to control the whole Peninsula.  It was here that one of the cruelest and certainly the most decisive moments of the campaign took place. When the ANZAC forces landed, several units managed to penetrate quite a long way inland, routing the Turks as they went.

Meanwhile, a young Turkish officer, Mustafa Kemal, had led his forces up the Eastern side of the ridge to find out what had happened, as all radio communication had stopped working. Leaving his force in cover, Kemal and a handful of officers made their way to the top of Chunuk Bair and there they were met by the retreating Turkish soldiers hotly pursued by Australian troops. Kemal ordered them to stand in fight while he sent a runner back to bring his soldiers and thus they held the heights of Chunuk Bair. it is said that at the moment he ordered the fleeing Turks to stand that Kemal began his amazing career which would lead him to found the modern Turkish state and earn the name Attatürk which means “Father of the Turks”

At Chunuk Bair is the monument to all the New Zealand soldiers killed and all their names are inscribed. There is also a huge Turkish monument and some of the Turkish trenches have been reconstructed. Our last stop was Quinn’s Post, the farthest inland that the Allied forces penetrated and held. Only a few yards separated the two armies for 9 months and behind Quinn’s Post, Shrapnel Gully led steeply down to Anzac Cove. There is a small cemetery there and Hussein told us a story about a Turkish soldier who was bringing water up for the troops and became lost, eventually falling into Allied hands. He said that the water was a present from his commanding officer and the Aussies gave him some whiskey which he refused to drink being a Muslim. The Aussies said “you are not afraid of our guns but you are afraid of our whiskey” so the young Turk downed it and was instantly pissed. When he finally returned to his own lines the young Turkish soldier was unable to say where he had been or what had happened to his water as he was still drunk!

The Gallipoli Peninsula from Chunuk Bair

Back at Kilitbahir we waited for a ferry to take us back across the 1300 yard stretch of water that almost 500,000 young men had died for, half of them in vain.  The only redeeming feature of that abortive campaign was that the Russians never got their hands on Turkey which may have been a bigger disaster and later years than the Gallipoli campaign was. Later, when we were back in Çanakkale, we spent the rest of the day relaxing.

26/6/90

ISTANBUL TO ÇANAKKALE We got up at 7 and packed our gear in the lounge to avoid waking anyone up.  We caught a Belidesiye bus up to the Topkapi bus station and booked tickets to Çanakkale, which cost us 18,000TL each.  

We traveled down the dry European side of the Bosphorus where the summer’s crop harvest was in full swing, with the Azure blue waters on one side and the rolling golden wheatfields on the other. At Gelibolu town we caught a ferry across the Bosphorus then a bus took us the remaining 46 km to Çanakkale.

When we got off the bus a young guy riding past on a bike sent us around to his uncle’s hotel which was a cheap 7,500TL per night.  Çanakkale was full of smart-alecky Turks all of whom strangely came from Melbourne¹!!  We had Chai in a shop called Aussie Kiwi Carpet Shop and listened to the usual hard-sell garbage then went for a beer at a sea front bar. We spent an hour or so there watching the huge Russian ships making their way through The Dardanelles on their way into the Black Sea .

Later on we went for a look in the local museum which had many articles from the Gallipoli campaign including bullets, barbed wire, bayonets, the steel actions of rifles and pistols, and many different kinds of bombs. We also had a look around the fortifications where the huge guns that defended The Narrows, and which inflicted terrible damage on the Allied fleet moving to blockade Istanbul, were mounted.

 After dinner we sat and watched the sun set across The Dardanelles.

The Dardanelles.

¹A common ruse employed by Turkish touts was to adopt a fake Australian accent and claim intimate knowledge of various Australian cities where they often had “a brother” or some other relation. Presumably this helped endear them to gullible Australian tourists who would then purchase whatever service or item the tout was selling.

