En route – Day 4

DAY 4 of 4: Canakkale

And we arrive in Turkey! Canakkale is a small city/big town on the waterfront, where we stayed for the majority of the trip. The town being on the water, it was COLD. It was spring at the time, although it felt like winter with summer sun…I liked it! And our hotel was almost on the water itself – very convenient as the ferry was a one minute walk away, and we travelled to the Gallipoli Peninsula almost every day by way of a 15 minute ferry ride. (On the other side we arrive in a town called Eceabat before we drive the rest of the way to the Dawn Service site.)

I loved Canakkale. I would love to go back one day – I could even imagine myself living there for a while! Everyone is so friendly and they love it when you try to speak Turkish – “Merhaba!” (Hello), was pretty much as advanced as our vocal got though, haha! (When we got back to NZ, it took me a fair while not to automatically say “Merhaba” whenever I greeted someone!) The town itself is so beautiful, with lush greenery (so much like NZ, it surprised me!), cobblestone streets (walk carefully) with colourful, cramped shops looking so much like the photos you see in travel books of little Italian streets. I loved it. And the food. Oh my gosh, they know how to do a mean kebab there! Gozleme and durum dona…I have never tasted such good wraps in my life and I’m afraid no other will ever match up! I also tried Iskendar which, I was told, is a dish Canakkale is famous for – I could taste why!

You walk around and so often you see stray cats in the streets – we were told beforehand that there are many stray cats and some stray dogs in Canakkale but that we mustn’t pet them in case they have rabies. It was so hard not to but I managed to refrain. They looked so cute and cuddly, and made me miss my own kitty back home!

The day after we arrived in Canakkale was the contingent’s rest day so that we could have time to recover from the five days of constant travelling, and settle in – and of course see some of the main tourist attractions! The small Canakkale markets had so many interesting trinkets and hand-made crafts that were so uniquely Turkish in design. We visited the Canakkale Marine Museum just down the road, going aboard a replica of their mine-laying ship – the Nusrat – from the First World War. We also visited the Cimenlik Fortress located on the marine museum grounds – it was awesome to see some of the war history from their point of view.

And, I just have to mention, for those of you who are ancient history nuts like I am…the actual Trojan horse from the movie “Troy” is on the Canakkale waterfront, and I got a friend to take a photo of me in front of it! I also finally crossed one place off my ancient sites travel bucket list (which consists of many ancient sites that I’ve studied in my classical studies classes) while we were there – TROY! That is all I shall say otherwise I may just write another page or so gushing about how awesome it was, and you’d probably just roll your eyes at me like most of my friends do…

Canakkale was such a lovely town – I’m feeling so nostalgic as I write this! Would that transporters existed and would that I then owned one!

Beautiful! Reminds me of NZ!
Beautiful! Reminds me of NZ!
Beautiful sunset from the waterfront.
Beautiful sunset from the waterfront.
TROY. Imagine what those buildings could have been!
TROY. Imagine what those buildings could have been!
The cobblestone streets.
The cobblestone streets.
Entrance to the Canakkale markets.
Entrance to the Canakkale markets.
Part of the outside of the Cimenlik Fortress.
Part of the outside of the Cimenlik Fortress.

En route – Day 3

DAY 3 of 4: Dubai

Dubai was something else entirely. You definitely know you aren’t anywhere near home anymore! You kind of fancy that you’re in an Aladdin movie, especially as you’ve just seen orange desert and a few camels from the plane as you were flying in – it was so awesome! It was the first time I had ever seen desert – it was so foreign compared to the GREEN that is New Zealand. Also, it was the first time most of us had ever seen a camel, so as you can imagine there was much excitement!

The heat is the first thing you register as you get off the nice, air-conditioned plane and onto the tarmac, though. It was HOT. Hotter than Darwin. And my face instantly turned into a tomato. But it was a dry heat which did make it somewhat more bearable.

