Finally ANZAC day has come and with it the main highlight of the trip. We received a wake up call at midnight; something many of the students didn’t need as we decided that it was better to stay up and sleep while we waited for the dawn. By 1.00 am we were on the bus we were sharing with another tour group and on our way to ANZAC cove. We got off the bus about 500 meters away from where the service was going to be held. We quickly made our way through security and before long we were climbing out the stands making our way to our seats.
The spectacle of the thousands of people, in their colourful sleeping bags as they covered much or the grass and stands was amazing. Cameras flashed constantly lighting the dark for just a second before being overtaken by another flash elsewhere on the site. The huge television screens – the main focus for those who were awake – played short extracts of documentaries and interviews as well as the band as they played in the night. The lightshow that lit the ‘Sphinx’ and the water on the beach engulfed our attention while it lasted before the group began to settle in for the cold wait ahead.
It wasn’t too cold when we first arrived, but maybe that had something to do with the 4 pairs of pants and tops I was wearing. Our seats left us sitting next to a large collection of speakers, so it is easily guessed that sleep wasn’t going to be an easy thing to acquire as we waited for the dawn. At various points in the night different people in the group would get up and go for a walk to the stalls that sold hot drinks, chicken kebabs, rugs and roasted nuts; mainly to warm up I think rather than the event that them were generally in need of a tea and a kebab.
Zoe made this event slightly difficult when she figured that the easiest way to sleep was on the floor of the stand, I really wished I had thought of that first, it looked much more comfortable than the cold seats the rest of us were sitting on. At 2:11am ABC Darwin called and interviewed me about the entire experience of being here in Gallipoli and waiting for the dawn service. I made a point about how cold it was and they just laughed. They asked about the prize and what was still install for us on the trip, that was when it really occurred to me that the 2 weeks were almost over and in a few days we would be leaving turkey on our journey back to Australia.
With all the commotion caused by the moving around of people and the very loud speakers I don’t think many if any (with the most definite exclusion of Zoe) got any sleep as we waited for the service. Through the night it got colder as is to be expected, but it was not freezing until the sun began coming out behind the ridges of the ‘Sphinx’; which to me make no logical sense at all.
Everyone was snuggled up in their sleeping bags trying hard to stay warm as the Dawn service commenced. The service was not as long as I thought it would be, but it didn’t need to be any longer. The service was amazing. Sitting in the cold as you wait for the sun to rise, where 96 years ago our ancestors would of done the same but under a different circumstance really gives you a slight insight as to how they would of felt as they landed at Gallipoli to be met with the slight of the ‘Sphinx’ and the welcome of gun fire. It brings the Legend and Tales of our ANZACs’ to life and makes that connection that those tales are not fiction they happened and the devastation, bravery and loss told to us in those stories are were real the pain they suffered and the environment that was deadly with gunfire and disease.
After the service had come to a close everyone began to leaving the site on their way to the different locations where services would be held. Lead by Andrew we slipped out of the site via the path set for the officials and dignitaries, his reason so we could ‘walk along the red carpet’. The walk up to lone pine was a very steep and strenuous one, mainly I think because we were all very tired and cold. By the time we made it to shell green cemetery (just under half way up to lone pine) we were ready for a short stop to de-layer ready for the rest of the up hill walk. When we reached Lone Pine we went through another security checkpoint before heading for the stands where we would wait until the service at 10am got closer. Again there was some pre-service entertainment and even a shout of for people from every state and territory. When the announcers asked who was from the NT I think I was one on the only ones who raised my hand, I felt like a bit of a minority compared to the cheers coming from the people from NSW and Victoria.
At about 9:20 am the group headed down to get ready for the service where we would be wreath bearers. As a group we decided on wearing just our polo shirts instead of our jackets only because it looked better, the decision had nothing to do weather which was still very cold. During some back and forth dashes from the stands to the changing area I realised I had misplaced my phone, but at that point in time I didn’t have time to worry about it so I put it to the back of my mind and headed towards where we would be standing during the service. During my multiple back and forth dashes to and from the stands I left my Simpson prize jacket with my bag but thankfully Gene was nice enough to lend me his jacket so I would not freeze while we waited for our part in the service.
Soon enough Tanvi was up doing her reading of Scots of the Riverena by Henry Lawson which was the cue for the rest of us to get ready to go and before long it was over and we were making our way back down the track we had hiked up earlier that morning. When the group stopped to change out of our black shoes I started poking at my sleeping bag and figured out where my phone had got to; it had been rolled up with my sleeping bag. So with that dilemma sorted I could now happily go back to the hotel and not worry about anything other than making sure my bag is packed.
On the bus ride back many of the group was struggling to stay awake which was more than understandable as most of us at that point had had 6 hours of sleep in the past 48 hours due to the late night on Saturday night. Once back at the hotel we had lunch and then almost everyone headed for their rooms to get in some shut eye. At about 7:15pm the teachers and Stuart came around knocking on doors to get everyone to come to dinner. When Stuart knocked on my door and said dinner was in 15 minute it I realised that I was pretty disorientated as I couldn’t remember why we were having dinner after waking up.
After dinner we headed to the café and multiple games of backgammon were played as well as some other games before going to bed early (well early in comparison to other nights on this trip). Overall today was amazing and lots of fun, defiantly one if not the ultimate highlight of the trip here inTurkey.