Around 5am Cynthea rejoined the group. She too had lain on the floor until told to get up. People arrived all through the night, the last of them just before 4am. We haven’t found out how many were there, but it must be more than 8,000. We were grateful the weather stayed fine, and when you lay down away from the glare of the lights there were thousands of stars in the sky, they just didn’t look like home and we had to try and turn them upside down to figure what they were.
The dawn service began at 5.30am and ran for about 45 minutes. It didn’t seem that long. By 6.30 those that weren’t “special” began the long, steep walk to Chunuk Bair (NZ site) and Lone Pine (Australian site). The track to Lone Pine was steep and uneven, we arrived around 8am after stopping off at one of the many cemeteries on the way, We decided we wouldn’t have time to get to the NZ service if we stayed for the Australian one, so continued on our way.
We walked on the sealed road, and had plenty of time to reflect on what the diggers had to deal with 96 years ago. We stopped at a few memorials on the way, arriving at Chunuk Bair just before 10. It had been a long walk, nearly 7km, we probably could have made it to both ceremonies after all if we hurried, and didn’t have to carry all our gear. When we arrived all the seating was full (there wasn’t much seating, and that was a surprise). Four of us found a spot on the grass between the stands in front of the memorial, and soon after it was closed off and the later arrivals had to go to an exposed grass bank where they could view on the big screens. Cynthea and the other early arrivals had seats, but there was a damn cold wind up there, so we were pleased we were well sheltered. We watched the Australian service on the big screen and had a wait of about 90 minutes until the NZ service started. Many of the Aussies arrived just as we started, so we would have had plenty of time to get to both.
After the service we had to wait for our buses. We were hopeful that we wouldn’t be the 600th bus in the line! For some reason the Jandarma wouldn’t allow more than one bus in at a time, bloody silly when there was plenty of room to have a few there and get things moving. Our group moved away from the loading area and waited down the track for our bus to arrive, and we were all aboard about 3pm.
We dozed on the way back between piddle stops and food stops. The trip back took about 5½ hours, getting to Istanbul around 8.30. We didn’t have a farewell dinner tonight, so met in the bar for drinks at 9, even though we were all tired.
It was a late night as we all said our goodbyes (quite a few were leaving early in the morning and wouldn’t be able to join us tomorrow).