25/6/90

MONDAY At 5:00 the alarm woke me up and I went out into the windy, empty streets to take some photographs. There were no  tourists about at that hour as I walked up Yeniceriler Çad searching for a road leading to the Suleymaniye Mosque standing tall above the surrounding city. I was unable to find the way to the mosque and only managed to snap off one photograph of the fiery orange sun rising out of the grey haze behind the Galata Tower. My search for a street leading to the Suleymaniye Mosque took me through the dingy and littered streets of Beyazit District and eventually back to Sultanahmet where I turned right and walked down to the Bosphorus then around to the street leading back up to the hostel.

Later on, Linda and I went to the Gentur travel office (a complete dead loss as far as cheap flights went)  and several other travel agencies. Eventually, we found and booked a flight to Amsterdam for US$130 each, leaving at 7 a.m. on the 3rd. We will have to get a ferry across the English Channel from Amsterdam back to Britain.

We walked up to the Grand Bazaar for a look but it was so awful and such a tourist trap that it doesn’t even rate description here except to say that it was full of rich tourists ripe to be fleeced by the cunning Turkish shopkeepers. We spent the afternoon lazing around and I went to see “a Fat Man”1 who is supposed to be able to get fake I.S.I.Cs but he wanted 10 quid so no deal was made.

We had our evening meal at the “world famous” Pudding Shop2 and it was shitty food and shity value for money then we went back to the hospital and sat on the steps drinking beer and talking to the three other people with a brain amongst the collection of idiots staying there

1There had been talk among backpackers that we had met on our travels around Turkey about a man in Istanbul who could procure fake International Student Identity Cards.  When I had asked one of the guys who ran the hostel  about  this he had smiled conspiratorially and said “yes it is possible. You will have to go and see a fat man.”  The fat man turned out to be something of a con artist and the fake ID cards, as well as being expensive, would take a week to get hold off so in the end we didn’t bother trying to get them.  Besides, we had our Youth Hostel ID cards and we could bluff our way into “student discount” using those! But to this day whenever a situation requires some dodgy dealings I always say: “we will need to go and see a fat man!”

2 The Pudding Shop had once been a great place for backpackers on a budget to get a cheap feed. Sadly however, as is often the case, once it had appeared in the Lonely Planet and Let’s Go guidebooks it had to gone downhill and become expensive. This was a situation we often encountered on our travels. Although we were avid users of Lonely Planet guides we often found that places that have been featured because they represented good value for money would have jacked up their prices and lowered their standards simply because they knew that people would still come to the premises because they had been featured in a guidebook.

24/6/90

The Blue Mosque seen from the Upper Galleries of Aya Sophia.

ISTANBUL NOT CONSTANTINOPLE A hot sunny day greeted us when we left the hostel and walked up into the centre of Sultanahmet which was crawling with tourists, slimy touts and all sorts of wonderful Turks on their day off. Our first port of call was the luxury plus YHA hostel where we asked directions to the Basilica Cisterns. They turned out to be directly under our noses (and literally our feet) so we paid to get in – a whopping 10,000TL each – but luckily they let Linda in for free with her YHA card).  The cisterns were built in AD830 by the Roman Emperor Constantine and are a marvelous feat of construction and engineering.  They are 110 metres long and 40m wide and the ceiling is held up by 160 marble columns. The walls are 4 metres thick and the water to fill them was carried 19 km from the Belgrad Omani Forest. 

Double exposure in Aya Sophia.

Inside, we walked along the slippery catwalk while a tasteful array of lighting lit the columns and reflected in the two feet of water still within the cisterns. Classical  music ebbed and flowed from dozens of speakers hidden in the shadows thrown by the lights on to the ceiling.

After the cisterns we walked to the massive Aya Sofya Museum. Originally built as a Byzantine church in AD 537, it was converted to a mosque by the Seljuk Turks and finally to a museum by Kemal Ataturk, the first president of modern Turkey. Inside the huge main building we gazed in awe at the huge dome, the largest in the world until St Paul’s cathedral in London was built, and the huge brass candelabra hanging to within 10 ft of the floor. The inside of the dome was painted with exquisite frescoes and around the walls with huge circular plaques bearing the monograms of various sultans.

