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Sunday 23rd July - The Anzac Legend

Haylee and Natalie were woken at 5am by the nearby mosque blasting prayers over their speakers. James and Patrick fortunately sleep like logs and didn't hear it. We had breakfast at our hotel and noticed a lot of Channel 7 trinkets around. We came to the conclusion that this is where the reporters must stay when Channel 7 films the Anzac dawn service. Numerous posters on the wall were old Australian war recruitment propaganda and there was a framed Australian war medal poster. Aussies definitely frequent this hotel a lot. We packed our car near a bloke who was trying to make money with his horse and buggy (the horse decorated in traditional pieces of jewellery).

We'd be visiting Gallipoli today. Originally our itinerary had included a visit to Istanbul instead, however, after having a chat we decided to pay our respects at Gallipoli and skip Istanbul. In hindsight it was a great decision, Gallipoli is sacred ground to Aussies and a very sobering but poignant site. We drove first to Ari Burnu cemetery and were pleased to find that no one else was around, we were afraid there'd be a bunch of tour buses there. A large sign greets you before you enter the cemetery, "this is a cemetery, a place of peace and tranquility, no picnicking is allowed nor any games. Please treat this place with respect". It was incredibly moving, walking along all the graves of the brave men who'd died for our country. The cemetery was incredibly quiet, only the four of us making our way along the aisles. The epitaphs on the graves got to Haylee pretty early on and she started crying reading them all. She tried to hide her sobs and snotty tissues from everyone. A. E Salmon, died age 23, "God has him safely in his keeping, just on the other side". T. Gilbert, died age 23, "Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling at rest". O. R. Rowe, died age 24, "Greater love hath no man". D. W. Cunningham, died age 27, "Only son of the late David and Isabelle Cunningham". These young men made the greatest sacrifice for our freedom. Here we were on an incredible journey across the world visiting amazing places and these young Aussies barely even had a chance to start their lives. We gathered at the large cross which oversees the cemetery to take a photo with our Australian flag. Below the cross reads "their name liveth for evermore".

We then drove a few seconds down the road to Anzac Cove. Upon approaching we could see a red beach buggy and realised our rally mates from the Turkish border crossing were here. They'd just visited Anzac Cove and were about to see Ari Burnu. Our two Rally cars were parked on the road with the 'sphinx' or 'cathedral tower' (as the Aussie soldiers had called them) keeping watch from above. We were extremely fortunate that no buses had pulled in and it was just us at Anzac Cove. It made the experience much more significant. James kept remarking, "I can't believe I'm actually here". Visiting Gallipoli will most likely go down as one of the top destinations of our big journey. It was fortunate that Richard and his nephew were still hanging around because they offered to take some team photos for us. A slight breeze meant we could fly our Australian flag high for the pictures, we also managed to fly our boxing kangaroo flag which many of our family and friends had signed back in Sydney. Haylee's great grandfather, John Frank Doyle had fought at Gallipoli and was part of the landing at Anzac Cove. She remarked that it felt very surreal to be walking where her grandad had fought. Haylee had brought a print out of her grandfathers war photo and records which proved to be a great photo in front of the 'Anzac Cove' sign. Just as this photo was taken the tour buses descended. We thought they might be Aussies but it was three buses full of Turkish people. Quite interesting to see that Anzac Cove is just as much of interest to the Turkish as it is sacred to Aussies. Of course we often forget that over 80,000 Turkish men died at Gallipoli. We walked down the shore of Anzac Cove to put our feet in the water, as you turn toward the hill you can't avoid thinking 'how on earth did they manage to land here and fight?' The hill is ridiculously steep; of course then you remind yourself that they didn't manage, it was a bloodbath.

We drove a few minutes from Anzac Cove to the Beach Cemetery. On the way we were pleased to see another rally car parked, a very large man stood next to the rally car making it look like a children's toy. We found out his name was Gavin and he was from Brisbane. "Where are your team mates?" "I'm doing the Rally by myself." Incredible! Go Gavin!