It was crazy to think that we were so close to all these famous landmarks – like the world’s tallest building – and driving through streets you only see pictures of in travel books. Dubai is seriously amazing at engineering. The whole skyline is composed of tall buildings in constant competition, it seems, with the ones next to them. The designs are incredible and logic-defying. And there is sooooo much glass – everything reflects and shines brilliantly. We had the thought that you’d earn a lot of money being a window-cleaner in Dubai…if you didn’t fall to your death down a million stories within the first few days, that is.

A desert sunset is something to behold. Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. (So much so that I had to take several photos even though my eyes were melting out of their sockets as a consequence of the sun’s brightness…) It’s hard to describe but the desert beauty certainly competes with that of the skyscrapers on the horizon.

The markets in Dubai are an experience I don’t think you’ll ever find elsewhere – overwhelming! (Of course, I had to buy myself some souvenirs at the markets, consisting of a mini Aladdin lamp, mini Aladdin shoes and a mini camel ornament…all of which now sit on the Dubai section of my souvenir shelf!)

Desert!
Desert!
Travelling back to the airport the next morning.
Travelling back to the airport the next morning.
I have no idea what this building is but the design defies logic! I quite like it, though!
I have no idea what this building is but the design defies logic! I quite like it!
Desert sun.
Desert sun.
Seeing the world's tallest building - the Burj Khalifa - in the distance while on the way to our hotel.
Seeing the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa – in the distance while on the way to our hotel.

En route – Day 2

Day 2 of 4: Penang

Penang! To be honest, Penang was so unlike anything in NZ that I felt a bit intimidated and much like a fish out of water – my first impression of the city left me disliking Penang. However, we went exploring a little after arriving at our hotel, and it didn’t take long at all for me to change my mind completely! In fact, I would love to go and visit Penang again one day!

The people there are so friendly and everyone greets you with a smile (and from where they sit on their scooters, they wave back somewhat bemusedly as you wave enthusiastically from the sidewalk…maybe they’re used to us strange tourists?).

That night we all took taxis to see the night markets, and my group’s driver was a lovely man named Henry. I felt sorry for him at first because he had to deal with a car full of teenage girls (who were now hyperactive after having been cooped up in a plane for close to seven hours), most of whom kept asking him to turn on the radio to a music station (anything in English, please?) and would sing along loudly. However, he took it in his stride and even got involved, entertaining us with interesting facts about the city, pointing out landmarks and telling us about his children, all of whom he is very proud of! Henry became our friend – even though I genuinely feared for my life a few times when he would enthusiastically gesture in his story-telling (with BOTH hands – which equals ZERO on the steering wheel!) and the car would begin slowly drifting into the oncoming lane. But, needless to say, we survived, and of course, we had a group photo taken with him when he dropped us off back at the hotel.

Earlier that evening, a massive thunder/lightning storm had started. I put the slash in there because, really, there was more lightning than thunder. It was amazing to watch – especially as the room I shared with my roommate had a view of the mountains. We’d never seen any storm like it in NZ! Which explained why many of us were shrieking or yelping in fright at every lightning flash on the way to the markets, and good old Henry had just laughed at us – I think he said these kinds of storms happen almost everyday at that time of year. Of course, the minute I decided to try and catch a photo (or even a video!) of a lightning bolt (after the hundreds I’d just witnessed), the lightning stopped. Yeah, talk about trying to catch lightning in a bottle!