Interior, Aya Sophia.

We hung around outside the mosque in the sunshine until 1 p.m. when the Upper Galleries opened and we were able to walk up to look around the huge empty balconies where, once upon a time, women would pray in seclusion. When we left Aya Sophia we just wandered around trying to avoid the touts and hustlers. We spent some time sitting in the courtyard of the Blue Mosque but there were tricksters and con-men up to their usual games there so we went down to the Bosphorus for a look.

It was very hot and there were crowds of horrid Sunday afternoon gawkers, but we walked around the promenade until we reached the heaving conglomeration of the Galatea Bridge. We walked along the lower part of the bridge to the other side, found nothing there but crowds and smell so we walked back again and up into the narrow Streets of Sultanahmet again. We bought some snacks at a small shop and wandered back to the hostel.

The Bosphorus.

23/6/90

We got up at 7, packed our gear and checked out of the hotel. We walked out to the main road and started walking out of town. We had a sign we had made saying “ISTANBUL” and we took photos of each other with it by the side of the road. It was already very hot but luckily we quickly were picked up by a truckie driving a semi truck full of asphalt.

It took about 3 hours to drive to Izmit in the truck and with the amount of heavy trucks and crazy drivers on the road it was pretty obvious that one took one’s life into one’s own hands to drive amongst them! In Izmit we were dropped off outside the otogar and the driver refused to take any money for the ride. We caught a bus to Istanbul which cost us 5,000TL each and an hour later we were dumped amid the chaos of the Topkapi Bus Station.  We stood amongst the seething mass of blaring car and bus horns wondering what to do until a local guy showed us how to buy a bus ticket and flagged down a bus going to Sultanahmet District for us.

When we got off that bus we walked aimlessly in the heat for over an hour trying to find the elusive “backpacker ghetto” mentioned in the Let’s Go guide. On one street a guy gave us a card for the TRUE BLUE PENSION so we found it and checked in. After a much needed shower we went out to get a beer and something to eat. Most of the Locantas were pretty expensive-looking so for starters we bought a can of beer each and drank it in a park then had a meal at the cheapest locanta we could find which still cost us 24,000TL.

Afterwards, we wandered around the Blue Mosque and Linda  bought a bracelet from a stall.  A boy got talking to us and we went to his shop and drank çay while listening to the usual carpet spiel. As evening fell, we sat and watched the tacky sound and light show playing on the Blue Mosque and after we had suffered through most of that we walked back to the hostel.

22/6/90

At 5:15 a.m. Kelly woke me up and after I had dressed I grabbed my camera gear and headed off up the hill following the path taken by the sheep last night. It was already light but the colours of the forest were still deep shades of green as I walked up the steep track breathing hard and beginning to warm up. After about 10 minutes I came out in a clearing about 100 m wide and the path I was on met a small road running around the hill. I followed the road into the trees on the other side of the clearing and it led upwards but at less of a gradient so the walking was easier. Soon I emerged into a large field running away down the hill. The track carried on around the hill so it turned left onto another steep track  and began to climb up to the top, which was rocky and covered with low heavy like bushes.

By the time I got to the top of the hill ( it was actually only a knob on a long spur running down from a higher peak) I was breathing hard again and sweating but the wind blowing across the hill kept me cool, almost cold, as I stood on the top of the knob and breathed in the beautiful clean air and took in the view. Row upon row of pine-clad hills rolled away in blue haze. Far below, the waters of the lake were steel blue, rippling slightly as the breeze skimmed the surface. The sun was harsh and bright and I took some photos looking directly towards it using two grey graduated filters. Sitting on a rock amongst the bushes, alone, sweating, and feeling fit and alive, it was as if I had returned to the high country and was ready on a top to start a day’s mustering1.

