After our return from West Falkland, I was back in work for Christmas Eve to clear up a few emails after my annual leave, whilst Chris and Mike took Dad out for a walk in the hills near Stanley.
The Murrell with Mum
Once I could get out of work on Christmas Eve, I picked up Mum and took her down to the Murrell. I had a tip off that the yellow orchids were out and an indication of where we needed to go to find them, so we headed out in search. I had hoped to have time for a spot of fishing too, but in the end the flower hunt took longer than anticipated. We did find them though and they were worth the walk!
After our outer island trips, our next adventure involved catching the Ferry out West, staying for a few days in Roy Cove, followed by a couple of nights in Fox Bay. I love the West and this was definitely a huge highlight of the holiday for Mum and Dad too. You get a real sense of the true Falklands on the West.
Ferry Trip & Roy Cove
After a brief stop at the New Haven Gentoo penguins, we boarded the Ferry and headed towards Port Howard. The dolphins gave us an impressive welcome as we came in through the Narrows and we popped to see David and the shearing gang at Port Howard and a quick trip to the Port Howard Nature area to see how our bridge and benches were faring, we then headed over to Roy Cove.
We took so many photos when my parents came to visit us last December, that I couldn’t face sitting down at the computer for hours to sort them all out when we got back from our adventures.
A year on and I’ve finally sat down and worked my way through them all. Since then, WordPress has changed the blog editor and I can’t work out how to add multiple images without using a ‘gallery’, but as we are no longer constrained by the Falklands internet speed, maybe a few galleries of the many photos we took is a better way to share the experience of their trip!
First Night Penguins
Mum and Dad landed with us on the 9th December 2019. As we did when our other visitors arrived off the Airbridge, we quickly took my parents to Gypsy Cove to tick off some penguins on the first night. They were blessed with a beautiful first evening and we enjoyed watching the Magellanic penguins on the beach in the fading sunlight.
In many ways, it feels like an awful lot has happened since I last wrote here about the arrival of Covid-19 in the Falklands, a month or so ago, yet in many ways, very little has happened too, because I’ve spent almost all of that time stuck at home on my own, trying to recover from a nasty virus. I still don’t know for sure if it is *the* nasty virus.
Unfortunately, I am not over it yet and it is now uncertain when I will be fit to leave the Falklands. A 20 hour flight hits you hard when you are fit, but when you’re recovering from a nasty respiratory illness and your heart is really not sure what it is doing, then a long-haul flight is an even bigger ask. Hopefully I will be home before the end of May, but I’m awaiting test results before the hospital will declare me fit to fly.
The last seven weeks have felt like some of the longest weeks of my life. When I last wrote, I genuinely thought I was turning a corner and over the worst, but little did I know that things were going to get a whole lot worse a few days later and then never really pick up much from there.
P.s. subscribers may have seen an earlier unedited version of this post previously. Apologies for that! This is a much shorter version…
So when I posted my last blog post (Pandemics, not Penguins), I had no idea just how quick everything was going to escalate!
On Friday 3rd April, the Falklands finally confirmed its first case of covid-19 (a patient isolated in KEMH who was transferred over from MPA earlier in the week), but the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of covid-19-related stress and sickness.
Since Christmas, blogging and photo-sorting has had to play second fiddle to job-hunting (and for Chris, study) as we prepare for the upcoming end of our adventure (planned last working day here is 14th May). With family visiting in December, there are lots of Camp adventures to catch you all up on, but right now, I felt I couldn’t let global news go by without commenting.
Firstly, I must caveat this with a reminder that this is a personal account. I am not going to talk about what it is like to be working for Government through this or comment on the actions of my employer. I just want to write about what it feels like from a personal perspective to be living a long way from home at this time. A time that was already stressful and uncertain as we were reluctantly facing the realities of relocating back home, searching for new jobs and working out where we might live.
However, we are living through modern history right now and as former historian of social and medical history, it seems right to document what it feels like to be living through these times. One day, this might be an exam question or a thesis topic and someone will want to read about personal accounts of this time. Not this year, of course, as exams are cancelled across the UK!
So over the last week or so, as the world is gripped by fear of a new pandemic, people have kept saying to me that I must be glad to be living on a remote island at this time, away from Corona-madness. But we are not immune down here.
On 22nd – 24th November, we finally had some summer sunshine, perfectly coinciding with a weekend trip to Weddell Island.
We’ve been to Weddell before and loved it, but we were excited to return with a group of friends this time and stay in the larger self-catering house. It turned out to be one of the best we’ve visited so far – clean, spacious and well-equipped, we would definitely recommend it for a group of friends looking to get out of Stanley for a weekend!
