After a hot sweaty night in Kuculkkuyu, the early morning call to prayer drifted through our window accompanied by the howls of stray dogs. The tune went on and on and so did the dogs. It was the cue for me to get up and shut the windows and put the air con back on. That at least allowed us a few more hours of shut eye.
Breakfast sitting by the wharf was just lovely. The skies had cleared and those lovely blue skies had returned. The day was nice and sunny with just a slight breeze blowing as the mistral had finally blown itself out. We had many of the usual foods which make up a Turkish breakfast such as eggs, cucumber, tomato, olives, cheeses,bread and various spreads. Some of the local spreads were quite interesting especially the bean spread it looked like Nutella but was actually a type of bean mixed with molasses. As we began to eat we were surrounded by cats. The waiter came out to chase them away and one cat would go one way whilst he went the other. As soon as he’d walk a way they’d be back. One was even cheeky enough to follow him inside. It was hilarious to watch.
Heading out of Kuculkkuyu we stopped at the lights alongside two young blokes on Mondials. Around Turkey all the young blokes love their little 125 and 150 cc bikes like Mondial’s, Kunani, and Kuba’s. They remind me of the cafe racers, built light, with lots of chrome and low to the ground. It seems every town we’ve been raced at the lights by a kid on a bike. Well as we pulled up alongside these two young blokes at Kuculkkuyu one bloke had his boom box blasting out Turkish tunes and the other was gunning his throttle. We knew what was on the agenda. After a good jump off the lights both boys were seeing the flag on the back of the Princess. As I knew the Jandarma had a checkpoint on the edge of town I slowed the Honda down and let speed racer pass.
Surprisingly he was still accelerating as he passed through the checkpoint despite the Jandarm waving him to slow down. We of course just putt putted past waving to the Jandarm.
Riding through the coastal hills out of Kuculkkuyu we were surprised by how many roadside laybys had stalls selling olive products. In the region around Kuculkkuyu there are millions and millions of olive trees even throughout the coastal hills on the lower side. The road up through the hills is one lane each way with lots of hairpin bends and blind corners. The road is used by lots of trucks but the crazy thing is the stalls are set up on blind corners with cars parked on either side of the road. Speed racer almost became a Mercedes hood ornament on one corner as it tried to make u-turn.
The ride through the hills was pretty slow as there were long lines of traffic stuck behind slow-moving trucks. The hills were quite green with the high side of the road covered in tall pines and the low side olives.
The landscape changed as we descended into low rolling hills covered in fields of golden wheat. Nice two lane highways allowed us to open the throttle as we headed towards Çannakale. We were going a little too fast maybe as we approached a Jandarma checkpoint and we got waved over. After a walk around the bike the jandarm asked “English?” “Er no Australian” to which he just waved us on.
We spotted the sign to Troia/Troya (Troy) so we decided to take a detour. It was only 5 km’s off the main road so not much of a detour. The price of entry was 25 TL which was a little expensive compared to cities like Hieropolis, Ephesus or Xanthos. Those three cities have extensive ruins with massive theatres and lots of standing columns.
At Troy there’s not much to see, just the remains of defensive walls, the lower parts of houses, temples and of course a large wooden horse. I suppose the beauty of Troy lies in the legend which date back to Homer and the Iliad or if you’re a child of the nineties the movie starring Brad Pitt which tells a snippet of the ten-year Trojan war.
Standing on the remains of the ramparts looking down over the flat planes towards the Aegean you could almost imagine Argamemnon and his 10,000 soldiers stretched out below you. The wheat fields which cover the plane were shimmering and moving due to the wind like a sea of soldiers on the move. A really well signposted boardwalk takes you through the defensive walls and up over the Northern gate. The citadel has a sail covering over a mud brick reconstruction of what the walls would’ve looked like. When it was initially built the foundations of the walls were stone and the uppers made of mud brick. On the storyboards pictures of the different buildings give a real sense of what Troy really looked like.
Beyond Troy fields of wheat, olives and fruit stretch out over the rolling hills. With fertile land and control of the waterway it’s easy to see why Troy was rich.
