Our first day in Gallipoli - Simpson Prize 2011
Back on the bus and we were away for the final part of the road trip. We arrived at the Kum hotel for a late lunch and some of us... ok... I ate my lunch fast in my haste to get the kids to get their first taste of ANZAC. Our first stop was Beach cemetery where we got some time to look around and the weather finally cleared and the sun beamed down. We let the students absorb their surrounds before we then all came together to talk about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the importance of the relationship with and the generosity of the Turkish people. We stood by Simpson’s plot and explored his role in the ANZAC Story, as the name sake to the Simpson prize it had special meaning for us all. Gene, the ACT winner, talked about the epitaph that inspired him to write his essay and told us all about what he had discovered through his research. The Epitaph simply reads “Deeds not words”. Three very powerful words and they clearly resonated with Gene.
We moved down to Ari Burnu Cemetery and walked along ANZAC Cove itself. We sat and talked about the campaign and explored just how difficult that landing must have been for the men. We all truly got a sense of where we were when we hit that beach as I am sure did the young ANZACS almost 100 years ago. We had time to look around and explore and I was amazed that as I strolled along the beach I was finding parts of smashed rum jugs that have been there in the water and buried in the sand since the evacuation. On one part of the beach I found a large piece of shrapnel, as big as my forearm on another a quarter of a rum jug just sitting on the beach almost defying time to break it down and take it out to sea.
Before heading back to the hotel for dinner and backgammon, the day finished with the setting sun lighting the sphinx, and nature posing a very complex question, how can such a beautiful place have seen so much tragedy?
Leaving the lights and glitz of Istanbul behind us we made our way down to Gallipoli today. It is important for the students to get a feel and understanding for the Turkish culture and the people before they come to ANZAC cove and the battlefields. It was a fun bus ride, even though we talked about politics and religion, as we got to watch the world go by and see some of the beautiful sites along the Marmara coast line. We stopped at a service station for snacks and drinks, as you do on any good road trip, and we were surprised to learn that there was a small Zoo attached to the place. Apparently not uncommon in the area, all these petrol station stops look for the edge over their competitors and for them that edge came in the form of some chickens, guinea fowl, turkey, peacocks, two Ostriches and a Camel. It seems a novel idea to us but it must work.