We were the only ones at the Beach Cemetery and moved quietly between the graves. It's an incredibly sombre sight having so many young men buried on a little hill with the gorgeous blue ocean only a few steps away. A very beautiful but stark contrast. We kept remarking how much beauty there is at Gallipoli but how boiling hot it must have been for the men, we were sweating puddles. Over 390 men are buried there at the Beach Cemetery, 22 remain unidentified. We walked up and down looking at all the graves: an extremely moving place. You could hear a pin drop. Many of the graves had beautiful epitaphs written on them. Henry McDonald- 21 years old, "In memory of our dear son. He gave his life for his friends". We could barely find anyone older than 25. The youngest we found was F.S.A Taylor who was 17, not even an adult when we died fighting for Australia on 3rd May 1915. A quote by a Turkish fighter on a plaque at Anzac Cove came to mind, "our duty was to defend, their duty was to invade". The sad truth of war is that all the soldiers were simply doing what they thought their duty, death is often the uninvited outcome. James managed to find a large bunker on the beach which had been blown up. He went down to it and walked inside, there were no signs explaining what it was or what had happened to it.

Following the Beach Cemetery we made our way to Lone Pine. On the way we passed the famous Mehmetçik Memorial. An incredibly beautiful statue depicting a Turkish soldier carrying an injured Australian soldier. The inscription below the statue containing the famous words of General Valisi Lord Casey, "As the cries of the wounded continued and the hot sun rose, the Anzacs were moved to pity. They had never seen such bravery before. A truce was arranged and Anzacs and Turks together helped to bury the dead".

Lone Pine, as the name suggests has a lone pine growing next to the cemetery. The pine tree was planted on 25th April 1990. The seed for the tree came from one tree in Australia germinated from a cone sent back to Australia in 1915 by a soldier on Gallipoli. The tree is there to commemorate the 8,700 Aussies who died at Gallipoli. The cemetery is a beautiful sight to see. Once again, grave stones had been erected and on them beautiful epitaphs. The most moving one, T.H Bright, died age 20 on 11th August 1915, "He has changed his faded coat of brown for one of glorious white".

Hundreds of names line the walls of Lone Pine cemetery; inside the monument is a visitors book where numerous people have paid their respects. The book had beautiful messages; "thank you for the life we live today, lest we forget", "we thank you for all your sacrifices and bravery".

We drove a few minutes up the road to where a large Turkish monument was. It's easy to forget how important the site is for the Turkish people as we're always reminded of the Anzac legend and not of the Turkish men who also died in their thousands. The car park at the Turkish memorial was very crowded, not only because of the large statue there but also because of the small food shops. We were all soaked in sweat and so bought some ice cream and bottles of water, the vendor kept yelling within earshot of us "vegemite! Vegemite on toast!" He's obviously met a lot of Aussie tourists. The stalls were packed with pewter Turkish soldier statues and camouflage gear with Turkish flags on them. We were lucky to find a stall that had some Aussie Anzac items in them, James ended up buying three bullet necklaces and filled them with some Gallipoli soil. We'll have to see if Australian customs like the dirt, it would be unaustralian to take it away! The day was getting on, we could have spent the whole day at Gallipoli. We'd never realised just how many cemeteries there were. Unfortunately we didn't get time to visit them all, not even Chanuk Bair, the New Zealand monument and cemetery.

We drove back toward Eceabat then on to Kilitbahir ferry terminal to get across to Canakkale. Fortunately it was only a fifteen minute ferry ride. We were then on our way to Pamukkale for the evening. A beautiful drive through some scenic mountains and we stopped in a small town for dinner. We researched a place to eat and found a nice outdoor restaurant. See our Facebook page for a video on the food we ate there. There was unfortunately no alcohol on the menu considering Turkey is a Muslim country but it did have some amazing home made lemonades. We then drove on to Pamukkale arriving well after midnight. It seems no matter how hard we try to avoid driving at night and avoid arriving in the early hours we seem to always end up getting to accommodation at 12:30am. Oh well, a small price to pay considering we'd made an incredible visit to Gallipoli. The hotel we stayed at though still had little kids and young adults swimming in the pool so it didn't feel that crazy late.

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