Gallipoli 2015: two days on the road

After travelling around the western parts of Turkey for 6 days, it was time to depart our final hotel and head to Gallipoli.

Gallipoli 2015: The final hotel night

For this night we stayed in a quaint village called Akcay.  Not sure of the actual size as we arrived quite late in the evening and had to repack for our time at Gallipoli. Our hotel was the Gure Saruhan Thermal Hotel.  Not too much thermal about it, a few interesting hiccups with check in and hotel keys but we had learnt not to expect too much at remote Turkish hotels.

For the next two days everything we needed, clothing, food, cameras etc had to fit into two backpacks.  Our awesome bus driver took us for a quick stop at the local supermarkets for supplies we might need…and water.  We were told there would be eats and drinks available at Gallipoli but with 10000 other people there was no guarantee of getting anything.

Before leaving NZ the information we received was we needed to prepare for below zero temperatures overnight at Gallipoli.

We were prepared.  Into our backpacks went thermals to put on when needed, ultra warm Kathmandu jackets, over pants, blankets, beanies, our food and water supplies for 2 days, and cameras with emergency charging devices.

We were prepared.

Gallipoli 2015: 24th April 2015


Departure from our hotel was bout 8:30am.  After fueling up on a good breakfast we had quite a distance to travel and a long day/night ahead.

After travel over a stunning mountain range and through the city of Canakkale we crossed the Dardanelles to enjoy a BBQ lunch provided for everyone attending Gallipoli.  On the way to Canakkale we stopped for a brief visit to Troy.

After lunch is when the fun began.  And the queues.  And the security checks.  And the waiting.  But I wouldn’t have wanted to swap these moments for anything.

Gallipoli 2015: The security process.

2015 was unlike other years.  There were more high profile dignitaries attending (Prince Charles and Prince Harry) and about 5000 more people.  In the time of a security conscious world there were many checks we had to go through, and the first was our bus!

At the bus checkpoint, 21km from the entrance to Gallipoli, the bus was checked over and officials came on board.  At this stage we had to produce passports and entry passes.  We were all tagged with a wrist band depending on which country you were representing, black for New Zealand, yellow for Australia.  We were also given a bag tag, #122, as our bus number.  All these had to be on us and visible at all times.

Gallipoli 2015: Leaving the bus at Mimosa

After travelling back 21km to the Gallipoli entrance we wound our way through the beautiful countryside to Mimosa.  This was were we would leave the bus!  If you needed something from now on, what you were carrying was all you had!

After goodbyes to our driver and guide we, the bus peoples, were on our own!

The next checkpoint, to enter Mimosa, was intense.  Questions, bag checking, tag checking, pass checking and scanning, making sure all details on your pass matched up with all the details on your passport.  If something wasn’t right you were out!

Once through the checkpoint we entered an enclosed area with everyone else.  By this time it was around 6pm on the 24th April.

To leave the waiting area you had to wait for your bus number to be called, then had the options to take a shuttle 3km to ANZAC Cover or take a leisurely walk along the beach.  We chose the walk.  After all, we had all night!  The sunset was stunning.  Very poignant.

Gallipoli 2015: Arrival at ANZAC Cove.

After a very relaxing 3km walk we arrived at ANZAC Cove around 8:30pm.  There was another checkpoint, all details, passes and passports checked again.

We were lucky enough a few from our bus had arrived earlier and saved seats for us.  On arrival at ANZAC Cove you were just stuck by the awe of being there.  Finally, after travelling all around the world I was at ANZAC Cove for an ANZAC Day service, albeit the 100th anniversary, about to cross a major entry off my bucket list.

Gallipoli 2015: Our night under the stars.

Expecting the temperatures to drop significantly we began preparing early for our night.  On went some thermals, beanies and gloves.  I held off as long as I could to don the jacket and extra leggings.

Through the night we were entertained by singers, stories, documentaries and trips to the coffee cart.  At one stage it took around 1.5 hours to get a cup of coffee.

The night was wonderfully clam and mild.  The occasional sea breeze let us know we were sleeping under the stars, although we didn’t sleep.  The excitement and awe of being in such a solemn place was amazing.

Gallipoli 2015: Dawn Service

Wow!  What can I say.  It is hard to put into words how amazing and emotional dawn service was.  Having been to dawn service every year since my military days this was the epitome of dawn services.

