Monday, 30 May 2011

A Slow Bus To Anzac Day

23-25 April
Our wake up call was at 4.30am for the 6 hr bus ride to Gallipoli... under normal conditions. From the beginning though the bus was sluggish, changing gears was difficult, and there was a few times we wondered if the bus would even make it up the hill! After a couple of hrs of this we finally stopped and apparently there was bad diesel in the fuel tank. So they topped up the fuel tank... Surprisingly this did not help the situation and the bus was still sluggish, etc. We continued on to a supermarket , where we picked up some supplies for a picnic lunch at Anzac Cove. While we were stopped I think they emptied out the fuel tank and tried to start again, but this STILL did not work!!

Anzac Cove
We continued on to a fuel station and actually got onto another bus that went fast! (or the normal speed, but after the slow bus it felt fast :P) Finally we arrived at Gallipoli at about 2pm, were we had a picnic lunch on the grass of Anzac cove. Then we had a tour of Lone Pine, the Nek, and Chunuk Bair war memorials. On the way to Gallipoli we watched a film (guess which one) and some documentaries on what happened in this part of the world. It is amazing, and almost unbelievable that such a beautiful part of the world can have such an ugly history.

After the tour it was time to drive another 2+ hrs to our accommodation for the night, as well as the 26th. The 4 star hotel had a thermal pool, which was nice and warm and relaxing after a long dinner. The next morning, Easter, we had a relaxing morning, just lazing about, swimming in the pool, etc. We didn't really celebrate Easter, though I did have some Cadbury Mini Eggs :P After an early dinner we left for the drive back to Anzac cove, arriving around 8pm. We were the 58th bus (in the end there were over 300!) There was plenty of sitting space, but no grass/sleeping spaces.

Yalcin showing us a map of the area

At The Nek

John Simpson's grave

Playing the Last Post
At 5am we got told to wake up in preparation for the Dawn service, which was starting at 5.30am. While it was good to go to Gallipoli and see the how dark, and experience what conditions were like 96 years ago for our troops (It was cold, about 0 degrees with wind chill, but I was nice and warm wrapped up in my sleeping bag), I did not find the service to be as emotional as I was expecting. I was more emotional while were were touring the memorial sited on the 23rd. I think having spent most of the night awake sitting in a hard plastic chair, and thus being very cold, tired and uncomfortable may have played a part in this!
3 Nation's flags

After the Dawn service we walked about 3km to Lone Pine for the Australian memorial service. The Turkish and New Zealand services were later on, but up to another 3km walk away. From the Aus service I went straight to Chanuk Bair, and by the time I got there the NZ service was full and they were turning back people. So, I got out my sleeping bag and had a bit of a nap, waiting until about 3pm when we could catch the bus back to our accomodation 2.5hrs away.
Walking up to Lone pone

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Best Tour Guide Ever!

I thought I would tell you a little about our tour guide, Yalcin... Well he definitely has a sense of humour, but most of the time he will say something only slightly funny to which the group will laugh at a little. Then he laughs, the group laughs harder at his laugh, so he laughs even more because we are laughing harder then before, so we all end up almost in hysterics because of his laugh!

He is also very laid back. For example when he counts to make sure we are all on the bus he will say 'ok, we are complete'. When we ask him how many of us there should be, his answer is 'I don't know' :P After losing Cath, (and a couple of other people) we decided to buddy up with each other, and had a double buddy system in place. Towards the end of the trip we just needed to make sure Lorraine (my 'Turkey mum') was on the bus, as she was generally the last one on.

Yalcin's favourite phrase  is 'under normal conditions', followed by how long it should typically take us to get somewhere. We learnt fairly quickly that conditions were rarely normal.. especially in getting to Gallipoli, which I shall post about next. I was certainly glad that the tour consisted of Aussies and New Zealanders, as our laid back, relaxed attitude definitely shone through!

But given his 'faults' Yalcin is the best tour guide ever (thus the title of this post!). He knows his stuff fairly well.. and when he doesn't is honest about it :P He interacted with the group, drinking a lot of Raki (Turkish aniseed liquer) with some of the guys on the tour, and he was interesting. Having a great guide and a great tour group made for an entirely different experience to my Egypt tour, and whilst it was good to say I have been to Egypt, I don't particularly want to go back there, whereas I would LOVE to go back to Turkey one day :)

So, to Yalcin and to everyone else on the tour, thanks for making a GREAT holiday!! xox

And to everyone else, if you ever do a tour of Turkey, make sure Yalcin is your guide!!


