I was undecided as to whether I wanted to travel the additional 300 kilometres westward towards Gallipoli. Home was in an easterly direction. But due to a purchase of a bus pass that had not proved its financial worth I had already travelled an additional 1,000 kilometres around Europe.
Why not add an extra 300 kilometres to the list?
It was not much of a sacrifice compared to the sacrifices my fore bearers had made in this part of the world.
I boarded the bus in Istanbul and set my course in the direction of another detour, taking me further away from home. Within an afternoon of travel I arrived in a small town near Gallipoli, called Canakkale.
It was tea time; time to buy my first authentic Turkish lamb kebab. I devoured the delicious treat with relish. Then I had my curiosity aroused.
Where were all the local sheep?
I went for a walk around the nearby hills to search for these fluffy little fellows frolicking in the fields. But there were none around.
There was nothing to sooth the thoughts of a young man who must be showing symptoms of pinning for memories of his own country.
Perhaps tomorrow, on the tour of Gallipoli, I shall feel closer to home.
The first stop on the tour was at a small battle fortress that overlooked a narrow point of the Dardanelles, the mouth of the Mediterranean which flowed into the harbour of Istanbul.
We climbed out of the tour van and were given a short history lesson by the tour guide:
“Previously known as Constantinople, Istanbul was the capital of Turkey, a country which in World War I had joined forces with Germany and Austria-Hungary, waging war against the Allies. The Allies had originally attempted to attack Constantinople by sending its navy through this narrow channel. However they suffered serious losses from the defending Turkish positions and subsequently decided they would have to devise an alternative plan”.
We were then driven along a road that sat just above a beach. The van stopped at what is now called ANZAC Cove, the landing place of the ANZAC forces on April 25, 1915.
We were told of two theories as to why this particular beach was chosen. One theory revolved around simple mismanagement by the British officers. The other theory was that it was the best place to catch the Turkish army off guard, as it was reasoned they would dismiss any landing there due to the steep terrain that rose above the beach.
Once the ANZAC forces landed on ANZAC Cove they had to climb a series of steep crests to reach the summit and a place of strength. They just missed achieving this objective and subsequently became involved in trench warfare. They finally withdrew from the area in January 1916.
We were taken to the top of the highest crest and looked down over the surrounding landscape, out to the sea. The terrain that the ANZAC forces had to climb was not dissimilar to that you would expect on a South Island high country sheep station.
It was a poignant moment.
The period, in my opinion, signalled the birth of New Zealand and Australia as two independent countries, growing up and questioning their dependence upon Britain.