Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Gallipoli .... lest we forget

At dawn on 25 April 1915, Australian troops began landing at North Beach and around the area known today as Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsular in Turkey. They were closely followed by the Kiwi troops.

The allied troops were trying to get control of the Dardanelles. The aim that day was to capture the Sari Baird range and then press inland to Mal Tepe to cut off Turkish reinforcements to Cape Helles. The strategy was to knock Turkey out of the war and open a path through to Russia.


From the beach, groups of men ran up steep, scrub covered slopes toward the high ground ... these men had been squatting in row boats for many hours, were in full army gear and were soaking wet.

At first the few Turkish defenders were pushed back. Some groups of Aussie and Kiwi troops fought their way to where they could see the Dardanelles on the other side of the peninsular.

As the day progressed, Turkish resistance strengthened and by nightfall none of the objectives of the allied troops had been reached. The commanders on the spot recommended withdrawal but they were ordered to dig in and hold. A very sad decision.

There were many ferocious and bloody battles on the Gallipoli Peninsular but for Aussies, none more so than the battle of Lone Pine.

On 6 August at Lone Pine, Australian troops commenced an attack to support the British landing further north along the coast at Suvla Bay.

Aussie troops attacked and occupied Turkish front line positions against determined Turkish counter-attacks. Most of the fighting took place at close quarters in the Turkish trenches. After four days of intense hand to hand fighting the Aussie troops gained control. This close range assault resulted in 2,273 Aussie and 4,000 Turkish casualties in the area the size of a soccer field.

The ANZAC memorial to soldiers who have no marked graves has been erected at Lone Pine.


"There is hell waiting here"
CA McAnulty,
Australian soldier killed in the battle of Lone Pine
6 - 12 August 1915

It is hard to fathom, nearly 100 years later, how such atrocities could occur in what today is a very moving but very serene place. This is the view from Lone Pine.

One of my favourite stories of Gallipoli has always been about Simpson and his donkey Duffy. Simpson was a stretcher bearer. He and Duffy would go onto the battle fields every day and bring back the dead and wounded troops. It was a sad day for the troops the day Duffy returned alone.

It was a very sad moment for me, standing in front of this grave stone. Such a brave man and only 22 years old.

The Gallipoli campaign lasted 9 months, until January 1916. There were more than half a million casualties, 130,000 deaths of which 8,700 were Aussies and 2,700 were Kiwis.

This campaign has always been called a gentleman's war ... a Turk soldier carrying an allied troop.

I think some of the peace that is now felt when walking around the bloody battlefields of Gallipoli is due to the respect that the Turk and ANZAC troops have for each other... at various times during the campaign and forever after.

This memorial was constructed by the Turkish government in memory of ANZAC soldiers who lie side by side with Turkish soldiers of the Gallipoli Peninsular.


In case you can't read it ...

'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
here in this country of ours ....
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries,
wipe away your tears.
Your sons are now living in our bosom
and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well.'

After a very emotional day, it was these words that really brought me undone.

Lest we forget.

Posted from somewhere round the world...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Love at first sight ..... Istanbul

After 12 days in the kinda grey desert country of Jordan I was so excited to land in Istanbul. I'd read bits and pieces about but no book can prepare you for the vibrant city that I instantly fell in love with.

This east meets west city is a bubbling hub of colour, happy, laughing people and incredible history. The Romans (of course, I've told you before how they got around), Byzantines and Ottomans have all left their stamp.

I based myself in Sultanahment, the old part of the city. While the area is filled with everyone from not so clean backpackers to high heeled euro holdiay makers, this area is the perfect base for my Istanbul adventures.

I wandered up to Sultanahmet Park, a bustling area between the Blue Mosque and Aya Sophia. I started to understand why the Turks believe they live in the greatest city in the world - I didn't know which way to look first.

I grabbed a fabulous fresh orange juice from the happiest man on the planet, sat back and watched the world go by.

After chatting to orange juice dude for a bit I headed in to Aya Sophia. I cruised on in then came to an abrupt halt ... this place took my breath away. The Romans built this place to restore the greatness of their empire, and man did they get it right.

The size of this place combined with intricate details everywhere I looked had me amazed.

Its not often that i am left speechless, as many of you would know, but this place did just that!

I visited the tombs around to the side of Aya Sophia. It's free to get in and there was no one there. Unbelievable.

A walk through the square took me to the Blue Mosque. Call to prayer had just finished so it was a busy time.

The mosque is beautiful, particularly the ceiling which is a series of domes covered in blue mosaics of different designs.