After a fairly brief visit to Troy we headed to Çannakale to catch the ferry to Eceabat but by mistake caught the ferry to Kutbahir. It wasn’t much of a drama although coming off the ferry we went the wrong way and ended up in the old Turkish Fortifications. Once we realised our mistake we headed back towards Eceabat. Once we arrived in Eceabat we rode up and down the street trying to look for the hotel. The satnav was useless as the hotel wasn’t listed and it couldn’t find the street although the town only has about ten streets. Eventually we found a photo of the map and were arriving at the hotel.
After booking in we headed towards Gallipoli. This weekend the Gallipoli peninsula is just packed with hundreds of buses loaded with Turks from all over the country. Most of the buses were heading for the Turkish memorials on the high road so we stuck to the coast and cruised along Anzac Cove passing Shrapnel Valley on our way to Ari Burnu. We took a walk around the graveyard at Ari Burnu, and down onto the beach where just over 101 years ago Australian and New Zealand soldiers came ashore. Looking up into the hills the rocky outcrop known as the sphinx came into sight above the Anzac Commemorative park. The only thing passing through our minds looking at the landscape was “madness”.
We took a ride up the hill to Lone Pine Cemetery to search for Michele’s Grandfathers name on the side of the memorial. The panels are numbered so it was easy enough to find the right panel with his name on it. He was injured during the attack on Chanuk Bair, evacuated to a hospital ship where he later died. He was buried at sea and his name etched onto the side of the memorial along with all the other soldiers of the Otago Mounted Rifles. It felt a bit strange not having a headstone. On a headstone the person is more than just a name. There are personal facts like how old they were, what date they died, and maybe an epitaph about the person, beloved son etc. It’s also a place to leave flowers and maybe a plastic encased bio so that anyone passing the grave can know the person was more than a name on a wall.
Finding the grave of a 16 year old was quite a shock. We’ve seen them before on the western front but when you think back to being 16, well you didn’t know a thing about life and here was a kid in the thick of it.
Using a guide we picked up at Lone Pine we headed towards Chanuk Bair where the road was just chockas with buses and people. The road is one way and despite what the map looks like it’s just a loop which ends back at the museum. With all the parking full of buses and about thirty parked on the road trying to get through was a nightmare. With so many buses and traffic I actually missed the memorial and did the loop back to the museum. We decided to try to avoid the crowds and head along the coast again past Anzac Cove and the commemorative park towards Suvla Bay. The good road ran out just past the commemorative park and we picked our way slowly over the heavily potholed road. It was quite easy to see this area isn’t on the tourist route and people make their money farming wheat and olives. The signposts were pretty hard to decipher as each cross road had so many different signs and they were all in Turkish. Eventually we just gave up trying to find the NZ memorial and just enjoyed the ride through the countryside passing fields of wheat, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and through dusty little villages.
Eventually the road led back towards Eceabat and we stopped off at the Boomerang Bar where we were treated like royalty by Mersut, the owner. The bar was filled with Aussie and Kiwi memorabilia. He pulled out an album, opening it up to a page with pictures of a pair of Aussie motorcyclist who’d travelled from Australia and ended up at his little bar. The albums were a slice of history with comments from people who’d visited, camped, drank too much, had a great time at the Boomerang Bar. Reading between the lines we could trace the struggles Mersut had with the authorities over the years with alcohol crackdowns and the changing face of tourism in Eceabat. The Boomerang was filled with locals enjoying a beer or raki and outside fish were cooking on the barbecue, it was a nice atmosphere. We lingered for a while enjoying a drink as we flicked through the albums laughing at the crazy stories written by all the visitors to the Boomerang Bar. As we hadn’t eaten Mersut arrived with two plates piled high with Turkish Dips and salads which we slowly ploughed our way through. It was a nice way to end the day on the beach overlooking the Dardanelles. After wishing Mersut well we headed for the bike as the jandarma truck slowly cruised past. It was our cue to head the opposite way, as we’ve already been stopped once today we want to be as inconspicuous as possible.
Tomorrow hopefully the crowds will be less and we can explore a bit more.