After half an hour or so on the top I descended to the top corner of the meadow and sat listening to the sweet sound of the sheep bells tinkling as the shepherds rounded up their flock with hoots and yells. In a worldwide ritual, centuries-old, the sheep came together in a mob at the sound of the shepherd’s voices and were led across the meadow and into the trees to descend to the valley floor for the day’s grazing.  The sound of a little bells slowly moved further and further away until the quiet had returned to the meadow. Reluctantly I left the high posture and walked back down through the trees to the camp.

Linda  was up so we sat in a patch of sunlight talking and waiting for Kelly, who was in some sort of mood, to get up. When she finally arose, we packed up and went down to the little picnic area, lit a fire and cooked some toast for breakfast. It was a beautiful day and we walked around the lake to a little beach where we sat in the sun for an hour or so then went and had an expensive beer at a bar on the way down to the dolmüs stop.

Back in Bolu at 1:30 p.m, we found a cheap hotel in the centre of town then went and sat in a locanta drinking beer and talking until 4pm when Kelly (finally) left us to go to Izmir.  She didn’t even offer to reimburse us for that abortive taxi ride from Tortum so our faith in septic tanks2 is as low as ever. We spent the rest of the day resting up and washing in the sink of our room as we discovered that the hotel had no bathroom then went out for a cheap tea at a locanta. Back at the hotel we talked for a while and were in bed asleep by 8:30 p.m.

1In my days as a shepherd I had often sat on hilltops just like this, sweating and breathing hard after a steep climb, ready to begin a day of mustering (rounding up) the sheep that ran free on the tussocky slopes of the South Island High Country.

2Australian slang for Americans: septic tank = Yank.

21/6/90

We awoke at around 8 a.m. to a  chilly but fine morning and broke camp. A 5 minute walk back downhill through the trees brought us out on a dirt road which led out to the tarseal road leading back to Bolu.  We walked downhill for  about 20 minutes before a dolmüs came along and took us all the way to Bolu. When we got to the bus station we booked a ticket out to Abant Golü then went and had some soup for brekkie. With two hours to fill in we sat in the sun watching locals watching us and ate cherries.

The trip up to Abant took about 45 minutes and we stayed aboard until we were ⅔ of the way around the lake, on the opposite side from the garish hotels built on the lakeshore for rich cats from Istanbul to holiday in. Linda and I left Kelly with the packs and set off to try and find an official campsite. We walked right around the lake and even went into the over-the-top-luxury Abant Palais Hotel to ask about campsites but (of course) they said there was no camping ground at the lake. On the way around the lake, we decided to head to Istanbul on Saturday and abandon the idea of camping as it is too hard.

After we had collected Kelly and our packs we found a place to light a fire and cooked a meal of pasta flavoured with tomato paste, onions, garlic and tomatoes then I spent a bit of time hiding in the bushes taking photos of a flock of sheep. Around 6:30 p.m. we climbed up into the trees and pitched the tent then set in a sunny clearing and watched the sun set behind the low hills on the far side of the lake. A chill came into the air so about 8:30 we got into the tent. We had only been settled in for about 10 minutes when the distant sound of sheep bells began to get louder. Within about 5 minutes the flock of sheep which I had been watching earlier was all around us on their way up the hill with three grinning shepherds walking behind them. They must have thought it was a great joke to find a tent full of white folks in the middle of their trail. I watched them disappear into the rapidly darkening forest then climbed back into our steeply slanted tent. 

20/6/90

At 6:10 a.m. we left the little restaurant behind and started walking back into town. It was misty and cold as we walked along the highway with the beautiful red of poppies growing amongst the crops beside the road. We got a lift the last 1 km into town to the otogar {bus station] which was closed so we’ll legged it back to the town centre. We had bread and honey for breakfast at a patisserie then hung around waiting for the information centre to open. When the tourism officer finally turned up he only spoke German but we got some information about the area and walked down the main street.  Kelly went off to change money and Linda and I sat in the sun watching the local goings-on.

