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Visiting the Gallipoli Peninsula and walking Gully Ravine


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The Gully is located at western side of the Gallipoli peninsula, in the Helles sector. The closest centres of population are Alcitepe, which is less than a kilometre from the northern end of the Gully, or Sedd El Bahr, about 6 kilometres to the south west, the location of V Beach.

Do please note that whilst I am an enthusiastic traveller and battlefield guide, what follows is based on my personal experiences and should not be construed in any way as specific recommendations or professional advice concerning travel or accommodation. For specialised information on travel to Turkey, I recommend Tom Brosnahan’s Turkey Travel Planner site.

 

Travel to the Gallipoli Peninsula:

Many travelling to Gallipoli will arrive in Turkey via Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. This is some 250 km from the Gallipoli peninsula, but it is still slightly nearer and has better travel facilities than the other two choices of airport, namely Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen and Izmir. British Airways and Turkish Airlines run direct daily scheduled flights from the UK to Istanbul Ataturk. There are other airlines offering flights but these sometimes involve a change of aircraft at a European stop-over point.

Note that a third airport for Istanbul is being built some 35 kilometres north of Ataturk Airport. The publicity claims that eventually it will be the largest airport in the world, with a proposed six runways by 2030. Its scheduled opening (with 2 runways) is October 2018. If eventually coaches from here run to the Gallipoli peninsula then travel there may become rather easier. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Istanbul_New_Airport

 

From Istanbul there are currently three main ways of getting to Gallipoli. For completeness I also mention internal air flights below, although apparently they are not currently available.

Air: BoraJet used to run a regular domestic service to Canakkale from Sabiha Gokcen Airport, costing around £25 for a single flight and taking just 45 minutes. However, in April 2017 they suspended operations and at the date of writing (August 2017) their flight programme has been handed over to Turkish Air and it does not appear that Turkish Airline are offering the cheap direct flight from Istanbul to Canakkale at present.

Anadolujet do go fly to Canakkale, but this is  via Ankara, which is hardly convenient or cheap! So currently flying internally is not a good option.

 

Bus: Turkey has a superb long-distance coach service. Twenty kilometres to the west of the centre of Istanbul is the Esenler Otogar, a vast coach station that has routes running to every part of Turkey and beyond. There is a metro (underground) service to the Otogar from the airport, or a taxi will cost about £15.

At the Otogar, Truva and Metro are the companies that offer the most frequent services to Gallipoli. Kamel Koc, the biggest coach company in Turkey, also run services, but timings are not as frequent.

The journey takes about 5 hours, with a few rest stops. The service is superb, with nibbles, free drinks and freshen-up towels all supplied. From Istanbul, the coach arrives at Eceabat on the north side of the straits, and then go on to the ferry to cross to Canakkale on the south side. Costs are around £25 for a single journey.


Taxi:
 Taxis from the airports can be booked in advance, with a journey time of about 5 hours (depending on the driver). As one would expect, costs are high, around £150 for a single journey (also depending on the driver!). Bear in mond that this is roughly the equivaleltnmfotaking a taxi from London to Exeter.


Car hire:
 Cars are easy to hire in Turkey. You will need to present an internationally accepted driving licence, with costs at around £30 a day for a small 2 door car. Air conditioning is relatively essential.

Without intending any slight on the nation as a whole, it is generally recognised that Turkish driving is ‘passionate’. You need to add to this the huge  and seemingly permanent congestion in and around Istanbul. Once on the peninsula, things are very different, with little traffic and open, if rather rough roads. I have hired cars and motor scooters locally, an arrangement which worked extremely well.  Be prepared for infrequent use of indicators, ‘undertaking’,  and a total disregard for pedestrian crossings. Take it easy. Turkish drivers are very laid back and it pays to adopt the same attitude.

My own choice would be to hire a car locally for a few days. There are several car hire companies in Canakkale.

A last comment on the overall travel package. If you aim to get to the peninsula by coach, fly in to Ataturk or Izmir airports, not Sabiha Gokcen. Arriving at this latter airport will mean getting a local bus, taxi or train in to the centre of Istanbul or over to the Esenler Otogar for ongoing travel, all of which adds an unnecessary layer of organisation and a few extra hours of travelling.