21 April.
The flight to Istanbul was fine, I slept through most of it though! My first impression of Istanbul was that it is quite a beautiful city, with tulips blooming everywhere (Did you know that, according to our tour guide and a quick wikipedia search, the name tulip comes from Ottoman Turkey, and it is the national flower of Turkey?). That night I had kebab and baklava for dinner with my 2 roommates. After dinner we had a welcome drinks and our tour guide Yalcin (pronounced Yal-chin) gave a brief overview of the itinerary. It was then time for a belly dancing competition - I wasn't chosen to compete thank goodness, I did enough belly dancing in Egypt!

22 April
View of the Bosphorus, and either a very uncomfortable or
very relaxed puppy
Today was a tour of Istanbul. First we went to Topkapi Palace, were we managed to lose Cath (one of my roomies). Yalcin didn't seem to be too worried by this, so we continued on to the Blue Mosque, but were not able to go inside as it was prayer time. Next we walked to the Hippodrome, which was an ancient sport centre and political area of the old city. After a tour of the Hagia Sophia, which had beautifully mosaicked walls, we finally found Cath again.

Topkapi Palace - Our hotel, Topkapi Hotel WAS NOT as nice as this.
Wish it was though!

Outside Hagia Sophia

Beautiful mosaic - you can see people have taken the lower ones as souvenirs over time 

Glad we found Cath

Bridge between Asia and Europe
After lunch we went on a 2 hour cruise along the Bosphorus, the strait that divides Asia and Europe. It was very winding and freezing on the top deck, so spent most of the time sitting inside, but we still had a good view and a relaxing time :)

 That night we had a Dinner and show, which was really nice. The show was quite interesting, with some traditional music and dancing, including 3 belly dancing acts. While the boys were practically drooling over the scantily dressed women, I do think there was a bit too much belly dancing... After the belly dancing there was a bit of a sing-a-long and then the night was finally over, and we had to go to bed, ready for a early morning drive to Gallipoli the next day (well same day, technically :P).

The girls weren't as impressed by her 'dancing' as the guys :P

Got sick of fake boobs/hair/tan/etc, so got out my camera !

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Night at the Airport

Wednesday afternoon Angus dropped me off at Orpington, where I met with my previous client, her husband, and relief carer. I left my Egyptian calendar there when I finished way back in January, and finally got it back. From Orpington I walked to the train station and caught a serious of train and tubes to visit Gillian, my friend from uni, who is now living and working over here. It was REALLY warm on the tube... the temperature was 26 degrees in London, and only 11 in Istanbul (and here I was hoping for a warm holiday :S) Gillian, her sister, and I went to an Aussie style pub for dinner. It was quite nice, but we had to stand up facing the wall, stuck behind the stairs, as there was a soccer game on. Afterwards we went to Macca's so we could sit down, and actually hear each other talk.

That night I headed to Heathrow on the tube. I left about 11.30pm, arriving around 12.30am. My flight left at 6.55am, with check-in from 4.55am, so I thought it would be safer, and easier, to stay the night at Heathrow and change the tube just once, rather than taking multiple tubes, trains, or buses. I sat for a while outside and took some night shots with my camera, playing the the shutter speed. Once I got too cold outside, I went inside and sat on some steps, until I got so tired that I went and found a bench to lie on. I half dozed for 1.5 hrs or so, but then got cold, so went for a walk around the terminal. At 4.30am I joined the already growing line for check-in. at 6am it was time to board the plane for Istanbul, and my night at the airport was over!

Goodbyes and Gifts

Well I haven't written in a while - I meant to write this before I went to Turkey, but I was busy, and ran out of time. My last night with Maddy I was very spoilt- I got TWO presents! One was a cross stitch and the other a cute little sewing kit. Maddy also wrote me a goodbye and thankyou letter with the help of Matt, which was very, very sweet.  I certainly didn't expect anything, and really appreciated it :) After scope on Tuesday it was finally time to say goodbye and head off to the train station. I made it to the train station in time for the 3.52pm train, but couldnt' find where the ticket machine was, so after walking down and up stairs to get to the right station, I then had to walk back down to buy the ticket from the entrance to the station (makes sense really) and then back to the second platform, all the time with my VERY heavy luggage. By that time I had missed the train by about 1 minute :(

I finally got back to Sidcup, where I had the MOST AMAZING present waiting for me :) Kate, Anni, and Ash had sent me a 'I <3 Australia' bag, a cat purse, and some good old Aussie snacks (YUM) for my birthday. G&A also had a gift for me - I got a block of Lindt chocolate, a bag of Mini Eggs, and a travel shampoo/conditioner pack. I was definitely very spoilt over those 3 days :)