Due to the security arrangements timings for dawn service were pretty exact.  Service started at 5:30am and was completed by 6:30am.

Gallipoli 2015: The walk to Chunuk Bair

After dawn service we departed ANZAC Cove around 8:30am.  We were in no hurry, soaking up all the atmosphere and enjoying every moment.

We had a long walk ahead of us, mostly uphill, to reach Chunuk Bair by 2:30pm.  It was about 6km to go, firstly up Artillery Road, then along the paved road from Lone Pine.

Along the way we had opportunities to stop at all the war graves and immerse ourselves in everything about Gallipoli.

Gallipoli 2015: The NZ service at Chunuk Bair

Attended by all the dignitaries, the Chunuk Bair service was all New Zealand.  It was amazing.

We were seated with a very limited view, but could hear the whole service and even had an interaction with Prince Harry.

After the Chunuk Bair service we were then herded back to the waiting area to await the arrival of our bus!

Well, it was an amazing experience, still a wee bit surreal and can’t believe we actually went.

On arrival back at our hotel in Istanbul we were shattered.  It was just after midnight on the 26th.  Nearly 2 whole days with minimal sleep, minimal food but the most amazing life changing experience.



This is part of a four part story on how I got to Gallipoli 2015.  You can find part 1, part 2 and part 3 by clicking the links.


Gallipoli 2015: How we got there!


2015-04-20 10.09.09

After a lot of planning, research, to’ing and fro’ing with our travel agent, our flights and accommodation were booked.

We advised the NZ Government of our acceptance and travel itinerary as was required.  Now we waited.

Gallipoli 2015: Our attendance passes

About 2 weeks prior to our departure the most exciting mail arrived.  Our attendance passes to the Gallipoli 2015 ANZAC service at ANZAC Cove and the New Zealand service at Chunuk Bair.  These were beautiful.

Gallipoli 2015: How we got there.

Having only days to organise travel, that was only 5 weeks away, we took whatever we could, fitting as much into our two weeks as possible.  The only requests we had were a stopover in Hong Kong, if possible, and a stopover in Singapore on the way home.

So, our 15 days went like this:

  • Dunedin —> Auckland —> Hong Kong
  • 24 Hours in Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong —> Frankfurt —> Istanbul
  • 8 day tour of Turkey including Gallipoli 2015
  • Istanbul —> Rome
  • 2 days in Rome
  • Rome —> Zurich —> Singapore
  • 2 days in Singapore
  • Singapore —> Auckland —> Dunedin

Stopover in Hong Kong:

This was a super fast, super cool 24 hours.  I will write a detailed account later on for you all.  We ate, slept, sightsee’d, ate, enjoyed the culture.  Departed about 11pm so was perfect for sleeping on the following flight.

Eight day FEZ Tour of Turkey:

We had the most enthusiastic guide, a bus full of Australian’s and New Zealanders all there for the one reason.  We saw Turkey at its finest, at it’s worst, and everything in between.  We met the most beautiful people, at the most authentic amazing food and had the most memorable time.

Stopover in Rome:

This was sort of an added bonus.  To get from Istanbul back to NZ, via Singapore, we had 2 days spare and had the choice of any European country.  Rome it was!

The most stunning authentic hotel in the perfect location, beautiful food, stunning city and horrid weather.  Nevermind, 2 days and we didn’t even scrape the sides of Rome.

We will be back.

Stopover in Singapore:

Having travelled through Singapore many times before, this is one of our favourite places to stop before heading home.  The food is amazing, the city is stunning and it is great shopping.

So, that was it.

The statistics for our trip:

  • April 17 to May 02, 2015.  15 days away.
  • total of 43,155 air KM’s
  • 58 hours and 15 minutes flying time.
  • 9 different flights
  • 6 different airlines
  • 11 hotel nights
  • 7 different hotels.

All for the purpose of getting to Gallipoli 2015.

Would I do it all again?  In a heartbeat!



This article is day 3 of a 5 day series about my trip to Gallipoli 2015. Read about about day 1 and day 2.

Gallipoli 2015: Planning our travel


Air NZ

After receiving our email offer of two passes to the Gallipoli 2015 100 year commemorations of World War 1 we took a day to digest the fact we actually had a chance to go.

