Date of stay: April 2011
Tour or pre planneed: Tour - Beige Brigade
Possibly one of the most impressive and sobering experiences you can ever take part in as a New Zealander or Aussie. I won't go into the history around this event as it speaks for itself, and becomes very apparent when you get out to the peninsula of Gallipoli.
We booked through Beige Brigade a New Zealand company, (devoted to following the national cricket team on tours ever since the Australians undid us with a cheeky under-arm bowl on February 1st 1981 - another story all together).
I had heard great things about booking through them, unfortunately we had a different experience, possibly it was just a bad year, but they only had 8 people sign up for the tour from Istanbul to Gallipoli, so we were added to another tour group called 'The Fanatics' which actually turned out to be fantastic. The only complaints being that we had poor communication from the Beige Brigade and didn’t actually know we were being amalgamated until we arrived in Turkey.
The ANZAC experience starts from Istanbul, and puts you on a bus for a couple of hours out to the peninsula where the war happened. The atmosphere was amazing during the evening, everyone was keen to have a yarn, and if you were lucky you could get an interview with a Turkish TV channel (we didn’t have a clue what they were asking us, but they seemed happy for us just to yell out New Zealand and Aussie related chants while holding up our flags). Next was dinner, you are paying around NZD $10 for a kebab - a bit over the top, but that’s supply & demand for you! You spend the night sleeping under the stars, we had a perfectly still but cold night, got down to 2 degrees so make sure you pack a sleeping bag. We were all packed like sardines on the grass with other people entertained all night by speakers, brass bands, and general banter between the Kiwis and Aussies. There was not an ounce of sleep to be had as you were either freezing or woken by loud symbols and trumpets.
Dawn hit and we had the dawn service, what a rush, words cannot explain how proud you are as a Kiwi (or Aussie) to be remembering our soldiers and especially the ones who lost their lives. From there we climbed a big hill (which again was unexpected due to poor communication by the tour group). I’m not going to lie, the gradient isn't a gentle, a lot of people were puffing and panting away. It might be an idea to do a bit of hill training before hand. The reason we got up without complaint was the thought of our ancestors doing the same walk with heavy backpacks on (not to mention the flying bullets).
The Aussie service was at 'Lone Pine' which is about 7km from ANZAC cove and the Kiwi service was just down the road at Chunuk Bair (12km from the starting point) It was a very emotional walk and were able to stop off at countless cemeteries, and walk the trenches. You have to see it to believe it.
After all the services, we were picked up by our bus and driven back to Istanbul for a night out with the locals - which is extremely fun. (waiting for the buses can take a while so be prepared)
Overall I’d recommend this trip, there are plenty of different tour groups to go with so choose one carefully. If you are unsure when to go, keep 2015 in mind as this it’s the 100th anniversary, its going to huge.
Would you recommend this Festival: Yes
Would you recommend your tour: No
Overall rating: 5 out of 5