Zag's Rotary Gallipoli Tour travel blog

MS Island Sky

A bit about the boat. This is a British boat, built in 1992 and recently refurbished. It's in the old style with wood and brass everywhere and is largely staffed by Philippinos who spend their time swabbing the decks, polishing brass and painting welds. They also serve us in the restaurant and are incredibly fast, efficient and just lovely. They also clean our rooms. The captain is Finnish, the manager of 'other things, Emma is from South Africa - has been on the boat for 16 years- and the head chef is Liverpudlian. Truly international.

We paid a bit more and are on the 5th deck with only one above us. This means we have a sliding door to a small balcony. I was keen to be able to access fresh air if necessary. Otherwise all the cabins are much the same size, being spacious with a king size bed and a large wardrobe capable of holding our three suitcases as well as hanging clothes and a set of drawers. There is a tv but for safety reasons, no kettle or iron. However the laundry service is cheap so we do our smalls and get other things washed. 12 laps around Deck 4 is a 2 km walk so we are trying desperately to digest and burn off all the food with daily walks.

The bountiful and really good. Breakfast is the whole kit and caboodle, omelettes to order etc. Morning tea is scones, cakes, turkish delight, mini prawn sandwiches etc. Lunch and dinner are a la carte with several choices. Dinner is appetisers, soup, entree, salad, main, dessert.Afternoon tea is at 5pm with another large spread and predinner drinks at 7 with hors d'oeuvres. OF COURSE we haven't been eating all this. It isn't even possible! But you can't help thinking about the next meal.

We sailed down to Cannakale (chenakkelay) and have moored here for 3 nights. This is as close as we've been allowed to Anzac Cove - security has been huge. After the dawn service this morning the channels have filled with boats and we realised there'd been no boat traffic for the last 24 hours. It is a busy trade route of course with lots of container ships. We are the smallest of 5 cruise ships that have been moored in the area. Even the Queen Mary sailed past us enroute to Istanbul. That was quite a sight. There have been a Turkish naval fleet who are now about 20 minutes away on their way back.

We have spent the last couple of days on land. A tender comes to fetch us in three groups, it takes about 30 minutes to get to the small port where there are buses waiting. We spent one day at the town of Gelibolu where we were met by the Mayor and speeches of welcome were exchanged. The Rotary club of Balwyn has been visiting there for 10 years and only this year, the numbers swelled from about 12 to 78! They gave us small gifts and it was nice. Then on to a school for the Vision Impaired where we were given a small performance and more speeches and then a presentation made, from all of us, of US$27,000.00. We didn't realise our contribution was about$600 a head, tacked on to the whole tour price! Anyway that felt good! Then on to a nice fresh fish lunch right on the waterfront. The whole place reminded me of Greek experiences-little wooden tables with gingham cloths, lots of men sitting around and worry beads. Cannakale has a gorgeous little harbour full of little fishing boats and there are restaurants all around. It's basic but full of character.Lots of people selling things too.

The second day we went to the ancient village of Assos, high up on a hill with extraordinary views of beautiful coast and very, very old ruins that we explored. Then some fun shopping on the winding, uneven road back down to the bus. That was 3 hours bus travel all up plus the 1 hour to and from the boat so the day disappears. We have two guest speakers on board, Peter Briggs who knows all there is to know about the AE2 submarine I wrote about and another eccentric character, Hugh Dolan. Hugh is currently working as an historian and is researching Gallipoli and revealing new and untold information. He has made a documentary called Gallipoli From Above and has written books. He joined the army in England, became an air force officer in Australia and worked in military intelligence for 16 years and went on tour in Iraq. Apparently very clever and totally outrageous with shoulder length red hair, a big theatrical manner and quite outlandish clothes.

So we have been entertained, well fed and quite busy. Today is a rest day. We wait the return of the Gallipoli 12, those who gained entry through the ballot and then set sail to somewhere a little further south. I will write about our Anzac morning in the next blog. This is long enough already.

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