I spent both days up at Tucks Farm¹ building a new lambing enclosure. I picked up £70 for my trouble including petrol costs. As I travelled up and down on both days I listened to Johnny Clegg and Savuka’s² brilliant album called Third World Child.
¹Tucks Farm, at Calne, near Swindon, was where I was to work as a lambing shepherd later in the year. The farm owners had employed me to build a sheep yard for use during the lambing.
²Having travelled in Africa, and intending to return later in 1991, we loved music about that continent. Johnny Clegg and Savuka were a Belgium-based band from South Africa whose songs were redolent of life in Africa. This is Scatterlings of Africa from the album Third World Child.
THE JOURNEY BACK…At 8:00am we got up and while Linda packed our gear I walked down to the bank and changed some money. After we had checked out of the hotel we sat outside Bob’s… in the sun talking to a couple of Aussies while we waited for our 10:30 bus to Istanbul. By the time it arrived and we were on board it was quite hot and as we headed north the fresh smell of the pine trees came to us on the hot breeze blowing through the open door. The pine-clad hills rolled away to our left and soon the land flattened out to the rolling arable land of the Northern Gallipoli Peninsula. Around 12 we left the Aegean to its memories of old wars and turned inland for Istanbul which we reached at 4:30.
The Topkapi Bus Station was as chaotic as ever but we had an idea about where we were going this time so we bought billets [tickets] into Eminönu and flagged down a passing bus. It took 20 minutes to get to Eminönu and about half an hour to find a bus over to the suburb of Şişhane where we caught the airport bus for a whopping 4,000TL each.
We were searched and had our passports checked just to get into the airport and our packs were x-rayed. Inside the airport we settled down to wait…
2:15AM, TUESDAY, 3/7. When I went to the information desk to ask where the flight check-in desk was, the woman said they didn’t know of any flight with Pegasus!! We assumed the worst but about 10:00AM a bunch of Canadians turned up with tickets for the same flight so it should be alright.
We stretched out to try and get some sleep but the hardness of the seats and floor, along with the bright lights made it nearly impossible…
6:10AM, TUESDAY, 3/6 At 4:30AM the call for check-in came and we took our gear over to the desk along with the tatty bunch of Canadian travellers on the same flight. When we got through passport control Linda and I went to the Duty Free shop and I bought her a bottle of Opium perfume and paid for it with my Visa card. It was 85DM [Deutschmarks]. After that we had a couple of miniscule cups of Coke which set us back 4,000TL for each cup and that saw the end of our Turkish money.
Then, along with our Canadian companions, we sprawled out on the horribly uncomfortable seats to await our boarding call…
6:20AM, TUESDAY, 3/6. At 6:19 our call came over the tannoy: Pegasus Airlines flight PG181 to Amsterdam will be delayed one hour!
8:30AM, TUESDAY 3/6, Still waiting…
9:40AM TUESDAY, 3/6. We finally took off at 9:20AM on board the nearly empty , brand new Boeing 737-400 belonging to the mysterious Pegasus Airlines. We quickly climbed to cruising altitude and soon the patchwork of mainland Europe was drifting slowly beneath us. The land was dry and the colours were the subtle earth tones of summer – browns, dark greens and muddy yellows. Through the landscape, twisting lines of rivers ran like the arteries of the Earth, supplying life-giving water to the parched land. Many small villages dotted the landscape below, fields radiating outwards from them along with the spider-web traceries of roads.
Breakfast/lunch was served at 10:00AM then we settled down to catch some rest…
2:40 PM (Amsterdam Time), TUESDAY, 3/6. We landed at Schipol Airport at 11:40AM local time (12:40 Istanbul) and passed quickly through passport control.
As we had flown over Germany a perfect white cover of cloud was spread from horizon to horizon beneath the steel blue of the sky, as if a new fall of snow had covered the land. But as we passed over The Netherlands the cloud began to break up to reveal the orderly patterns of the Dutch countryside. The fields were all perfectly rectangular and set in dead straight lines through which ran dozens of glinting canals and the snaking black lines of motorways. But the most striking sight was the colour of the land. Every hue of green blended and merged in patterns of exquisite beauty, the effect heightened by the patches of sunlight shining through the gaps in the towering plumes of cumulo-nimbus cloud.
