Two turkeys in Turkey
ANZAC Cove, where so many kiwi soldiers fought and died in the First World War has a special place in the hearts of New Zealanders. We entered Turkey and drove straight to Gallipoli to see the battlefields for ourselves, nearly 100 years after the battle was fought. It was fitting that it was bitterly cold, as we thought back to the winter of 1915-6 when the ANZACS were still in their trenches, more than 8 months after the start of the campaign.
Brett and I were both amazed at how small the cove was and how steeply it rose up to Chunuk Bair, the site of the most fierce battle for the kiwis. I remember my Great Grandfather, Grandad Skerrett talking about his time at Gallipoli, and what a terrible place it was during the war, arriving on the beach with the Turks firing down from above, your friends falling left and right. Grandad Skerrett enlisted as a soldier on the day Britain declared war on Germany, he was only 21 year old. Along with a few dozen other boys from Bluff, he became a member of the Otago Infantry Battalions 8th Southland Company. They set off for Britain in December 1914, but their ship got rerouted and they spent several months training in Cairo in early 1915. On that fateful day of 25th April 1915, Great Grandad was one of the first New Zealanders to go ashore with the Allied Forces at ANZAC Cove, and within minutes four of his friends were dead. As a dispenser, his job was to bandage the wounded and give them a shot of morphine gel under the tongue to ease the pain – there were a lot of wounded and I can only imagine how distressing it must have been to see all your mates hurt, maimed or killed, with limbs blown off and blood everywhere, all the while the shots still rain down from above. Along with the doctors and other dispensers, he was stationed just behind the front line. There was only one route down from the trenches to the beach which came to be known as Shrapnel Gully as it was shelled day and night by the Turks from high on the hill. Great Grandad had to walk up and down Shrapnel Gully helping the wounded get back down to the beach, and miraculously never got hit.
In May 1915 the Turks launched a big offensive but were held back by the ANZACs and both sides lost a lot of casualties. The next day was declared an armistice day where both sides could bury their dead. It must have been a horrific job, many of the bodies had been lying there for some time and were in a very bad state. That night Great Grandad came down with a fever, but carried on with the job at hand for several more months, in the heat of summer. Finally on 2nd August 1915 he was sent to the New Zealand Hospital in Cairo, where a week later he fell unconscious with enteric fever and came within inches of death. Thankfully they managed to get his temperature down and he lived. Great Grandad was lucky to be shipped out of Gallipoli on 2nd August as on 6-9 August the Kiwis launched one of the bloodiest battles of the campaign to try and get control of Chunuk Bair, and 28,000 men died on the ridgeline. It was just so sad to stand on that ridgeline and think about all the wasted lives, many of the graves we saw were of people our age or younger, they had died before their time for very little gain.
Great Grandad was too weak to return to the battlefield, and was honourably discharged and sent home (thank goodness as otherwise I wouldn’t be here!! Its a bugger I didn’t inherit any of his singing genes though), arriving on New Year’s Day 1916. He survived Gallipoli and went on to live til he was 101, one of the last ANZACs in New Zealand.
A few years ago I attended a very moving ANZAC day service at Westminster Abbey. I remember hearing the poignant tribute Atatürk made to the fallen ANZACs in 1934 being read out by a Turkish soldier, the words reverberating around the walls of the Abbey –
Those heroes that shed their blood and 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 now here in this country of ours… you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land. They have become our sons as well.
This inscription is written on a plaque at ANZAC Cove, and its comforting to know that the Turks have adopted New Zealand and Australian’s fallen soldiers and remember and honour them as they do their own.
We were lucky to have Gallipoli to ourselves, to wander around and reflect on what it must have been like during the war, and how brave the soldiers were. We could see the Turks preparing for ANZAC Day on the 25th April already, getting the stadiums set up for the influx of 7000 antipodeans. It must be a completely different place then and we were glad to be there during a quiet time.
Our plans of spending a couple of days exploring the area were altered slightly after a review of the sub-zero temperatures and our quest for warmer weather. After spending some time looking around ANZAC Cove we shot up to Lone Pine and the NZ memorial to pay our respects. It was so windy and cold we were running everywhere to keep warm. Needless to say it was a fairly brief visit before jumping back into Rodders to continue south.
