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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gallipoli or bust

Gallipoli was always on Bandit’s Mediterranean itinerary and both our bucket lists.  We certainly weren’t going to let a little Greek Meltemi wind get in our way, were we?  Well…that was the theory until one particularly nasty uphill bash when we took a greenie onboard and into the cockpit and galley.  As we anchored in a sheltered bay that night we reconsidered….but decided we were too close to give up, so on we battled.
Everyone had told us if we headed north early we’d miss the Meltemi and that’s why we left Marmaris in early May, but it didn’t quite work that way.  Never mind - the lure of Gallipoli and its history was too strong and the long trip north was very worthwhile.
As a journalist I’d covered dozens of Anzac Day ceremonies and been lucky enough to interview a handful of veterans.  Nonetheless nothing quite prepared us for the emotion we felt on the beautifully calm day we arrived, allowing us to anchor right in Anzac Cove.
We stopped first at the Turkish Memorial on the southern tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula, in the Dardanelles.  This astonishing monument towers over the landscape and Bandit looked tiny anchored in the bay beneath.  From there we motored around to Anzac Cove, passing the flattish ground of Kabatepi, where the Anzac troops were meant to land, to the inhospitable land further north, now called Anzac Cove.
Rowing ashore and landing at the memorial was a humbling experience and few words were spoken as we wandered through the haunting graveyards.  Feeling quite emotionally drained we returned to Kabatepi and left Bandit in the marina there for a further land based expedition to Lone Pine and Chanuk Bair. 
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We managed to find an English speaking taxi driver who spent several hours taking us around this astonishing site.  He was interesting and informative and well worth the $20 he charged us.
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We felt exhausted when we got back to Bandit as the sun was setting.  The Kabatepi harbour was not a pretty spot and as we were thinking about preparing dinner we heard voices at our stern.  The Turkish neighbours on a charter diving boat were standing there with a huge platter of stuffed mussels.  They didn’t speak much English but had recognised our New Zealand flag and wanted to offer hospitality.  The mussels were absolutely delicious and we polished off the entire dish……a very nice way to end our time on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Next morning we headed away and had a fantastic sail to the Greek Island of Samothraki, accompanied by dolphins for much of the way.