Friday 24 April 2009 by Andrew Gray. No comments
Battlefield Tours, Gallipoli, Simpson Prize

On the way down Rhododendron Ridge On the way down Rhododendron Ridge

The day before our big night at Anzac dawned clear and sunny.  While there was still a cool breeze blowing, we were pleased to see a change in the weather.  The plan for the morning was to travel down south to Helles and visit site of some of the big battles in this area.  However, we hadn’t counted on the enthusiasm of Turkish authorities to close off roads due to memorial services at some of the sites.

A big service at the Turkish Memorial diverted us to the French Cemetery – a very different experience to the small intimate cemeteries we had been visiting around Anzac.  Road closures meant we couldn’t get to the British Memorial so we decided to loop back around to the Turkish Memorial and wait for the service to finish.  As it turned out, this was a fortunate decision, because as we waited, a group of Turkish school students began interacting with the Simpson Prize group.

Many Turkish school children learn some basic English words and phrases, and like to try them out.  So after some initial ‘hellos’ and ‘…my name is’ the group warmed to the task and there began a rich cultural exchange that included giving of souvenir gifts (obligatory toy koalas and kangaroo pins) photographs, and passing on personal details like name, age and favourite football (soccer) teams.

Nic and friends Nic and friends

While the Turkish kids were a couple of years younger than most of the Simpson Prize gang, they were full of fun and enjoyment, with expressions of friendship and love.  Whether it was the Turkish girls falling for Nic or Varun, or any of the girls from our group getting photographed with a line up of Turkish boys, we all had a great time interacting, laughing and dragging our guide Fred over to tells us what someone was saying.

It was a real highlight of the day and great way to pass the time as we waited for the dignitaries to leave.  Numerous fly-overs of fighter jets, marching soldiers and bands added to the atmosphere.  We were finally allowed to move up to see the immense Turkish Memorial, take a quick snap, and then after one last futile attempt to see the British Memorial, headed back to the Kum Hotel for lunch.

As Andrew had encouraged us to bring our swimmers, and the sun was shining and we were brave and foolish enough, we decided today was the day to jump into the Aegean Sea.  We made a mad dash down the beach and into the water, knowing that if we stopped to dip our toes in we wouldn’t have gone anywhere near that freezing body of water.  The intrepid band plunged into the water amid screams and yells, to find that after about 5 minutes your body got so numb it actually felt fine.  We even managed to document the event with pictures, emerging from the water holding hands just as Meg had foreseen in a dream.

The first tentative steps into the water The first tentative steps into the water

Thus cleansed in water, and reborn with very tight, red skin, we headed back for a quick shower and afternoon walk.  A short drive to Chunnuk Bair saw us in the thick of all the crowds gathering in the area.  But we left all that behind with a walk down Rhododendron Ridge to the sea, through the spectacular country to the north of Anzac.  The aim was to tire us out for an early to bed evening, which at the time of writing only one had taken heed of.  You can’t tell a teenager what to do!