Only 2000 NZ’ers were offered attendance passes and we were two of those 2000.  Such an honour.

So, the conditions of our acceptance oft he passes was we had to have our travel arranged and paid for by the following Wednesday, 11th March.  One week.  One week we had to organise overseas travel, a tour to get us to Gallipoli, insurance etc……for travel that was just 5 weeks away!

Gallipoli 2015: Planning

Being the internet savvy person my husband it, he was straight on the internet to find out the best travel routes, good deals that were available, working out times/dates/airlines as we wanted to spend a few extra days in some countries etc.

We came up with some ideas, deals that were available and made a list.  A list we took to our travel agent who was the most amazing person and worked a bit of magic for us.

Gallipoli 2015: Our travel agent.

The first available day we could visit a travel agent was Saturday.  Not the most ideal day for urgent travel shopping, but hey, we didn’t exactly have the luxury of waiting.

Anyway, we found a travel shop (who will remain nameless) entered, spoke with an agent about our circumstances and what we needed, she was not much help, we left in what felt like a worse situation.

Headed down the street 200 metres and we come to House of Travel.  Hours on the window said they closed at 1pm.  It was 1.30pm.  Our hearts sunk a little deeper, until the most wonderful helpful agent waved us in and was more than happy to go above and beyond to help us out.

Our dreams were coming true.

Gallipoli 2015: Our options for travel.

On this wonderful Saturday afternoon we sat for a couple of hours with the person who made our dreams come true.

We had no set deadline for travel dates, other than we had to be at Gallipoli on 25th April.  Our options were extremely open and we were very flexible on how we were to get there.

As part of the planning by the Turkish Government, only certain tour companies were authorised to take ballot holders onto the Gallipoli Peninsula for the commemorations of 2015.  This slightly limited us as there was only 5 weeks until ANZAC day and most tours had been filled up, being booked years in advance for this special occasion.

After doing our own research, and having traveled on a 15 day tour of Turkey only 5 years previously, we were hoping for a 2 day tour to Gallipoli.  Unfortunately they were all gone.  Our little miracle worker found us an 8 day tour of Turkey with FEZ Travel.  Two spaces left.  We couldn’t say yes quick enough.

Ok.  So we had an 8 day tour of Turkey.  Starting in Istanbul on 19th April, ending back in Istanbul on 26th April.  Next we had to arrange how to get there and back.

We had 2 weeks.  14 days.  So many options of travel.  Direct or via countries?  Where did we want to visit?  How long did we want to stay?

So many options.  So many exciting things to see and do!



****If you have found this article and want to read from the beginning, you will find the first installment here.

Gallipoli 100 years: The Ballot System

Gallipoli 100 years: The Ballot System


<div xmlns:cc="" xmlns:dct="" about=""><span property="dct:title">Anzac Day 2015</span> (<a rel="cc:attributionURL" property="cc:attributionName" href="">Library Admin</a>) / <a rel="license" href="">CC BY-NC-SA 3.0</a></div>

In 2015 my husband and  I were lucky enough to obtain ballot passes to the 100 year commemorations at ANZAC Cove.  Over the next 5 days I will take you on our journey to get there.

History of Gallipoli

Gallipoli, or Gelibolu as it is known in Turkish.

ANZAC Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula is where New Zealand troupes entered the Great War, World War 1.  These troupes sailed from New Zealand on October 16 1914 not knowing what they were headed into.

Skip forward to April 25, 1915.  This was the day troupes from both Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed at Beach Z, also known as Ari Burnu.  This was formally renamed in 1985 by the Turkish Government to ANZAC Cove.

Since 25th April 1916, the anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli has been commemorated as ANZAC Day, becoming one of the most important celebrations in NZ history.  ANZAC day is also commemorated in Australia, Turkey, United Kingdom and Ireland.

Gallipoli 2015: The Ballot

For the 2015 commemorations the Turkish Government decided the numbers of people attending needed to be capped.  These numbers were decided by the number of deaths each country encountered at ANZAC Cove and the following battles on the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Australia was given 8000 ballot passes and New Zealand 2000.

Of the 900 double passes (1900 places) available, 251 went to direct descendants, 149 to veterans and 550 went to general public.  100 places were held back for dignitaries, youth and other representatives.