 

Accommodation:

Although it is gaining in popularity, the Gallipoli peninsula is still a bit ‘off the beaten track’ in Turkey, and hotels and accommodation can reflect this. In any case, what passes for 3 star in Turkey will not be anything like the same standard as London or Manchester. An easy-going and accommodating attitude will pay dividends.

The basic choice is between hotels and pansiyons, (B & Bs). When choosing accommodation, you also need to make decisions about access to the battlefield areas.

Eceabat and Canakkale are about 30 kilometres to the north east from Cape Helles and around 12 kilometres south east from the Anzac areas. Canakkale is the largest town locally, but bear in mind that if you stay there, you will need to cross the straits via the ferry and back each time you visit the battlefields, thereby adding at least two hours to your daily programme

Eceabat, on the northern ’battlefields’ side of the straits,  is smaller, but does have some hotels and a few restaurants. My preference is use Eceabat as a base. It is then very easy (and quite pleasant) to cross the the straits in the evening for the wider selection of places to eat in Canakkale. More about the ferries below.

As mentioned above, the following are a few pointers to accommodation that I have personal experience of. Please note however that I am not a travel writer/agent, and what follows is not a formal recommendation:

Helles Panorama, Sedd El Bahr: This is the home of Errol Baycan and his wife, and their large house stands on hill 141, just a few metres from Doughty-Wylie’s grave. Errol is a retired CWGC warden, and he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Gallipoli campaign, not to mention an impressive private collection of battlefield paraphernalia. The rooms are clean and offer good basic accommodation (most not en-suite) and superb home-cooked food is served. The views from the house are astonishing, across to Morto Bay to the east and to the Helles Memorial to the north. This is a good choice if you are concentrating on the Helles area and Gully Ravine itself, but note that Sedd El Bahr has very few facilities and fewer English-speakers. This is a rural Muslim community, so also be aware that religious festivals such as Ramadan are observed and during this feast it will be difficult to find anywhere to eat during daylight hours! www.hellespanorama.com. (In my experience contact is best made by telephone or letter rather than email).

The Grand Eceabat hotel is situated literally adjacent to the ferry berth. The hotel offers good if rather basic accommodation, and it has a wonderful rooftop restaurant/bar area with superb views across the Dardanelles. The hostel opposite is more backpacker style with dormitory accommodation and suitably lower prices.

Villa Bagci, just west of the town centre, is superb. A small family-hotel, it is welcoming clean and peaceful. I stayed here in 2015 and would recommend it to anyone.  The owner speaks perfect English and is a mine of local information. Book direct for the best deals. I am not on commission!

On the southern side of the straits, in Canakkale, there are many good hotels, and the benefit here is that there are far more facilities, particularly for eating, car hire, practical & technical supplies etc.  As stated elsewhere, the drawback is that if you are in the area specifically to visit the battlefields, you will have to cross the straits by ferry every day, adding two hours and a few pounds outlay in cash to your daily programme.

I stayed at the Kervansaray hotel in Canakkale in 2013 and 2015 and this worked well.  It is not greatly luxurious by western standards but the food was fresh and plentiful and the rooms comfortable, if a little tired in a quaint way. It has a lovely private garden. Our hire car was parked and brought to the door for us, for a few Euros ‘tip’ each day. The hotel is about 200 metres from the main ferry and the waterfront restaurants are just a few minutes walk away.


Getting around the peninsula:

There are dolmuses , (pronounced ‘Dolmush), that is, shared buses, running between Eceabat and Cape Helles, and also to Anzac. They seem to run about every 30 minutes to an hour, but there is no obvious timetable and drivers will not necessarily speak English. This is a very cheap way of getting around if you have time to spare and can master the system. They will stop anywhere on the road if  you indicate with a wave. (Conversely, if you are on your mobile do not gesticulate, or you may find a queue of dolmuses stopping to pick you up!) Costs for journeys are very modest.