We took the ferry across the Dardanelles to Canakkale (TL23) whist savouring our first kebab – it was pretty good! We had picked up a dongle from our friends Matt and Birgit who spent most of last year travelling Africa and had recommended them as an easy and reliable means of internet access over most of the continent. So we got our first SIM card for our dongle with the help of some friendly local students who spoke excellent English and then drove down towards Troy to look for a place to camp. It was reasonably late by the time we arrived but luckily there were still a few old punters out drinking chai who pointed us in the direction of the beach. We took a wrong turn and ended up on a farm, driving around trying to find the beach! We were obviously pretty conspicuous as before long the farmer drove up to meet us to see if we were lost. He was a really nice chap and said we could camp on his farm, so he took us over to the cow shed to park up for the night – it wasn’t very sheltered so was pretty cold but we were just happy to have a place to sleep! On the way we saw a beautiful white owl flying in front of us, Ness donned her owl hat in the hope of enticing it further, but it was too focussed on finding dinner and wouldn’t be distracted.
Now we had remote internet access we checked out the reviews for Troy – it didn’t sound that amazing and we would be seeing loads of ruins in the Middle East so we gave it a miss and headed down to Avyalik where my Auntie Stevie’s best friend Barbara had an apartment. Barbara’s son Hamish and his girlfriend Amy were living in the apartment and had invited us to come stay. On the way we kept our eyes peeled for a fabrication workshop, before long we spied one and got our large sheet of aluminium we had been carting around since leaving London cut up into panels to make a wind shield for our gas burner – one job off our long list of things we didn’t have time to do before setting off on our trip.
We arrived in Avyalik around midday and found the apartment ok, rang the doorbell but no-one was home. There was a bit of a mix up with a malfunctioning doorbell which meant we spent the afternoon/evening doing jobs on the truck and generally milling about on the street waiting for Hamish and Amy to come home when they had been inside the whole time! The neighbours must have thought we were a bit strange, but we did elicit a bit of sympathy being out on the street in the freezing cold as one couple brought us down two delicious mugs of steaming hot cinnamon tea to warm us up, and another invited us for dinner at her sisters house (we think) and we are gutted we didn’t take her up on the invitation! By about 7.30 we were getting a bit desperate and were starting to wonder where we would stay for the night, contemplating what the neighbours would think if we set up the rooftent right there. Brett decided to try the neighbours doorbell to ask which apartment was the McDonalds, it worked and we discovered Hamish and Amy had been home all along! We had a cruisey evening chatting with them and sampling the local beer, Efes (in the dark as there was a power cut!).
The following day we cleared out the backseat of Rodders and the four of us went for a spin. We visited the ruins at Bergama which was about an hour away. The Lonely Liar gave the ruins a good write-up, but we were less than impressed. It cost TL20 (£8) to get in, and it wasn’t very interesting, not much to see and nothing like the ruins I had seen down near Kas a few years ago, many of which were free entry. We felt pretty ripped off at the steep entry fee, and then they charged us more for parking when we tried to leave. Back in town we found a possie in the sun, boiled up a brew on the back of Rodders, bought the most delicious sesame-covered bread and made tasty cheese and Granny Green’s Green Tomato Chutney sandwiches – best bread of the trip so far and an excellent lunch!
That night Hamish and Amy had been invited around to their friends’ place for dinner and luckily we were able to join them. Hamid and Sibel own the hardware store nearby and have two kids, Mete (18) and Ege (8). Sibel cooked up a mean feed and we ate like kings – fried chicken, pasta, “herbs” which tasted a bit like spinach, spicy pickled vegetables and the creamiest tastiest sheep’s yogurt, all washed down with copious amounts of Turkish tea (pronounced “chai”) and followed by cake and fruit salad for desert. The feast was interspersed with various translations from Turkish to English and vice versa using Mete’s phone and an English-Turkish dictionary, which resulted in some pretty amusing translations! Hamide and Sibel have given Hamish and Amy Turkish names as they are easy to remember – Memo and Amide, so we got Turkish names too – Efe for Brett and Emine for me. Sibel was trying to explain what the meaning of Efe was, amid much laughter, and after various strong-men poses she looked it up in the dictionary – turned out it meant village hero!!! Ha ha. It was a brilliant night, lots of laughs, such a cool, fun-loving and friendly family.
The day dawned warm and sunny, so it was time to PIMP OUR TRUCK! Amy had mentioned she once had a summer job designing and applying car decals, so she was quickly recruited to pimp Rodders with the vinyls we had got before we left London. We put on the door logos and on the blacked our back windows put on some white kiwis that our lovely friends Nemo and Maryem had designed. Rodders totally looked the part now!!
