September 15, 2011 GMT
Made it!

I'd always wanted to come here. Many Australian's and Kiwi's do. It's almost like a pilgrimage. It was one of the main reasons for doing the trip to Turkey and I'd gotten there via the sceinc route.

At about 17:58 on Wednesday, the 14th of September I finally made it, after about 7,000 miles of riding since leaving London in late July.

My day started as usual and before too much of the morning had passed I'd skirted around Izmir and was heading north. There was plenty of competition for my attention today. My options included the Roman ruins of Pergamum, near Bergama, the coastal town of Ayvalik and even the legendary, ancient city of Troy.

I'd seen plenty of ruins and coastal towns by now, so I passed through Bergama, viewing the hilltop ruins from afar, and straight onto Ayvalik, via a nice backroad, where I stopped for lunch. But I kept pressing on, past the turnoff to Troy and onto Canakkale and a short ferry ride across the Dardenelles to Eceabat, and back into Europe.

By the time I arrived at Anzac Cove all the tour groups had gone. I pretty much had the place to myself, riding on most of the roads that follow the ridges of this dramatic landscape - some of which now mark the unbelievably short distance between the front lines of the fierce combatants that fought here so many years ago.

I only stopped once, at the Anzac Commemorative Site, where the dawn service has been held on 25 April since it opened in 2000.

I carefully read the plaques that feature here, each with a quote, a picture and background information. It was very moving and hard to believe that this now peaceful and most beautiful place had seen so much waste of human life almost 100 years earlier.

I'm glad I was here on my own. I could reflect in my own time without having my thoughts interrupted and without the many facts that will certainly be given during tomorrow's tour.

It's hard to describe how I felt. The people that gave their lives here are all unknown to me yet I felt so sad - like they were my close family or friends. But there is a sense a pride and patriotism that accompanied the sadness. I don't know if I would have been up to it had I been around at the time. This made me feel a little ashamed so I consoled myself with thoughts that maybe I would have signed up if all my mates were doing the same.

The ANZAC legend gets stronger each passing year and this is a good thing. I have known the story for most of my life but never really researched it in any detail. Now I know a little bit more about the campaign.

The tour I did on Wednesday afternoon was superb. I had the Turkish guide to myself for the 4 hours. He had all the facts I'd expected on a very Aussie focused agenda, but also shared with some Turkish perspectives which were nice to hear.

Sometimes it can be disappointing to meet a legend. Not this one. After seeing the terrain, hearing about the battles and seeing the grave sites I have even greater admiration and respect. I always knew what ANZAC Day stood for and that many of Australia's finest young men gave their lives and helped define the spirit and culture of a young nation. But having made the pilgrimage I now understand it a little better.

I thoroughly recommend a visit here to anyone. Not just those from Australia and New Zealand. This place is not the most important battlefield for the Turkish. But it was in many ways that start of the Independence movement that would see Turkey become a nation a few years later. It's the place where Turkey's greatest leader, Mustafa Kemel (later Ataturk), courageously directed the counter attack to the Allies offensive.

My words fall short in adequately describing what Gallipoli means to me as an Australian. And it is also hard to fathom why Australians are shown so much respect and friendship from the Turkish people.

During my time at Anzac Cove I found two very apt quotes that come close to explaining what this place means.

The first quote was spoken by Ataturk, during a speech of peace and reconciliation in 1934, and features on a memorial:

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... you are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears: your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

These final words are from CEW Bean, an Australian war correspondent and historian:

"ANZAC stood, and still stands, for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat."

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Posted by Brett from Oz at September 15, 2011 04:46 PM GMT
 
 

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