We waited for ¾ of an hour for our bags to emerge and only by accident did I discover them hidden away in the corner of another baggage hall. It took us a long time but eventually we organised our passage to England via Ostend in Belgium. It wasn’t cheap but good ‘ol Uncle Visa came to our aid so the 352.10 Guilders the fare cost us didn’t come directly out of our pockets!
Once again we settled down to wait for the final leg of our journey to begin…
6:05 PM, Tuesday, 3/7. On board the first train from Amsterdam to Roosendaal we sped through the green and fertile country of Holland. The land was intensively farmed with crops of vegetables alternating with fields of wheat, corn and oats.
I slept most of the way to Roosendaal and when we got there a station attendant told us that the onward train to Ostend had been cancelled! We had to wait for ½ an hour for a train to Antwerp and when we got there we found the right platform and sat on our packs waiting for the 3rd and (hopefully) final train to get us to Ostend…
11:05PM, Tuesday, 3/7. The train was late and we missed the Jetfoil ferry service across the English Channel. We had waited in hope as the train sped through the beautiful pastoral scenes of Belgium but we knew that we wouldn’t make it in time.
At Ostend we enquired at the Jetfoil office about our options and learned that the Jetfoil tickets were valid for either of the two night ferry sailings so we decided to catch the 11:00Pm ferry and try to hitch from Dover to London. To be on the safe side, Linda rang the Red Lion [the pub where we’d been working before setting off to Greece and Turkey] and left a message with Jim [the barman] to tell Helen and Brian [Linda’s parents] not to worry if we weren’t at the airport to meet them.
Then, after changing some Pounds into Belgian money we went to a nearby café with an American guy called Dave and had the most delicious bowl of lasagne I have ever tasted washed down by a couple of beers. A couple of other American guys turned up and we all swapped yarns then Linda and I went over and boarded the ferry.
As soon as it put to sea we settled down to try and get some rest for the second night of our, by now, epic journey back…
4:45AM (GMT), WEDNESDAY, 4/7. We were sound asleep when the ferry docked and we quickly, and somewhat blearily, packed up and disembarked. Customs was a mere formality and with 1 ½ hours until the first train to London we decided to try out the very last of our luck and hitch.
Amazingly, we got a ride almost at once with a lone British guy in a truck and he took us all the way to Lewisham where he followed a Night Bus until it stopped and we were able to ride it all the way in to Trafalgar Square. We walked up to Piccadilly Circus and found the Underground still closed so we sat down outside the station entrance among the other dossers, with the light of day coming fast into the sky and the volume of traffic already building, and waited…
– Eventually the Underground opened up and along with a motley selection of dossers we went in and with the insane ranting of some crazy homeless guy echoing round the station we had another wait until 5:45 when the first train to Heathrow left.
The trip was agonizingly slow but we got there in the end and rushed into Terminal 4 where the BA flight from Singapore was just emerging from customs. And there, amongst the crowds, were Helen and Brian [Linda’s parents].
– From the beaches of Gallipoli to the joyful reunion at Heathrow Airport we had been travelling for two days and two nights non-stop; a total of 50 hours. We took the tube back into Central London and made our way round to the hotel in Lancaster Gate where Helen and Brian will be staying. Incredibly, the receptionist told them that they couldn’t check in until 1:00PM so we spent the morning in various cafes and pubs, filling in time while it rained.
Later in the afternoon, after we had got them settled into their hotel, we caught the Bakerloo Line over to the Red Lion. Because it was the European Cup Semi-final night [England lost] and it was very busy, Brain asked me if I could work behind the bar from 8:30 until 11:30.
Finally, at 12:30AM, after listening to a tape that Linda’s friend Pippa and her boyfriend Chris had sent us from New Zealand, we got to sleep…on the floor in Louie’s room.
