Monday, May 4, 2009

Istanbul and Gallipoli

Line-up North Beach ANZAC

Lone Pine memorial

Bev in Istanbul

View of North Beach and The Sphinx Gallipoli

The containers are opened Istanbul port.

Lang and I arrived in Istanbul on Saturday at 6pm after 24 hours
travelling. Three couples had already arrived and the rest of the group
arrived over the next three days.

On Sunday we had the luxury of one day sightseeing in this beautiful
exotic city, and then it was to work.

First thing Monday morning Lang and the drivers who had arrived early went
off to the Maritime office with all their vehicle paper work and wads of
money to secure their release forms for the containers that had been
unloaded from the ship five days previously.

A group of women and I went to work to source the 3rd party insurance
required for Turkey and not covered by our European Green Card Insurance.
With the help of the hotel reception staff we made several phone calls to
various insurance companies and had lots of waiting for ten minutes for
the return call, which inevitably turned into well over half an hour.
Three hours later we received the message "sorry these vehicles are just
too old to insure, can't be done!" In desperation we went to the Turkish
Motoring Club who gave us an address and again all drivers with their
clutch of paperwok headed off to be processed.

On Tuesday early a string of taxis with a group of expectant travellers
went off to the wharf to hopefully see their vehicles for the first time
in two months. Lang had asked our shipping agent if we could have a
special dispensation and unpack the containers on the wharf to save extra
charges. Fortunately they had granted us this arrangement. So from early
morning the wheels turned ever so slowly but with no major hiccups. When I
rang Lang at 7pm he told me they were all lined up at the entrance to the
wharf and after a short ferry trip across the Bosphorus they drove into a
car park we had organised nearby the hotel.

As everything had gone so well we were 3 days ahead of our program. We
decided that as everyone had their vehicle and there was a lot of anxiety
in the group about travelling in Istanbul the best thing would be to get
the show on the road. So on Wednesday we packed up and headed to Gallipoli
Peninsula where we stayed for two nights and tested our camping
arrangements for the first time.

The departure was done on the planned basis of a short briefing then each
person proceeding to the destination at their own pace. Lang and I left
Istanbul at what was "gentleman's hours" for us but several vehicles were
still being packed. We rescued a vehicle out of fuel 3 kilometres from the
start! Proceeding at our leisurely pace we arrived at our planned campsite
at Kapatepe just south of ANZAC Cove to find it closed despite confirmed

Recovering the situation, we found a very nice camp ground 4 kilometres
further south and set up camp at 1630. At 2130 NOBODY had arrived! Slowly,
little groups started arriving, the last coming in at midnight after
completing only 250km from Istanbul. A huge lesson on time and motion was
learnt by the team. Moral was very high despite the late arrivals and
several drivers are awaiting their Victoria Crosses for their journey
through Istanbul.

Gallipoli National Park is the first significant stop for what is a
sightseeing cum battlefield trip from Istanbul, Turkey to Normandy,

At many of the memorials that dot the whole area the scaffolding was being
dismantled following the ANZAC day celebrations. The whole area is
beautifully maintained and we should be very grateful to the Turkish
people who embrace their enemies memories equally with their own.

Mustafa Kemel Ataturk said in 1934

"Those heroes that shed their blood and died and lost their lives
you are now living in our soil of a friendly country, therefore rest in

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 fareaway countries wipe away your
tears your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on the land they have become our sons as well."

The two nights on Gallipoli gave everyone a full day to drive the area.
After the wet run from Istanbul we were rewarded by the most perfect sunny
day. Far into the evening one could see 60 year old Australian and New
Zealand vehicles cruising up to Lone Pine, ANZAC Cove and dozens of other
significant points from 1915.

3 of the vehicles felt they must see even more and decided to stay an
extra night and do a double day to catch the rest later. This pleased us
greatly as we always wanted people to do their own thing with minimum
guidance from us and to find a few willing to break away at this early
stage showed some initiative was growing already. There will be a few who
never leave the flock but most appear keen to delay or divert from time to
time to get the absolute most out of the trip.

At this stage it seems we have a pretty happy and compatible group and
have high hopes of a fun journey.