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Gally Polly

TURKEY | Sunday, 25 April 2010 | Views [1059]

The Turks call is Gelibolu, and our tour guide called it Gally Polly. You know where I'm talking about. But we aren't there yet, so let's go back to Rome.

Our air-flight was on time and all seemed to be going smoothly. But half an hour after we had boarded we still hadn't moved. And obviously we weren't going to move because the pilot was wandering around the aircraft chatting to the passengers. He explained we had a "minor technical problem" and should leave soon - but in the meantime what could he do? He obviously thought of something because he began to chat up the blonde lady sitting in front of us.

A little later a new message - we had to get a new plane so we had to disembark. So back down the stairs and on to the shuttle bus back to the terminal. Eventually we were loaded back on the shuttle bus and on to a different plane. The message came over that it was "free seating" - that is, sit where you like. Obviously many passengers thought this meant in business class, so there was a battle to get on the plane first. This didn't really seem necessary as it was only a 3 hour flight at best.

Eventually to Istanbul - about 3 hours late. Our Gallipoli trip was with a company called Battle Tours and sure enough, there was a Battle Tours Sign up. But no-one at it. Bookworm eventually located the man when he dropped his pen and she saw that it said Battle Tours. He had decided that we weren't coming, as we were late and he didn't have a list of flight numbers so he couldn't check whether our flight had landed.

Into the shuttle bus with other Battle Tours participants, and off to the City Hotel. We were reluctant to get off here as our documents said the Hamidye Hotel. We eventually checked in - we were on their list, but no-one from Battle Tours was there to tell us what was going on. We realized later that we had been offloaded onto a Turkish company called TravelShop Turkey. We were on the "Budget Anzac Tour" with mostly Australian and New Zealand Backpackers.(They turned out to be a fantastic group of young Aussies and Kiwis and did their countries proud)

The drive to Gallipoli should take about 5 hours. Ours took 7 1/2 hours due to a late start (waiting for a passenger who obviously had come directly from the Pub), followed by 2 twenty minute stops that escalated to 45 minutes each because the drivers or tour guide were smoking or chatting to friends. Then we were taken to lunch at what seemed to be someone's cousin's uncle's dodgy place. By the time we got to Anzac Cove it was closed to buses. We were told that it was because of security for the Australian Prime Minister. However he wasn't there. The Australian Governor General and Kiwi Prime Minister were there. But it turned out that it was the Turkish Police who closed it (as apparently they always do) to do a thorough sweep of the premises for security purposes. So no time to see Anzac Cove or the cemeteries or anything. But if we'd been earlier .....

So a quick drive around to see some castles and look at some market stalls and have a drink in a little town nearby. Then back to the dodgy Uncles' for a BBQ. We were picturing sausages and steak, but no: lamb souvlaki and salads and cold chips and pita bread that was being made by Aunty and Grandma, sitting on a rock and rolling out the bread and cooking it on a sort of Hibachi.

There were lots of laughs on the way down. First off, the guide counted the passengers. He said "Jesus Christ!" He had 2 extra passengers. He tried reading out the names on his list but no-one could understand their own names. Eventually Justin, a young Kiwi passenger (who became the de facto organizer) suggested that he pass the list around. One passenger identified himself as not being on the list but we never found out who the other one was. Any way it made no difference, we had already left the hotel! Never mind!  About half an hour into the trip the Pub passenger lurched to the front and had a garbled conversation with the guide. Apparently he had just remembered that he'd left all his luggage - passport, warm clothes and all, in his room at the Hotel.I presume he thought we'd go back, but we didn't. I think people lent him clothes and organized a sleeping bag. Then one of the girls complained of feeling sick because the driver was smoking. The tour guide dived into his backpack and brought out his deodorant and walked down the bus spraying it. There were more people coughing because of the deodorant than because of the smoke. As the bus rattled along the road, things continually fell out of the overhead shelf. The guide kept showing us where we were on the map (with the girl in the front seat standing holding the map) and at one time a red coat descended on him while he was talking. At one stage he put a DVD about Gallipoli on for us. After 2 or 3 goes to get it going he settled back to have a sleep. Suddenly we heard Justin say "I've not seen this before but I don't think this is it". We looked up and the DVD was showing women preparing food in the markets. Wrong DVD.

By this time, with a mixture of amusement and annoyance, we were beginning to realize we were on the Griswald's Anzac Tour.

At 8pm, with our warm clothes and food supplies (which we didn't need because they sold food there) we got back to the Anzac Cove site to prepare for the Dawn Service. There was very strict security. One woman asked if I had alcohol in the little black case in my handbag - my camera case as it turned out. But once in, all the organization was by the Aussies and Kiwis and from this time till we left at 3pm on Anzac Day, everything was brilliant!

Bookworm and I had special passes to allow us to sit on chairs, and the DVA volunteers who were in charge of this were brilliant. They bussed us around. The carried our bags. They constantly checked to see if we were alright. They got Turkish interpreters to talk to our guide (who had no idea what our passes were for). They gave us water. Nothing too much trouble. I can't praise them enough.

It was a cold night and I had no sleep but I was on a high so didn't need the sleep. 4.30 came and the Dawn Service started. Anyone who watched it on TV knows what it was like. Despite the planes and ash situation, there were about 8000 - 9000 people there. Mostly young. All very reverend. Some had come travelling days on buses from London to get there. All just totally in awe of where we were.

After the Dawn Service there are 3 separate services for the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish soldiers at different monuments. We had to decide which service to go to as they only bussed us to one. But many of the young people who walked from place to place went to both the Australian and New Zealand services. At the end of the Australian one at Lone Pine the Australian Army band played Aussie music and we all sang "I am, you are, we are Australian". That was one of the most magic moments of the whole time! I placed my flags with the wreaths at the Lone Pine monument. Both my great uncle and Carol's ancestor are listed on this monument and I was able to find their names and photograph them.

Then back onto the tour bus for the trip back. At the first stop the tour guide said "This stop to get a snake. (Not a typo) 20 minutes - maybe 25" Justin stood up and addressed the bus and said "10 minutes - eat on the bus. OK?" So we were all back on the bus in 10 minutes and then had to toot for the driver. Then - as a finale, as we were hooning along the expressway, there was a loud bang and the roof hatch flew off. We pulled up and the driver got a screw driver and screwed it down shut. The funny thing was that no-one reacted. It was "Ho hum. There goes the roof hatch! We should have expected that"

Back safely. Was it worth it? Yes, for the services and for the occasion. Would I do it again? Well, probably no. I was lucky I'd been to Gallipoli before so I'd had the quiet time to look around and contemplate. If i was doing it again I'd spend more money and go with another group. For the young, TopDeck seemed to so the best tour. For anyone, The Fanatics seemed the best and most organized.

Other nationalities can't understand what Gallipoli means to Aussies and Kiwis. Even the Turks don't. But everyone there did. Lest we forget.

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