Gallipoli Pt I – all around the green bush far and free

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Graves at Gallipoli

I’m pleased to welcome fellow Australian Craig Roach. Like me he’s passionate about Turkey and has a lot to share about his life and adventures in the country over the last thirty years. Here’s part one of his exclusive interview with Inside Out In Istanbul (updated April 2023).

What first brought you to Turkey Craig?

I was backpacking with some friends. We’d driven around the US then came to Europe, then the Mediterranean. We had this idea, seeing as I loved history so much, to sleep in as many ancient places as we could get away with. We’d slept in the Anasazi ruins in Colorado, old ruined castles in England and Germany and of course wherever we could lay our heads in Greece and the Greek Islands.

We were talking about this while on Samos to a Canadian guy who said “You should go to Turkey! It’s totally amazing!” We thought seriously about a plan but considered the paranoia at the time, especially as Turkey was still reeling from the 1980 coup, and the movie ‘Midnight Express’ was fresh in our minds.

Craig back in the day camping near Anzac Cove
Craig the intrepid explorer

We threw caution to the wind and caught a ferry to Kuşadası. Kuşadası fascinated me. Turkey was a whole generation away from what it is now, there were no cruise ships with lycra-clad Brits. Unbelievably, I was instantly in love with this place. People looked at us as novelties. Can’t say I’d met friendlier people in my travels thus far.

It was June or July and in 1984 we had to actually hitchhike to Ephesus. In mid-summer the place was deserted. We wandered the marble streets, the theatres, the ruins, nobody else but us. We settled in for some rest time at the gate and chatted with the locals as best we could, waiting for our chance.

As it got closer to sunset, we bid them farewell and quietly wandered out towards the road. We passed the ancient Hippodrome, then outside the main site. We quietly slipped through the broken arches and found ourselves in an ancient and isolated realm, you could almost sense and hear the spirits that inhabited the place. We settled in for the night with our meagre supplies, totally immersed in an ancient universe no Australians back home could imagine.

We continued our journey by local bus, tasting ayran for the first time, along with local food we couldn’t have imagined. Naturally we hitched out to the Anzac sector of Gallipoli. Little or no tourist infrastructure existed at the time. It was then that I found my calling, my life’s work.

And so, here I am, 38 years later.

What’s it like to be an expat in Turkey? Tell us a little about where you live and your daily life.

From about 1989 onwards I dreamt of owning and running a pub or cafe in Turkey. My first idea was to open something in Eceabat and help those who wanted to visit the battlefield with transport and guiding. Unfortunately the state of Eceabat at the time was pretty sad. It was either dry and dusty or wet and muddy, and the water and electric supplies were sporadic at best.

In 1995 I settled on opening a small bar in Göreme in Cappadocia. ‘Roachie’s World’ was born. The 1996 season was fantastic. We opened the bar just after Anzac Day and attracted 120 punters on the first day, 140 on the second and too many to count by the end of the first week. That was when I attracted the ire of local bar owners and it was the first of many times I was carted off by the Jandarma. Most weeks we did more business than all the other bars combined and it didn’t go down well with the other bar owners.

When I returned to Göreme the next year I decided it was time to be a part of the community, but the pressure on me to mind my own business was pretty tough. Luckily a tour leader who frequented my place often told me his company needed a freelance leader for the ‘97 season. I travelled to Istanbul and met my new boss, my future brother-in-law, and I began my career as a tour leader.

I was based in Turkey and specialised in the entire country but mainly Gallipoli and Western Turkey and also Eastern Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Morocco and eventually India. Turkey was always my base though and I decided to buy and restore a 900 year old house in Avanos. I restored that beautiful house for 12 glorious years.

Craig's beautiful wife Sevilay

Working for the ‘Best little adventure travel company in the world’, the Imaginative Traveller, was great. It was then that I met my beautiful wife Sevilay, our office manager in Istanbul. I was surprised at how open and secular her family were and this tied the knot for me. We eventually became husband and wife.