We got up at 7 a.m. and packed up our tent for the last time. We hung around the camp for half an hour or so waiting for a dolmüs to take us back over to Eceabat. When it arrived we paid the camp bill which came to a hefty 66,000TL then said goodbye to the shining blue Aegean and the ANZAC beaches and headed back over to the Eastern side of the peninsula.
When we got to Eceabat we decided to treat ourselves a bit and checked into a hotel on the waterfront, right above “Bob Hawke’s Bistro/Burger Bar.”1 After we had settled into our 20,000TL a night hovel, we went and and imbibed a B.H.B.B.B breakfast of eggs, sausages, tomatoes and English tea…YUM!
After we have finished eating we settled down to read some back copies of TNT2 and I read some information sheets about the Gallipoli campaign. The Casualties of the nine-month campaign where as follows:
489,000 troops fought in on the Gallipoli Peninsula
410,000 British Empire soldiers
79,000 French soldiers
252,000 casualties (killed, wounded or evacuated sick)
205,000 British Empire
43,000 B.E soldiers killed
2,431 New Zealand
30,000 have no known grave.
On the hill above the European Side Of The Dardanelles is a huge inscription comprising four lines from a poem by Turkish poet Halil Onan:
STOP O PASSER BY THIS EARTH YOU THUS TREAD UNAWARES IS WHERE AN AGE SANK BOW AND LISTEN THIS QUIET MOUND IS WHERE THE HEART OF A NATION THROBS
We spent the afternoon sunbathing on the rocks beside The Narrows then went back to “Bobs…” where we sat and drank cold drinks, read old time magazines and listened to [the Australian rock band] Cold Chisel on the stereo. In the evening we had beans and rice at a lokanta then spent our last 4,000TL on beers at “Bobs…”
1Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister of Australia at that time.
2TNT was a magazine published in London for expat Australians and New Zealanders.
We spent the morning swimming and sunbathing then broke camp at 12:30. Throwing up our packs, we headed off along the path through the trees which soon steepened and narrowed as it’s as it made its way around the headland about 60 feet above the beach. The path deteriorated until we were following narrow tracks amongst the old trenches which covered the top of the point in a rough network. Eventually we descended along the line of a main trench until we came to a tar sealed road which we followed for about 1 km to the camping ground.
We booked in and set up our tent then went for a swim in the rough and windy surf. The rest of the day we spent sitting in the camp bar.
After watching the sunset we went to the camp restaurant for an overpriced meal which was shit value, however some friendly Turkish campers gave us some wine and a grilled fish each so it wasn’t such a bad deal after all.
RETURN TO GALLIPOLI After checking out of the hotel we bought some food then caught a ferry across The Dardanelles for a mere 500TL each. We caught a dolmüs to Eceabat and then another one over to the Kabatepe Museum. There was a lovely new and clean Contiki bus there and a lot of lovely new and clean Contiki tourists so we didn’t linger and hitched a lift south along the peninsula in a grain trailer towed by tractor. When we had gone about 4 km the tractor turned off into a wheat field but one of the farmers, an old Turk, lead us across another field of wheat and down through the pine trees amongst which were a lot of old trenches, long since crumbling and filled with pine needles. In the distance we could hear the sound of waves breaking and soon the stunning blue of the Aegean could be seen through the trees. When we reached the edge of the trees we were standing on top of a small cliff beyond which was a long white crescent of beach stretching 500m away in each direction with the sea breaking against it in a continuous flow.
The old man talked to us for a few minutes (we didn’t understand a word!) then left us to swim, have lunch and make camp. We spent the afternoon swimming and sunbathing and I spent an hour or so exploring the network of old trenches which were slowly returning to the earth on the hillside above the beach.
At 4:30 we set off around the southern headland of our beach and walked 1 km to the camping ground. We had a couple of Cokes in the bar then walked back to our camp, had another swim then sat on the sand side by side as the waves slowly flattened out, the wind died to a breeze and the huge read disc of the sun set behind the twin Greek islands across the water, almost hidden in the haze.
We lit a small fire and cooked some tomatoes and ate them out of the pan along with bread and jam and cheese. By 9 it was nearly dark and after a couple of herds of goats had tinkled their way past, we went to bed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.