This has to be one of the most special trips I have done.
One thousand Australians and New Zealanders wrapping themselves and their sleeping bags with garbage bags and ponchos to protect them from the rain was a sign of solidarity, that we were in this event together.
As dawn broke, the skies and the sound of the water was a gentle realisation of why we had travelled to Gallipoli.
A general sense of respect to the ANZACs clearly evident.
The best way to access Gallipoli for Anzac day is through a tour operator. I chose Top Deck’s Anzac Day raid but Contiki and Travel Talk were the other two big groups.
My tour started in Istanbul on the 23rd April with evening get-to-know drinks, before a five hour bus ride to the Gallipoli peninsula leaving at 7am.
As you would expect, security is very tight with the amount of travellers present for a big event. Bags were put through scanners and liquids over 100mL confiscated, and there were several check points that we had to pass.
For the number of people passing through, it was handled with relatively well.
Anzac Cove as a destination and the commemorations on 25th April are a three-way partnership with the Australian, New Zealand and Turkey governments, and I would like to think this continues to be supported in the future.
Temporary facilities, like toilets, food stalls, seating, lighting and media rooms are brought in to cater for Anzac day. So are plenty of volunteers and officials to help make the experience for pilgrims.
The place where the Dawn service took place was not accessible until after 6pm the day before, so we were kept in a holding zone for about three hours until 4pm.
There was a lot of waiting around until we were told to move. And with access to vehicles blocked off, we were required to walk around 4km to the site.
We camped outside, totally at the mercy of the weather. Shortly after we had set up the rains came and we were told to move inside the security tent to keep somewhat dry as it was going to be a long night.
No alcohol on the site, but the time was passed by watching reflective videos and a band played into the night.
By 5am the next morning, everyone had awoken from their two or three hour nap (it was not overly comfortable) and the Dawn Service began, with dignitaries arriving by 5:30am.
At the end of the service, the tour groups made their way to Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair, which is roughly a 6km hike. You get a small glimpse of what the Diggers had to do on 25 April 1915 – from landing on the cove to making their first move to try and capture higher ground.
Most of our Kiwi friends raced up to Chunuk Bair for the 11:30am service, while the Australians unfortunately missed out on their own, as they are no longer held at Lone Pine.
It was a very long morning. Having only slept for three hours then awoken early and walked, the group was exhausted on the trip back to Istanbul. The short four day travel ended with a walking tour of the city on the final morning (for those that could wake up).
- Aussies gather at Gallipoli service despite airport style security measures (News Limited)
- The message from the founder of modern day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk about the Anzacs (Australian War Memorial)