To cut a long story short, after some years in Southeast Asia we returned to Istanbul for the first time. I worked for a couple of travel companies and my wife managed a small boutique hotel in the Old City. At the end of 2010 or early 2011, I returned again on a short contract as the Director of Operations for a Dutch travel company. Sev, my wife, decided to go back to government school teaching so we moved to Tekirdağ.

I’m part of a group of ex-Imaginative Traveller colleagues who started Experta – Tours & Events. In the lead up to the Centenary at Gallipoli I was asked to come on board as an historian for Mat McLachlan Battlefield ToursI get to hang around with lots of Aussies and Kiwis and take them to visit my favourite people like Mesut, the owner of The Boomerang Cafe in Eceabat or catch up with people at Buyuk Truva Hotel where I hold two exhibitions a year. I also take people on my own meanders through Turkey. 

Tell us about the tours you lead to WWI sites in Turkey.

Since moving to Tekirdağ, I try to spend as much time as I can at Gallipoli. I’ve enjoyed working with Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours and have made some great friends with Mat, Gil and the rest of the team. After working in the higher echelons of international travel, for some unscrupulous characters, it was refreshing to find a company with such integrity and attention to detail, that treats everyone involved with them fairly and openly.

For people wanting to attend ANZAC day events or visit at other times I recommend Crowded House Tours and TJ’s Tours pick. They pick people up from Eceabat or Istanbul on the 24th, drive them out to the Dawn Service , accompany them through the whole event and then bring them back to Eceabat or Istanbul.

The second part of my Gallipoli Story is my art. I’m a great traveller but a horrible photographer which led me to sketch and paint my way around the world. I don’t know how many times I sketched the City Gate of Ugarit, the Growing Nandi of Mysore or camels in Egypt, India and the Sahara. So I decided to try and incorporate my art with Gallipoli and WINE! The painting has been a fabulous distraction through this dark period.

A few years ago I was thrilled to enter one of my favourite paintings in the prestigious Gallipoli Art Prize in Sydney and even more chuffed to have made the finals! I’ve sold a few pieces and even though my style is improving, some of my earlier paintings have been my most successful and favourites. You can follow my painting exploits on my website and on Artpal. If you’re going to be in Cannakale this year, come and check out my latest exhibition at Büyük Truva Hotel.

Read Part II of this interview here.


Planning to come to Istanbul or Turkey? Here are my helpful tips for planning your trip.

For FLIGHTS I like to use Kiwi.com.

Don’t pay extra for an E-VISA. Here’s my post on everything to know before you take off.

However E-SIM are the way to go to stay connected with a local phone number and mobile data on the go. Airalo is easy to use and affordable.

Even if I never claim on it, I always take out TRAVEL INSURANCE. I recommend Visitors Coverage.

I’m a big advocate of public transport, but know it’s not suitable for everyone all the time. When I need to be picked up from or get to Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport, I use one of these GetYourGuide website AIRPORT TRANSFERS.

ACCOMMODATION: When I want to find a place to stay I use Booking.com.

However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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  1. I loved Craig’s story. I’ve just returned home after 9 fabulous weeks solo in Turkiye. My 3rd visit. I always feel at home when I’m there.

    1. Dear Gail, It’s nice to hear you enjoyed Craig’s story and have your own tales to tell about your travels in Turkey. I bet there’s a 4th visit already in the works!

  2. I loved reading Craig’s story, and will head over to Part 2 now. I too backpacked to Turkey, in 1986, and was also a bit wary because of my ignorance of the country and the movie “Midnight Express”.
    I travelled up the west coast after arriving in Marmaris from Rhodes and was young and naiive and travelling alone essentially but joined up with other backpackers I had met along the journey. Unlike some of the others I met, I didn’t venture into the Cappadocia area, which I regret to this day.
    I fell in love with Turkey, the country, her people and the whole package. I have never stopped raving about Turkey and have only been back once in these 31 years, albeit on a cruise. I can’t wait to return.

    1. My pleasure. After talking to you I’m definitely planning to visit Gallipoli, especially with the added bonus of some nice wine.

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