Day 13 –Stanley, Falkland Islands….sooooo good to go ashore
The ship was abuzz with excitement from very early morning. Everyone was hanging out to get on to dry land after 6 days on the ship. This time we would be anchored off shore and hopping into tenders (the ship’s lifeboats) to be taken to the jetty. The first tender was due to depart soon after 7:30am, so we were up and about early, hitting breakfast as it opened at 7am. By 7:30am we had joined the queue of people looking to set off on the day’s activities. Sadly, we were stuck in the crowded stairwell until 8:15am when we eventually started moving through security to get off the ship and on to the little boat that would ferry us across to the town of Stanley.
It was quite a long ride and we were met with a squall of rain on the way over. We were glad to have our rainjackets and ponchos packed in the backpack just in case. Much excitement as we pulled into the jetty as there was a seal lazing on the end welcoming us in. The visitor information centre was about 20 metres from where we arrived, so we popped in there. We had already done some research and were thinking to walk around Whale Bone Cove to Gypsy Cove, home to a small colony of Magellanic penguins but it would be good to confirm. We bumped into Mark and Gayle at the info centre and as they were looking to do the same thing, we worked together to obtain the details and maps that we needed and set of on the 14km return trip. The people at the centre could not have been more helpful and it was good to be able to talk in English, something we seldom have the luxury of doing when we travel!
It was nice to have company as we covered the first few kms along the shoreline, past the waterfront homes and a cemetery containing graves of those lost in WW2.
This was the first of many signs we were to see during the day of the ongoing battle the British have fought to retain ownership of the Falklands – there is an ongoing claim by Argentina even after the defeat in 1982.
The rugged shoreline and powerful currents gave some idea of why there were so many shipwrecks around the island. The icy, strong winds would also be a contributor- although the winds we experienced were apparently nothing in comparison to the norm. Rumour has it that we’d had the best day since 1942 – and that was wind, a few drops of rain and temperatures around 10 degrees celsius. A balmy summer’s day!
A few kms into our walk, we split from our companions and continued around the cove. Some of the walk was on the road and other parts were across the peat moss covering a large part of the islands.
It was the peat bogs that apparently caused a lot of foot rot for the British troops traversing the island during the invasion by the Argentinians during the Falklands War.
We had to climb up a hill from the cove and as we reached the peak were rewarded with a view over the stunning white sands of Yorke Cove over the other side. A large area on this part of the island was cordoned off – it was where the Argentinians had laid landmines under the assumption that the British would land there. They are constantly clearing the sand but don’t know how many as yet unexploded bombs are still there.
We were able to stroll around the cove high above the shoreline, and as we did so, spotted a bunch of Megallenic penguins on the beach. They really are such quaint creatures the way they strut around. A little further around the coves we came across a big mounted artillery gun that looked as thought it was aimed at our ship! Sadly another reminder of the conflict that has taken place.
The walk out had been easy – when we turned around to go back we realised why. Firstly, we had an uphill stretch to contend with – we hadn’t noticed that it was such a steep downhill on the way out. Once we reached the top of the hill to venture back we struck a strong headwind that seemed to stay with us most of our return trip to town.
After all the hard work, we’d earned the snack we had brought for lunch – so sat under the large whale bones next to the southernmost Anglican Church in the world and munched on muffins and pastries. We managed to keep them away from the gulls that were circling in an attempt to steal our food.
The rest of our time ashore was spent strolling along the foreshore through the town and out along the other side. We past Government House, the local school and numerous memorials commemorating the occupation and retention of the Falkland Islands by the British. It was hard to gain an in depth understanding in a half day visit, but the British patriotism and anti-Argentinian feeling was palpable. So much so that they refuse to have any flights to Argentina despite it being so close.
Eventually we had to depart terra firma and hop on the tender back to the ship. There were now 4/5 seals on the jetty to see us off and a few dolphins joined us to play on the waters along the bow. The strong current made it difficult for the skipper to manoeuvre the tender alongside our ship, but eventually we managed to get on and through security. For this we were very grateful as we were having caffeine withdrawal. Having left the ship early morning, we hadn’t managed a coffee, so we made our way directly to Mosaic for a cuppa. As a lot of people were still on their shore excursions, we enjoyed a quiet, relaxing time. As it became busier, we moved our way up to the Living Room to read and drink fruit cocktails.
Feeling desperately in need of a shower after our 20km morning walk, we tore ourselves away from the big windows to get ready for the Indian buffet in Windows. After dinner, the Living Room beckoned again to listen to some jazz until exhaustion hit and we dropped into bed.