The main ferry runs at least hourly between Canakkale on the south side of the Dardanelles and Eceabat on the north side. The service reduces in frequency in the small hours of the night. As mentioned elsewhere, the battle sites are on the north side, but Canakkale has most of the facilities. The ferry costs about 1.5 lira (60p) for a return crossing.  Two persons in a car can cross for 35 Lira, that is about £8. There is also a smaller cheaper ferry which runs from Canakkale to Kilitbahir, to the west of Eceabat.

 

There are plenty of taxis in Canakkale and Eceabat. If you are staying in Canakkale, note that there is no point in hailing a taxi there to take you over the straits. Instead, walk onto the ferry, pay for the ‘on foot’ crossing and then get a taxi on the other side from Eceabat. Don’t necessarily expect taxi prices to be significantly lower than the UK. Try to negotiate a price first, or at least check that there is a meter running.

Car hire: Barring 25th April and the surrounding days, when thousands of mainly young Australian and New Zealand pilgrims arrive for the Anzac Day remembrance events, car hire is a good choice, especially if there are between 2 and 4 of you. Once out of the towns, traffic will not be a problem. Parking is free at the various memorials, although apart from the main locations such as the Helles Memorial and at Chunuk Bair, which have proper car parks, it is often a matter of finding a verge to pull up on. Petrol is cheap but note carefully that the only petrol stations in the area once you are on the north side of the straits are in Eceabat, both of them on the bypass road that loops round the north of the town. If you are heading off to Cape Helles or to Suvla for the day, make sure you have plenty of fuel. This is especially important in hot weather, when the air condition system will reduce your MPG.  

Walking: A round walk from Eceabat to Helles is about 60 km (40 miles) so very few will be able, or want to do this. However, once you are in the vicinity, especially if you are walking Gully Ravine and the spurs, there is really no choice but to walk locally. See below for sensible precautions.

 

Preparations for walking Gully Ravine:

Most of this is common sense:

Take lots of water.

Check the weather. Any rain will make the gully stream bed difficult to get through. between late April – early October is the best time for a walk.

Consider carefully the possibility of walking with someone else or as part of a group. Once in the gully you are completely cut off from the outside world. Your mobile is unlikely to work, and the loudest shout will go unheard unless there happens to be a shepherd (who understands English!) nearby.

Tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to be back.

Take lots of water, especially in hot weather. (Did I mention that earlier?). Food is also likely to be necessary since the complete walk can take up to 4 hours, depending on how many stops and diversions you make.

Take maps and guides etc. The best book on the area is undoubtedly Stephen Chambers’, ‘Gully Ravine’, See below under ‘resources’.

Take a basic first aid kit and any medication needed on a regular basis.

A number of guide books mention dogs or packs of dogs in the Pink Farm area and around Gully Beach. There are some strays, but most dogs are working with shepherds to marshall sheep and goats. There are two precautions that can be taken, namely, appeasement in the form of dog biscuits, or deterrent in the form of a walking stick etc. (Please note however that I am not for a moment advocating the active use of the latter, its just for show … I have a black Labrador back home! ).  I have been barked at by sheep dogs, who appear simply to want to let you know who is boss, but I have never really felt threatened. If working dogs approach you, the best idea is to stand still until they has passed by with its herd. Stray dogs are usually quite timid, and permanently hungry!

A good pair of walking boots is more or less essential and open toed shoes are definitely to be avoided. The gully path is soft sand for much of its course, but this is completely untamed land, and holes, divots and loose rocks are commonplace. Sunglasses and a sun hat may also be required. I would not recommend walking in shorts. The grass can be prickly and razor-edged, and even in long trousers a few barbs can make their way through. Exposed arms can also suffer in this way.

Depending on the season, be prepared to climb over or crawl under fallen trees.

Although the possibility is fairly remote, you may just come across live rounds, hand bombs or even shells. These are approached and touched, literally, at one’s peril. Stay clear.

 

Resources and artifacts.

A map of Gully Ravine will be very useful, although one argument is that once in the gully, you just keep going to its other end!  A book which describes the background and actions in this this area would also be useful and the two requirements can be perfectly combined by acquiring a copy of Stephen Chamber’s excellent book, suitably named ‘Gully Ravine’, Battlefield Europe series, ISBN 0850529239.