I could have stayed for hours, but the smell of foot odor had me scurrying out quite quickly. The locals were not the culprits, the wash before call to prayer, it was the tourist who took off their shoes .... that's why everyone should travel in flip flops!

All of this and I was still only 5 mins from my guest house, best head a bit further afield and see what else I can discover.

BTW, sorry the pics are so small but my system keeps bloody crashing when I try to upload this post!

Posted from somewhere round the world...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Hitting an all time low in Jordan

As I mentioned in my last post from Jordan, this country is 80% desert, but throughout the desert lands there are some amazing ruins.

I've checked out loads of historical sites, man the Romans got around in their day.

One of the most preserved roman sites in the middle east is Jerash. It was founded in the time of Alexander the Great, a particularly busy traveller as far as the Romans go, and was a very important hub in the third century BC.

The site of Jerash covers an enormous area and I wandered around for hours. So did these goat / sheep type animals. They've got the weirdest heads on them, kinda squashed and squarish.

Then I decided to get a bit holy (again) so headed off to Mount Nebo. Apparently this is the place where Jesus showed Moses the holy lands.

It kinda makes you wonder why they didn't pick promised lands with a bit more greenery.

Then I travelled down to the River Jordan.

Its a murky coloured creek these days but apparently way back when, it was a bit more impressive. In case your not up on your bible reading, John the Baptist baptized Jesus with these waters.

Actually, this is the spot ...

Obvs the river has moved in the last few thousand years, but anyways.

And John the Baptist had a fav spot for baptizing all who were interested. Once again, the river has moved so there's no water in this special spot these days.

Then I bit an all time low .... the Dead Sea. Floating in this salty water I was at the lowest point on earth. It was such a cool experience, I could sit up cross legged with my arms in the air and keep afloat.

I didn't stay in for too long cause as well as being very salty, the water is so bloody hot, not good when the temp is in the low 40's.

Sadly there are no pics of me in the water (was a bit worried about the camera), but here's a shot I took from up on the bank.

PS that's Israel in the background. I could see the lights of Jerusalem of a night ... very cool

Posted from somewhere round the world...

Monday, 13 August 2012

Jordan, the desert country

After two weeks of being blown away by the sights, sounds and smells of Egypt, I wasn't sure if I would be so amazed by the neighboring country of Jordan. Now don't get me wrong, I was so excited to be going to Petra but I must admit I didn't know a whole lot else about the country that I would be calling home for the next 12 days.

I arrived in downtown Amman slightly battered and bruised by the crazy old ladies at Cairo airport. My first impression of this country is of how dry and desolate it looks. If it wasn't for the vivid blue sky the landscape would lack any colour.

I joined a tour for a few days to ensure I covered as many sites as possible. First stop was the cute town of Aqaba on the Red Sea. The four hour drive across the country bought home the reality of living in a land which is 80% desert.

After so much sand it was great to see the water.

I found a new friend on the side walk of this town.

The next day we headed to Wadi Rum, home to the Bedouin people.

We stopped for a cup of tea and a chat with the locals.

Driving to Peta was really cool, we headed up so high into the mountains that my ears were popping. Once at the top, the drive down into the town is breath-takingly beautiful.

We settled in to our quite fancy hotel and went out onto the terrace for dinner. We were serenaded by Arabic music, fireworks and gunfire! It was the end of high school and apparently firing an AK47 is just the way the locals roll. The next day the papers sported that 110 people had been injured, so pleased I decided not yo go for an after dinner stroll around town.

I woke up early and excited for my Petra adventure. Walking through the siq, the narrow stone passageway, it was incredible to see the various carving on the rocks.

My first view of the Treasury actually made me squeal just a little bit.

I have seen so many photos and docos about this amazing site but never could I have imagined the size and scale of the buildings and the town. And apparently only 20% of the ancient city has been uncovered to date.

These dudes standing in front of the pillars will give you some idea of the size of this building.

The ancient city of Petra was home to approx 30,000 people so there are loads of tombs. The average Joe got a basic carved tomb with the important dudes getting magnificent carved ones.

After a spot of lunch and some water to recover from the 5km walk in I decided I needed to climb the 900 steps up a bit of a mountain to see the monastery.

It was worth every step!

I then kept climbing so i could see the view from the top. That's me being just a little bit weary!

I got chatting to a camel dude on the walk out and decided I'd help him out with a few Jordanian Dina by taking a ride.

It was a big day of walking in the heat and the dust, but my trusty hiking boots held up well.

Posted from somewhere round the world...