A per­sonal Gal­lipoli pil­grim­age

The DIY tour­ing ap­proach to the Gal­lipoli Penin­sula

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page - JEREMY SEAL

GRANT Pur­cell looks like he’s been in the wars, and not for the first time dur­ing his stay on Turkey’s Gal­lipoli Penin­sula.

“Oh, just a few scratches from the bri­ars,” he ex­plains. This re­tired army re­serve of­fi­cer has just spent the morn­ing push­ing solo through thick­ets of scrub oak, gorse and wild straw­berry trees on the steep, sandy slopes be­neath the leg­endary Chunuk Bair sum­mit, a key ob­jec­tive in the Al­lies’ 1915 cam­paign to force the Dar­danelles Strait and so knock Turkey out of the Great War.

For Grant, a Queens­lan­der with a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in bat­tle­field to­pog­ra­phy, there is no bet­ter ap­proach to un­der­stand­ing the ANZAC ex­pe­ri­ence, and at once hon­our­ing it, than by re­trac­ing the ma­jor ad­vances that those sol­diers made un­der with­er­ing Turk­ish fire. Not that the full-on bush­whack is the only way to ap­pre­ci­ate this his­tor­i­cally key fin­ger of land in the north­ern Aegean. Less chal­leng­ing itin­er­ar­ies await in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers plan­ning vis­its in the cen­te­nary year, be they com­bat­ants’ kin, ded­i­cated bat­tle­field tourists or the sim­ply cu­ri­ous.

Gen­er­ally ex­cel­lent in­for­ma­tion boards at the 70-plus war ceme­ter­ies, memo­ri­als and mon­u­ments (al­ways open, no charge), and the mov­ing col­lec­tions of per­sonal relics dis­played in lo­cal mu­se­ums, of­fer vivid on-site in­sights into the cam­paign, a heroic but fly-blown and un­ut­ter­ably bloody ex­pe­di­tion that cost an es­ti­mated 150,000 lives.

Nor need any visit fo­cus ex­clu­sively on 1915 as must­see an­cient Troy, fas­ci­nat­ing Turk­ish-owned Aegean is­lands such as Boz­caada, and a flour­ish­ing lo­cal wine scene all lie within easy reach. Bear also in mind that the “na­tional his­tory park” des­ig­na­tion means the penin­sula has been spared the de­vel­op­ment now af­flict­ing much of the Turk­ish Aegean; here’s an eco­log­i­cally pris­tine haven of pine forests, farm­lands and beaches that’s strik­ingly rich in birdlife and flow­ers.

As no pub­lic trans­port serves the re­mote 48km lit­toral, with its three con­flict zones at Anzac Cove, Cape Helles and Su­vla Bay, you should sign up for tours with rec­om­mended lo­cal guides such as Ke­nan Ce­lik or Tj Gezici (Anzac Gal­lipoli Tours) or hire a (widely avail­able) lo­cal taxi. With lev­els of in­ter­est sure to be stoked by Gal­lipoli-themed movie re­leases such as Rus­sell Crowe’s The Wa­ter Diviner, don’t even think about com­pet­ing with the record-break­ing crowds — the Turks on March 18 and the AN­ZACS on April 25 — ex­pected for the tick­e­tonly cer­e­monies of com­mem­o­ra­tion. Aim in­stead for mid­week (Turk­ish vis­i­tors de­scend en masse at week­ends) any time be­tween April and Oc­to­ber.

Be­gin by driv­ing the coast road to the ANZAC sec­tor. At Anzac Cove, where the land­ings of April 25 were mis­tak­enly made be­neath for­mi­da­ble heights, take in the Beach Ceme­tery, one of about 30 grave sites su­perbly main­tained by the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion. Amid the rose­mary bushes, stands of irises and cut lawns, look out for the memo­rial head­stone to the leg­endary “Man with the Don­key”, John Simp­son Kirk­patrick, who was fi­nally killed after heroic ser­vice car­ry­ing the wounded out of the aptly named Shrap­nel Val­ley. Walk the strik­ingly nar­row beach north to Ariburnu where a mon­u­ment bears Turk­ish leader and Gal­lipoli veteran Ataturk’s mov­ing words of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

The sub­merged war wrecks in­clud­ing the steamer Milo at­tract reg­u­lar snorkelling tours with Crowded House Gal­lipoli.

Walk­ing routes re­main un­de­vel­oped on the penin­sula, though an ex­cep­tion is the graded 2km Ar­tillery Road. Join it at Clark’s Val­ley and walk up to Shell Green Ceme­tery — fa­mously the lo­ca­tion for a cricket match staged to draw the Turks’ at­ten­tion away from the De­cem­ber 1915 evac­u­a­tions — be­fore climb­ing to the main ceme­tery at Lone Pine, the ex­cep­tion­ally mov­ing fo­cus of the an­nual ANZAC com­mem­o­ra­tions. From here the one-way as­phalt road fol­lows the con­tested ridge which saw some of the fiercest fight­ing of the cam­paign, with suc­ces­sive ANZAC ceme­ter­ies and Turk­ish memo­ri­als to ei­ther side.