November, was so busy, you’ll actually end up with three blog posts for this month, instead of the usual one. I’m also not too far off being up to date, instead of around three months behind schedule!
After our eventful trip to Volunteer Point, the next occasion in the calendar was the Poppy Ball. This is the biggest fundraiser for the British Legion in the Falklands and is an important part of the annual calendar.
I had been sick during the week with a grotty cold/flu virus and was a bit nervous on the night of the ball, as I was due to sing with the FI Grumpy Old Women choir during the service of remembrance. This was compounded by the news my fellow Soprano would be unable to sing, having to accompany her husband on medical to Chile, when he had injured himself in preparation for the Poppy Ball! However, it turns out I didn’t need to worry. The evening was lovely and despite having a very hard act to follow in the Falkland Islands Military Wives Choir, our rendition of Abide With Me seemed to go down pretty well – even if half the crowd and the local press had assumed we were also the military wives choir!
After the formalities were over, we had a lovely evening, dancing the night away with friends, followed by drinks and chat until 4am in the morning. The new-format Espanglish were really excellent that evening, which certainly helped to add to the festivities. Walking back under a star-lit sky, with an icing-sugar layer of snow on the ground and the sun was rising on the horizon was really rather beautiful. Definitely my favourite of the many balls and dances we’ve been to so far and a night that will last long in the memory, despite the copious amounts of gin consumed, all in aid of charity, of course!
On the Saturday of Remembrance weekend, we had a nice stroll down at Yorke Bay, dodging the showers to see the spring flowers emerging. There was a carpet of Dusty Millers near the pond and I was keen to get a few nice photos of them.
Remembrance Sunday Parade
Sunday morning was Remembrance Sunday and time for another regular Falklands feature – the parade. As we walked through Memorial Wood towards the Cross of Sacrifice, near the cemetary, I was surprised to see a poppy emerging from its bud, alongside the many daffodils brightening up the paths. It is always strange when the seasons are flipped and I am not sure I will ever get used to November daffodils.
It was special again to see our friend Becky parading along with FIDF. The weather was not as kind as last year, but the rain pretty much held off and there was a good turn out, as always. Remembrance really is an important part of Falklands life and I think it is important to be a part of that.
November saw some nice spring weather and the ever-lengthening days, so we made the most of it one evening after work for a nice walk along Surf Bay towards the lighthouse, back past the airport and by the canopus guns, back to the car. A nice evening indeed.
Fishing the Murrell
We also squeezed in another fishing trip. This time to the Murrell. We decided to drive down to Drunken Rock this time, but Nick managed to get himself bogged along the way. It really shows just how wet everywhere still is, despite some nicer weather.
The mud was no match for Rosie and we made it down to the river. It was a windy day, so casting was a bit of a challenge, but after about 10 minutes, I finally caught a trout. I had started to think there were none left in the Murrell after many failed trips down there. The only issue was this one was tiny, so it ended up going back anyway. It was encouraging to know there are still a few fish left in there though and they haven’t all been munched by the Sea Lions.
On the first weekend in November, the Volunteers Point track finally opened to the public for the season and we arranged to head out with some friends.
The track was wet. Far wetter than our trip at the end of last season when we almost got stuck with Tony Heathman, but we managed to just sneak across the wettest bits and make it through unscathered.
This time was a different story. It seems if you want to avoid getting bogged on the Volunteers track you need a Landrover with mud tyres and a very experienced guide. Unfortunately, we had some friends with us who were less experienced off road drivers, in 4x4s that were not quite up to the job, along with a few of us that kinda knew the way but not to the same standard as the locals! This turned out to be a recipe for multiple boggings and a very long day indeed. Overall – we managed to turn a 90 minute off road journey into three hours.. in both directions! I also suspect we’ve put a few people off off-road driving for life, but I think all the Rover drivers enjoyed their adventure out in the mud.
Despite the long day, it was absolutely worth it. One of my favourite trips to Volunteers so far. We had a stunning blue-sky day and warm sunshine – only tempered by a fairly stiff Falklands breeze.
I think late October/early November is one of the best times to visit the King Penguin colony. Last season’s chicks are getting fat and fearless – they come up to you and want to say hello. There’s quite a few penguins stood around moulting and some have stunning fresh plumage. The Jackasses are in their burrows and the Gentoos are on their nests and all the penguins are surrounded by the ewes and lambs as well. It really is an amazing place to visit, especially if you have it to yourself like we did.
After our two-nighter adventure, the rest of October was also pretty busy as we made the most of the late spring sunshine and enjoyed three gigs in four nights with the arrival of the East Lonesome Drifters for the Falkland Islands Country Festival.