The markets were interesting, but only five or so stalls were actually trading because of the storm – it was supposed to be a two mile long stretch of stalls, if I recall correctly. But that didn’t dampen our spirit! It was still heaps of fun, and I was such a touristy-tourist and got myself an “I <3 Penang" t-shirt. Laugh all you want! It's one of my favourite shirts, too! Also at the markets, a major cultural difference we encountered was the concept of bartering - it was actually expected of you! Well, the art of bartering eluded me - I was useless at it. I admit it. I was so pathetic at it that one of my fellow Youth Ambassadors took pity on me and appointed herself barterer on my behalf. She was much better at it. Although, maybe no one was quite as skilled as the drama students we had on the team - their bartering was a sight to behold and I still laugh whenever I think about it! Those stall owners didn't know what hit them - they had certainly met their match. Although, I think perhaps our laughing in the background as we watched may have slightly hampered the success of some of the serious bartering endeavours. IMG_0505

From the bus on the way to our hotel.
From the bus on the way to our hotel.
View from our hotel room.
View from our hotel room.
The path a few of us walked along the waterfront for a stroll.
The path a few of us walked along the waterfront for a stroll.
The storm - one of my fruitless attempts at capturing a photo of a lightning bolt.
The storm – one of my fruitless attempts at capturing a photo of a lightning bolt.

En route – Day 1

First, before we get to the heavy, life-changing stuff, I’ll just cover some of our journey en route to Turkey because it was one of the most culture-rich experiences I’ve ever had – and we hadn’t even arrived at our ultimate destination yet!

As we had only one flight crew, we had to have one-night stop overs along the way to Turkey. It took about four days – we left NZ for Darwin (Australia) and stayed a night there, then stopped over in Penang (Malaysia) for a night, then Dubai (UAE) for a night, and then we arrived at Canakkale in Turkey, where we stayed for the majority of the trip. So to sum it up – five countries in five days. Wow! It felt as though we had travelled almost half way around the globe, and in Turkey the timezone difference to NZ was nine hours!


DAY 1 of 4: Darwin

I had been to Darwin once before and had already fallen in love with the place (well…certain aspects, definitely not the heat or all the creatures [big and small] out to kill you) and being back there made me quite nostalgic. It was amusing to see everyone’s reactions to the heat – at least I knew what to expect, so I was lucky!

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The Gallipoli Story

The Dawn Service site, Gallipoli Peninsula
The Dawn Service site on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

I had the privilege of attending the Anzac Day Centenary commemorations at Gallipoli this year, having been chosen to represent the country as one of 25 New Zealand Youth Ambassadors. It was an absolutely mind-blowing experience, and it brought the meaning of Anzac Day to life for me in a way nothing else ever has.

The Youth Ambassadors were selected from all over NZ – most were chosen through means such as competitions and programmes and from the cadet forces. I was selected via the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs’ Passchendaele Multi-media Competition.

We travelled as part of the official New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) delegation to Turkey for the centenary commemorations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. As Youth Ambassadors, we had duties for the two services: we helped with crowd management (such as helping people find the right seats and facilities) and we walked with the crowds up to the Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair services after the Dawn Service (helping carry things for the public and trying to keep spirits up, as it was a 7km up-hill trek to the Chunuk Bair site). At the end of the Chunuk Bair service we helped with getting everyone loaded onto the right buses and off the Peninsula – quite an operation!. Prior to Anzac Day, we had also learnt and continuously practiced a set of songs to sing for the crowds as the stands fill up for the Chunuk Bair service.

In the lead up to Anzac Day we went on two battlefield tours of the Gallipoli Peninsula, visiting war cemeteries (quite sobering, and an emotional experience at times) and walking some of the trails that the ANZAC troops had used 100 years ago.

The trip offered four weeks of life-changing experiences, and I feel so honoured to have been in the company of the NZDF contingent and the Youth Ambassador contingent (consisting of our leader, our chaperones and my fellow Youth Ambassadors). I have met the most amazing people on this trip and have made life-long friends.

I want to share with you my experiences and the insights that I gained while in Turkey regarding the Anzac legacy – I can prove to you that Anzac Day is more than just a holiday and that it is something that still affects us today. While I have always believed that Anzac Day is an important event to observe, I realise now that I had never fully understood it and so it was hard to connect with it – but this trip has changed everything for me. I wish that all New Zealanders could have the opportunity to visit Gallipoli themselves and see what we saw, but while that is impossible, I can write about it for you. That, I can do!