A Whaley Good Cape-r

We’ve dropped our number of weekly/monthly adventures away and out of Stanley to the minimum lately for the aforementioned reasons, but that’s not to say that the novelties of life here cease. We had been due to go away to the North Western edge of East Falkland, to Port San Carlos/Race Point and the  intriguing sights to be found up there but a snowfall made the prospect of the drive up there, at night on the clay roads none too appealing so we were forced to give it a miss.

Fortunately, the Islands taketh away and the Islands giveth. When we’re bored or we want some time outdoors we have some regular areas around Stanley that we visit: Mount Tumbledown to the West of Stanley for hill walking with some 82 remnants, Surf Bay to the South East of Stanley for a beach walk with a good chance of the Commersons dolphins:DSC_0166

and otherwise Cape Pembroke to the East of Stanley for its lighthouse and the odd chance  of seals.

We opted for Cape Pembroke for a short (c.15 minutes) drive and a walk around the Cape on Saturday and we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of a distinctive ‘blow’ from the road out. As it transpires, Southern Right Whales are migrating and stopped by the Islands for a short spell. Whilst we’ve seen whales before, we hadn’t expected to see them so close from the road! (On a map, these would be between the Westernmost Tussac Island) and the North of Cape Pembroke).

These giants were stunning to watch until sundown but most impressive were both the noises and this particular sequence of one launching out of the water to come crashing back down:

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We’ve taken on board a lot of information about the wildlife, geology, culture, politics, history and all kinds of aspects of the Islands. I don’t see why this memorable encounter should be an exception to that pattern:

Here’s to seeing what else Winter has to throw at us before our return to the UK for a short stint in August. I guess it should be noted that August was meant to be the end of our contract and time here. It’s flown by and there’s a good amount left to see and do. Lucky we’ve extended our contract…

A taste of Ireland

Han’s Facebook ‘timehop’ thing recently showed us that this time last year we had snow, so we’re definitely doing OK weather-wise so far this year. Winter is definitely closing in though! It starts becoming noticeable as the ever-present Falklands Westerly wind seems to disappear more often than it does in Summer (though it becomes less predictable and flares up to strength at will). The sunrises and sunsets that greet us most days do make the temperature drop that bit more bearable:

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Lady Liz last Winter

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A few days ago, outside our house

As much as we like to think of ourselves as the outdoorsy ‘no such thing as bad weather’ types, there are some distinct differences between our attitude and lives in Winter to Summer here. Most of the off-road tracks to our favourite places close due to water-logging (the peat soaks up a lot of water and ponds become visible everywhere, especially from the air) Much of the wildlife disappears so there’s less to be seen out in Camp. Added to that is the fact that the journey becomes both physically and mentally less attractive:

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The MPA road, Winter edition. In fairness, the Public Works Department does resurface large sections at an impressive rate, but you could get the feeling they’re fighting a losing battle with nature

The main road to Mount Pleasant Complex (the airport/military base) and the road to all of the other settlements is much argued over. As you can see, it warrants a lot of careful driving for a supposed main transport link. I tell people it helps Han feel at home, reminding her of her native Irish roads.

People disagree over whether it should be covered with tarmac or not and I find it a novel discussion for a society to be having over what I used to consider basic infrastructure. In the tarmac camp, the arguments are obvious from the image. In the ‘keep it’ camp, there’s the argument that the gravel gets more grip as the Winter frosts set in. The large drainage ditches either side and distinct lack of any crash barriers are enough to leave people wanting as much of that as they can get. It’s not so much a money issue (though that plays a part) as the Falklands have no national debt and many times their annual budget comfortably in the bank, though there it’s fair to say there is often a reluctance to actually invest that money. This debate has led to the odd settlement of a few miles of tarmac getting done each year, before (I assume) all the equipment gets packed away for another year. Still, you quickly become used to the situation.

One side-effect of this is that it makes you look at cars in a different way. I’ve become quite attached to our trusty steed and when you rely on them on these surfaces, in these conditions as well as off-road (sometimes many miles from the nearest people, building, phone signal or sign of mankind) you become far more reliant on them than  life within AA/RAC reach would make you.

OK, so since we got it, our Mitsubishi Pajero has needed some off-road tyres. And new shock absorbers. And a new clutch. And a replacement  gearbox. And brake lines. And some seals. But other than that, she’s served us well. Looking at it, who can blame the poor mule for a few injuries?