Make for the Nek, with an ex­ten­sive net­work of in­tact trenches; this was the set­ting of the doomed charge by the Aus­tralian Light Horse drama­tised in Peter Weir’s film, Gal­lipoli. For ex­cel­lent views over the land­ing beaches con­tinue to the heights of Chunuk Bair. Be sure to follow the short but beau­ti­ful walk­ing trail through bush to the re­mote Farm Ceme­tery. Re­trace your steps to the main New Zealand memo­rial. On the nearby statue to Ataturk the in­scrip­tion de­scribes how his fob watch — now shat­tered, and dis­played in a Berlin mu­seum — saved the great man’s life by stop­ping a piece of flak. Follow the loop road to Ka­batepe where the newly-opened Legend of Gal­lipoli Cen­tre (open daily) presents the of­fi­cial Turk­ish ver­sion of the cam­paign with a walk-through audio-visual and 3D sim­u­la­tion ex­pe­ri­ence.

For more on the na­tional per­spec­tives of the Brits, Turks and even the for­got­ten French (who all lost men here), ven­ture south to Cape Helles. At the vil­lage of Sed­dul­bahir is the lone grave of Bri­tish of­fi­cer Charles Doughty-Wylie, buried where he fell lead­ing the as­sault on V Beach. Doughty-Wylie, hon­oured with a VC, is also re­mem­bered for his af­fair with the leg­endary Ori­en­tal­ist and ex­plorer Gertrude Bell whom lo­cal legend iden­ti­fies as the veiled woman sighted at his grave shortly be­fore the even­tual al­lied evac­u­a­tion; it’s a clas­sic weepie that film-maker Werner Her­zog in­cor­po­rates into his forth­com­ing Queen of the Desert, with Gertrude Bell played by Ni­cole Kid­man and Doughty-Wylie by Damian Lewis.

Follow the one-way road up to the main Turk­ish Canakkale Martyrs’ Memo­rial, a vast modernist struc­ture sur­rounded by com­mem­o­ra­tive rose gar­dens. Take in the nearby French Na­tional Ceme­tery, one of the largest on the penin­sula, with its os­suary and iron-wrought crosses tipped with honorary fleurs-de-lis em­blems.

The northerly con­flict zone at Su­vla Bay, with very few ceme­ter­ies or memo­ri­als, re­ceives few vis­i­tors. Visit in­stead for the won­der­fully wild land­scapes around Salt Lake and ex­cel­lent swimming off the road­side, dunebacked A Beach. While in the area take in the best of the penin­sula’s nu­mer­ous vil­lage col­lec­tions of war relics by fol­low­ing the signs to Buyukana­farta and Ozay Gundogan’s 1915 Mu­seum (open daily). Lo­cal farmer Gundogan has set aside a room where he dis­plays the likes of bul­lets, buck­les, pick­axes, boat-mak­ers’ brass plates, tea strain­ers, cap badges, false teeth, cig­a­rette cases, pocket Bi­bles and other ob­jects re­trieved from the bat­tle­fields. It’s es­pe­cially mov­ing for the spot-on English cap­tion­ing (not al­ways a Turk­ish strength), with an of­fi­cer’s whis­tle de­scribed as “the last sound that many of th­ese men ever heard”.

On track to sites as­so­ci­ated with the failed Al­lied naval as­sault of March 1915, cross the spec­tac­u­lar Dar­danelles to Canakkale by reg­u­lar car ferry, which takes 30 min­utes from Kil­it­bahir or Ece­abat, a charm­ing port town with a Naval Mu­seum (closed Mon­days and Thurs­days); tour the replica of the minelayer Nus­ret and hear the metic­u­lously turned-out duty cadet tell of her vi­tal role in de­fend­ing the Straits against the Al­lied fleet.

From Canakkale head south for half an hour to Troy. At nearby Geyikli Yuky­eri up to five fer­ries daily leave for the 45-minute cross­ing to Boz­caada, a charm­ing Aegean is­land with fine beaches and an old port town of shaded al­leys and tav­er­nas.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion? Gal­lipoli Houses is a de­light­ful small ho­tel in rus­tic Ko­cadere; Ho­tel Crowded House is a good bud­get op­tion in Ece­abat; and Ho­tel Ker­vansaray is a pe­riod town house ho­tel in Canakkale.

The Gal­lipoli Memo­rial, left, and ANZAC Cove, above; Boz­caada Is­land, be­low

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