We were lucky to be in Avaylik on a Thursday as they have a fabulous market in the Old Town. It was lovely to stroll down to the market in the sunshine, Hamish and Amy pointing out various shops and some of their favourite spots. We did a quick tour of the stalls before arriving at the produce market which had a huge array of fresh and delicious looking fruit and vegetables, as well as a row of cheesemongers, a pastry lady, various lemon sellers, a huge stall with about 30 different types of olives, a cake man pulling around a trolley of treats, and a lovely man selling candyfloss who Hamish and Amy had befriended. On the fringe of the market there were nuts, spices and camel salami stalls. Hamish and Amy had their favourite stalls and had come to know quite a few of the vendors and would visit the market every week. We picked up some amazing oranges for TL1/kg (40p/kg), tasty strawberries and half a kilo of blanched hazelnuts which kept Brett happy for at least a week of snacking. Hamish and Amy showed us the pastry lady, so we bought a few large rounds of pastry and thus started a great tradition of pie-making on the road. On the way back we stopped off for a tea at a waterfront café, lapping up the glorious sunshine. Sadly we had to leave that day, we had a long road ahead! We packed up and said our goodbyes to Hamish, Amy, Hamide and Mete and headed out of town. A huge thanks to Hamish and Amy for having us to stay, it was a highlight of our trip so far and lovely meeting you guys!
We had been warned that you need a pre-paid card to use the motorways in Turkey so we tried to buy one in a gas station, but you can only get them at Shell. Before long we were on the motorway and still didn’t have the card, so we drove through the “radar” gate. At the other end we did the same, and next thing sirens were going, lights flashing – I said to Brett “Go go go” and he floored it and Rodders sped us away into the night like fugitives. We hope this won’t come back to bite us when we come to leave Turkey!! We got a motorway card in the end and although you have to pay to use the motorway here, its pretty cheap – only a few lira every so often, not like the exorbitant prices in France.
We were headed for Ephesus and once we had found the entrance we set off to find a free-camp nearby for the night. Down a longish sandy road we arrived at the beach and set up camp and cooked a delicious dinner of vegetable pie using the pastry we’d bought at the market. The Kelly Kettle that Lakeland Bushcraft gave us got christened with its first fire and by crikey was it an impressive show – flames shooting out the top, the water boiled within minutes, it was brilliant and the start of a long and fruitful relationship with our Kelly Kettle (see our review here).
Freecamping inevitably means an early start, but for once we were glad of it as we arrived at Ephesus nice and early, before the hoards of tourons (tourist morons) invaded. The sun was shining and it was lovely walking amongst the extraordinary ruins. Ephesus was once a prosperous Roman city and we could feel the opulence as we wandered the spectacular marble-paved avenues lined with columns, and marvelled at the incredible architecture of the intricately carved buildings and temples. You could really get a feel for what life must have been like. The Library of Celsus was particularly impressive. I liked the communal latrines, with toilets all around the outside and a fountain in the middle – it must have been quite a social experience!!
That afternoon we drove up to Pamukkale, the white travertine terraces that are one of Turkey’s key tourist attractions. There were dozens of massive tour buses there, all parked at a special tourist entrance, it was overwhelming joining the masses. We ducked and weaved to get past, and finally made it to the pools. It was impressive, but it was crawling with tourists, and the pools looked man-made. There were some cool pools far below but it wasn’t really the experience we were expecting!Luckily the TL20 entrance fee also includes the ruins at Heirapolis, and ancient Roman spa town, so we cruised around some of the ruins, including a beautiful honey-coloured amphitheatre. There was still some daylight left and we didn’t like the prospect of staying in this tourist trap of a town so we gapped it to Antalya.
For dinner we thought we’d try the famed gozleme we had read about – a spinach and cheese pancake (made with thin pastry like the stuff we had bought) so stopped at a roadside restaurant. The woman instantly came out to welcome us in, and insisted we sat by the fire and drank cup after cup of tea whilst her husband cooked us some treats. They didn’t have gozleme but they had pide – Turkey’s version of pizza, cooked in a wood-fired oven, and topped with meat, vegetables and cheese, it was very tasty indeed! They treated us like family, bringing us salad and ayran – a salty yogurt drink as well as loads of tea. When it came to leave it only cost TL13, it was a great experience, we only wish we knew more Turkish!!
At about 11:30pm we finally arrived at Josito campsite, right in the thick of the best climbing area in Turkey. We were warmly welcomed by the German owner, Tobias, and set up our tent for another blissful night of sleep, ready for climbing the next day.
There are more pictures of our adventures in our photos section.