After we had bought some food we caught a dolmüs up to Golcük Lake where we were hassled by the guard for 5,000 each if we wanted to camp. There were no facilities there to justify the fee so he told the fat guard to get fucked. The lake was quite pretty so we left our packs at the toll gate and went for a walk around it. There must have been a million frogs in the weeds at the water’s edge and they kept up a constant racket as we walked along the path. We stopped for lunch at the far end of the lake then walked back and collected our gear and headed off down the hill.

The sneaky life of the freedom camper in Turkey. Ferg and Kelly sitting in a forest clearing waiting for sunset when we could safely make camp.

After about 20 minutes we found a path leading off into the bush so we walked about 100 m into the cool, lush forest until we found a flat mossy patch of ground beside a tiny stream. We spent the afternoon sitting in a patch of warm sun shining down through a hole in the canopy, then at around 7:30pm,  as the setting sun was throwing dappled patches of golden light through the trees, we  pitched the tent and went to bed.

19/6/90

ON THE BUSES  We paid up our bill last night, a whopping 100,000TL, to enable us to get an early start today. By 6:10 a.m. we were walking down the road towards Maçka, having packed up our gear in the cold early light of day after a night of heavy rain. It took us about 40 minutes to reach Maçka and we timed it just right to catch a local bus down to Trabzon. It must have been a stormy night in the hills as the river was up and dirty. We went to the otogar and booked a ticket to Samsun and only had 20 minutes to wait before it departed.

The trip along the coast took 7 hours, most of it through strong wind and driving rain. The flooded rivers flowing down from the mist-shrouded hills created a band of brown along the edge of the sea and the colours of the waters were a strange pattern of blues: in places calm,  in other places whipped up and sent crashing onto the black cliffs sending up clouds of spume.

When we arrived in Samsun the weather had cleared and it was sunny and warm although a stiff wind still blew in off the Black Sea.  We went to 6 different bus companies to find the best ticket price to Bolu and eventually bought tickets for 20,000TL each. This time, we had 2 1/2 hours to fill in so we went and had a beer in a bar and some food at the bus station cafeteria.

We left Samsun at 5:30 and turned inland through a low range of hills separating the coast from the rest of the country. As we drove into the hills, the sunlight worked its magic on the land, bringing out the rich earth tones of brown, green and gold from the tapestry of life around us. The land was fertile and well farmed and healthy crops of wheat and barley were interspersed with vegetable crops and lucerne. Once again, concrete irrigation channels were everywhere: stepping down across the floors of the valleys where crowds of people worked at planting and weeding. Most of  the land appeared to be farmed cooperatively as there was a lot of machinery around and we passed several combine harvesters sitting in yards awaiting harvest.

Towards evening the sun began to set beyond the hills, throwing it’s fiery red glow over the valleys and soon the shadows merged and night came to the land. At 1 a.m. we were stopped by a road accident. A truck had hit something else and one of the injured was loaded onto our bus to be rushed to the next town. He wasn’t so badly injured that he couldn’t smoke a cigarette though!

The bus company had told us that we would arrive in Bolu at 5 a.m. but as we careered along the road a sign said Bolu 10 km! So we resigned ourselves to having to spend a night in a hotel after all (we had planned to spend all night on the bus, thus saving a night’s accommodation) and after we had dropped the injured fellow off at the hotel at the hospital we made ready to get off at the bus station. But the fucking mongrel bastards drove straight out of town and after a lot of shouting and swearing, dropped us off on the outskirts of town at a deserted open-air restaurant. It was freezing cold but we had no choice other than to sit down in a shelter to await the morning. A kindly old man found us there an hour or so later and brought out some blankets and pillows so at least we managed to stay warm for the 2 1/2 hours until sun-up.

Our impromptu camp in the shelter of a roadside restaurant.