Kayaking with Dan
Spotting a good weather window not long after Dan from Falklands Outdoors arrived back in the Falklands for his southern summer season, we arranged an afternoon kayaking with a few friends. Unfortunately the wind direction didn’t allow for our planned trip out to the tussac islands, so instead we had a leisurely paddle up the flat-calm Murrell River out into Port William and eventually through the Narrows into Stanley Harbour in slightly less favourable conditions, as signs of a storm brewed on the horizon.
After our tea stop, we were soon joined by some curious Sea Lions who stayed with us for most of our paddle back. Becky got some amazing coverage of a female Sea Lion swimming under the kayak on a borrowed Go Pro. She was quite scared of the Sea Lions though, making us all a little jumpy! I don’t think any of us liked it when the Sea Lions snorted just behind our heads as we were paddling along – it was quite unnerving. We also saw Jackass penguins bobbing around in Port William feeding, as well as a few Terns diving into the water to feed. No dolphins this time though sadly.
Half way along to Navy Point, we spotted a dog up on the Camber. A dog had recently escaped from the Vets so we wondered if it might be her. Dan went ashore to investigate and called back to Town to say this dog had been spotted. The vets arranged to come meet us on the other side of the Camber, but we needed to get the dog over there. As Dan had to accompany the paddlers, it was decided Becky would go ashore – rescue the dog and take it up over to meet us on the other side of the harbour and Dan would tow her canoe around.
It turns out the dog wasn’t the one that had escaped from the Vets, but instead belonged to some friends who had been out kayaking in the morning and the dog had got away from them. I suspect the dog had spotted or heard the kayaks and assumed it was his owners.
We paddled around Navy Point and through the Narrows into Stanley Harbour. The Sea Lions followed us too. We were soon re-united with Becky and the dog was handed over to the Vets and we headed back across the harbour to the public jetty. The final paddle was hard work, against a falling tide, but we managed to make it back to dry land ahead of the brewing storm.
The other big highlight of October was the Country Festival at the Town Hall. A previous staff member of FITV now runs a Country Music blog in the UK, so she had arranged with FITV to bring East Lonesome Drifters – a UK country band down to play a festival at the Town Hall.
It quickly sold out, so we were pleased to have tickets. It turned out to be an awesome night, with a great mixture of locals, contractors and military, all dancing two-step around the Town Hall.
I don’t have many photos from the East Lonesome Drifters in the town hall, as we were far too busy dancing!
On Sunday, it was announced on local Facebook that the band would be playing the Trough that night. We were excited and nervous it would be packed out, so headed down early and was surprised at how quiet it turned out to be. This evening had a totally different vibe to the Town Hall, but was awesome.
The band clearly loved the Trough and were delighted to play for us, despite their sunburn from their trip to Volunteers Point without suncream – big mistake! They worked their way through a long and comprehensive set of country classics and a few of their own songs.
To see a band who could really play, in such a fantastic venue was a real treat, especially as the sound quality in the Trough was a million times better than it had been at the Town Hall. You could really hear just how great the singer’s vocals were, as well as the gorgeous pedal steel. I had forgotten how much I missed decent live music living down here and this was the perfect antidote!
Then finally on Tuesday night they played again. Their flight home had been delayed due to Rotor Winds (they were unlucky in both directions!), so we were all treated to a final night of fantastic music, again at the Trough. The last gig was probably the best of all. A few more people in and a great set. We danced the night away, even on a school night!
The other thing to keep me entertained in October was my first larger weaving project. I borrowed a wider loom from the guild and was keen to make a wide woven wrap to wear at the Poppy Ball.
I had bought the lovely grey mill-dyed Falklands Wool earlier in the year from the guild (purchased from Wool Tops who supply most of our processed Falklands wool) and decided it would make a lovely woven wrap. Initially I’d bought all the colours except the orange, which I was not too keen on in the hank, but Chris persuaded me that I needed it to complete the spectrum. He was absolutely right – I love the muted rainbow checked pattern I came up with in the end.
It didn’t take too long to make and I really love the finished result! It’s so soft and light to wear as well. Weaving really is a great wool craft for someone with an addiction to yarn. Much quicker than knitting, simple and satisfying.
After it had a good wash, I was debating how to finish the ends. I decided to go for a twisted fringe, which I was able to do with the aim of a clippy wire photo holder – a good substitute for a proper fringe winder.
Overall, October was a very satisfying month and we were excited about the first weekend in November too, with the opening of the Volunteers Point track just around the corner.