The book is pictured left with a few artifacts found on the surface around the area of the Eastern Birdcage on one of my recent walks through the ravine, namely, a piece of ‘SRD’ rum jar, a British .303 cartridge and a shrapnel ball. They were left where they were found after the photo as taken.

This is a good place for the mini-sermon! It is hugely tempting to collect and bring home small artifacts such as these. It is of course illegal, especially because the whole area is a heritage park, but a nobler reason for just looking and photographing is that constant collecting will diminish the experience for others.  There is a vast amount to see and experience in this special place, so do please leave the evidence of what took place there where you find it.
Although admittedly unlikely, it is also just possible that some ordnance may still be live. Leave it be! Amen.

 

Into the Gully:

To walk the entire length of Gully Ravine, or at least, the most relevant parts, it will probably be necessary to make some transport arrangements. The notes that follow assume a walk from the southern end at Gully Beach, to the northern part, at Nuri Yamut (Fusilliers’ Bluff). If you are walking southwards down the ravine then a reversal of the suggestions below will work well. You may want to arrange for a taxi to pick you up at your eventually finishing point. Serious hikers can of course walk the gully in both directions to arrive back at their starting point, perhaps by coming back down via Gully Spur or Fir Tree Spur.

Whatever transport you use, you need to arrive at Pink Farm Cemetery or just to the south west of this, at a distinctive bend in the road.

Pink Farm CWGC is the closest cemetery to the Gully and most of the 602 burials and commemorations here fell in the local area. The farm itself was the base for a mining company later in the campaign, as described in Jo Murray’s first hand account published as ‘Gallipoli as I saw it’.  The area derives its name from the reddish soil.

If arriving by car, drive along the track in to the cemetery’s east side, and park in the shade.

Walk south west along the road from Pink Farm cemetery. The road takes a sweeping ‘S’ turn, and from the bend, you will be able to see the Helles Memorial with Seddulbahir on its left. To the extreme left, you may also glimpse the distinctive Turkish Memorial at Morto Bay.

To your right, the land is flat and runs across the fields to the cliff top above the sea. Close to a cluster of trees on the bend you will see a track that gradually descends, becoming sunken, to the north west. This is the path down to Gully Beach. See the Google Earth screenshot following. The precise coordinates for the beginning of the path to Gully Beach are  40.072917°,  26.185434°. Gully Beach and its headland can just be seen in the extreme upper left of the image.

As the path descends, you can either take the (relatively) easier route that curves right and then left down the hill, or the more extreme route straight down to the beach. (Either route is fairly challenging however, and caution should be exercised underfoot).

Once you are on the shore and facing out to sea, Gully Beach is to your right, and a sprawling rocky coastline that leads eventually to Bakery Beach and X Beach extends to your left. Turn right and walk along the rocky shore. There is an area of slightly higher land to your right. This was the 1915 location of a small battlefield cemetery called ‘H29’. Burials from here were relocated to Pink Farm in 1919.

After a few minutes walk, you will arrive at the beach. With the Aegean sea on your left, you will see the distinctive headland ahead.

From this starting point, you can now join the visual tour of the gully here.

 

Language:

I cannot speak Turkish, but have learned the value of making a stab at a few words.

The list below contain the original Turkish, a phonetic version in italics, and then the English translation.

Locations around Gallipoli

Canakkale Chanarkalay  

Eceabat Echeeabar    (really, the ‘t’ is silent.)

Alcitepe Alchitepey  

(Most ‘c’s in Turkish are soft, ie., ‘ch or ‘char’, and ‘e’s on the ends of words are normally voiced).

Everyday words

Merhaba Mair-habaar Hello

Lutfen Loot-fen Please

tesekkür ederim Teshekur – ederem Thank you

Ismim Ismim I am … (My name is …)

Tamam Tamum  Fine, great, OK

Hesap Hesap   The bill (As in asking for the bill in a restaurant. add ‘lutfen’ to be polite).

Bir  Beer   One

Iki icky Two

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