Applications for the ballot opened in November 2013 and closed 31 January 2014.  First successful ballot holders were advised of their success by 31 March 2014 and had until October 2014 to accept.  (We were unsuccessful in the first ballot).

At this stage everyone who was unsuccessful in the first ballot was waitlisted for future ballots.  For the 1900 places available there were 9851 applications.

Gallipoli 2015: The Waitlist.

After the first ballot holders were advised of their success, they had until October 2014 to accept or decline the offer.  If you were unsuccessful you were placed on the waitlist for any passes that were declined.

There was no exact order of the waitlist, it wasn’t alphabetical or anything, but once you had a place you remained at that number.  Though you had no idea if you were first or last, it was the luck of the draw!

After October 2014 there were several more draws of the ballot, the final draw for passes being March 2015.

Gallipoli 2015: The final ballot.

We were lucky enough to be successful in the final ballot.  Although cutting it fine, this was seen as pure luck and all our dreams coming true.

The New Zealand government sent an email to all waitlisters on 12 January 2015, asking people to reply if they wanted to remain on the waitlist.  There were conditions.  You had to either have travel booked or be in a position to book and pay for travel within 7 days.  This was a huge gamble.  At this stage there were approx 6000 on the waitlist.

“We wouldn’t be so lucky”.  “Why not stay on the list, take the gamble”.  “Out of 6000 people, not a high chance of us getting an offer”.  These were all things that went through out minds as we replied to the email advising we will stay on the list.

Well, wouldn’t you know, on Tuesday 5th March 2015 I received an email advising I was successful in obtaining 2 ballot passes.


We are going to Gallipoli 2015.

Time to arrange some travel.

Approx 50 days until we would be on the other side of the world!



Pure luck…..and an awesome travel agent!

A once in a lifetime opportunity comes by only once in your life.

A beautiful sunrise captured on departure from Dunedin Airport

On 17th April 2015 my husband and I departed New Zealand on the trip of a lifetime.  We were headed to the other side of the world to attend the Gallipoli 2015 commemorations.

In the essence of travel we had two weeks, had only booked and paid for our trip 5 weeks before departure (extremely lucky and stressful all at the same time) and wanted to pack in as much travel and adventure as we could.

Having visited Turkey 5 years previously we would have preferred a quick 2 day tour to Gallipoli  (this was the only way to attend the service and get access to the Gallipoli Peninsula) but only booking 5 weeks prior to departure we found ourselves taking the last two available seas on a FEZ Travel 8 day Captains Tour, taking in some of the most beautiful parts of western Turkey before attending Gallipoli.

So… did we get there.  We were notified on Thursday 5th March we were successful in obtaining 2 tickets in the ballot for attending the Gallipoli Commerations.  The only catch was……we had to have all our travel details booked and paid for by 11th March.  This was a condition the New  Zealand Defence Force attached to these ballot tickets as we were entered into the fourth and final ballot (the first ballot was closed end of January 2014).

After checking with the bank to make sure we could access some funds, Saturday afternoon saw us off to find a travel agent.  We met an awesome guy who moved heaven and earth to get us overseas to live out our dream, whilst not breaking the bank booking 5 weeks prior to travel.  He achieved this by routing us on different airlines, through a multitude of countries with a few city stopovers.

Right from the start we counted our lucky stars that we were in a position to make this trip, so we made it an adventure, maybe our own little version of my alltime favourite show “The Amazing Race”.

After departing Auckland, NZ, we travelled through Hong Kong, stopping for 24 hours.  Next stop was Istanbul, but to get there we travelled from Hong Kong through Frankfurt then back to Istanbul.

Hong Kong by night

After 8 days travelling through Turkey we departed on a direct flight from Istanbul to Rome, Italy.  Here we had a 2 night stopover, then it was a homeward bound journey toward New Zealand via Zurich (quick change of planes) and through Singapore for 2 nights.  After that it was a quick direct flight back to Auckland.

We experienced many things on all these flights, which I will cover in detail in coming blog posts.  I will fill your all in on the best and worst things of our adventures, the beautiful food, the beautiful people, the amazing experiences, but this post is just an introduction of how our trip began.

Stay tuned for more exciting excerpts from our journey, as well as some more recent adventures, hotel stays, fun kid stuff thrown in for good measure.

Renee xx

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