Old favourites, new favourites

I’ve been making a conscious effort to take more pictures lately as I feel they do a better job of communicating the experience we have here (which, I guess, is the purpose of this blog though perhaps I should have defined that several years ago). By now, regular followers will be getting more familiar with some of the spots we frequent so it may come as no surprise that we’ve been visiting a number of them recently. Still, thanks to an ongoing agreement between Falkland Island Government and a Canadian medical school, Canadian doctors undergoing GP training and wanting to experience remote medicine are cycled down to us here in the Falklands. This is a mutually beneficial set-up that has the added bonus of giving us Canadian doctors every few months who seem to be, without exception, lovely and outgoing people to hang out with. Inevitably, Han and I end up showing the doctors to some of our favourite spots and we build up great relationships with many of them.

Socially, the Falklands populations is already very transient and the small community (and distances) in town often mean that things run in fast-forward. We’ve had friends on 3 month contracts (and sometimes less) who we met here years ago that we are still in touch with and consider ourselves to be very close. So it is with the Canadians; they’re only here for a a couple of months but we get to know them very well in that time and we miss them a lot when they’re gone and the process starts again with the next one. On the plus side, we have many stops that we can make on any Canadian touring we do in the future. The reason I mention all of this is two-fold; partly because it gives others an insight into how such close relationships can develop so quickly in small communities and partly because we’ve recently been entertaining our latest batch of lovely Canadians with trips in the local area:

We’ve encouraged all of the visiting doctors to get out and see the Islands (not that they need much encouragement) and we try to help them wherever possible with this as it’s great for us to show off our home and, as I’ve mentioned before, it helps us to be reminded about how lucky we are to live here. As it’s summer and the wildlife is blooming, we took a day trip to take the GPs (and a visiting medical student – another bunch of lovely people we sometimes get here) out to one of my favourite places in the whole of the Falkland Islands: Whale Point. After negotiating some early access to the spot (off-road tracks sometimes don’t open until well into Summer to prevent damage to the land or disturbing the lambing ewes) we were able to take two cars on a day-trip from Stanley, driving about 45 minutes to the turn-off for the 80 minute off-roading trip to get there. We pass an old farmhouse on the way, which has a slight Wild West look to the surroundings:

When we reach Whale Point, our usual trip is divided into three parts. Firstly, we drive down to the beach to admire the whale bones that give the area its name and spend time with the gentoo penguin colony (which is particularly cute this time of year):

Next up, we drive down the long, grassy coastline to see East Falklands’ most accessible elephant seal colony. These animals are always good to see, being largely very docile around people and sharing memorable looks with their giant eyes. It was great to see the colony thriving with so many young pups and adults present this year. Many of them are huge, noisy creatures but there’s also the occasional cutey:

Finally, we round our tour off with a trip to what remains of the St Mary. She’s a shipwreck with an interesting history, summarised well on the website of the Historic Dockyard and Museum in Stanley here so I particularly like to be able to visit the wreck and  give some context to it. Luckily, most people by this point are already well aware of how much I like to ramble on about history so this comes as no surprise to them on arrival.

Whale Point is a trip that has so much of the Falklands about it: wide open landscapes, historic farming apparatus, interesting off-road driving, ample wildlife, whale bones and a shipwreck with a unique history. It’s a great summary of so many trips we’ve taken here and we look forward to more Whale Point days out before the summer ends. Sadly we’ve said goodbye to our latest Canadians and we’ll miss them a great deal, they’ve left big boots for their successor to fill. We’re heading into the Christmas season and things get manic around here with a jam-packed social calendar including many meals, the Boxing Day races and other events going on but we’ve just returned from another extended stay on New Island so I’ll devote a significant post to that as soon as the many photos have been sorted and laboriously uploaded. To all of our friends, family and any other random blog followers across the World, Han and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year. We’re not sure what our next year will bring, but we’re excited by the options that the Falkland Islands seem to so often offer us.

Never predictable

I’ve talked before about the unusual opportunities that living on a remote island throws up and how we’ve been unable to predict just what we’ll end up doing here from one week to the next. As we move into December and the madness of the Falklands summer, it’s interesting to look back on November and see what we’ve been up to this month. I often list some of the wildlife encounters that are becoming far too normal for us these days, like our recent trip to Volunteer Point on East Falkland:

Among the ridiculous amount of social occasions we find ourselves at in this small community, November was host to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Ball and remembrance ceremonies that I covered two posts ago so won’t discuss in length here:

The social aspect of the Falklands also throws up some experiences for other members of the community here; poor Milo had a small crowd for this year’s much-needed shearing that he had, before some visitors wanted to help with transporting him to his next temporary home (we lend Milo out to help with people’s lawns as most people in government housing aren’t provided with a lawnmower, obviously):

The islands do have a very transient population, which has some benefits and some problems associated with it. For us, having so many people come and go on the islands means we make friends from all over the World and they often make us get out and do things that are new to them (and, sometimes, us). So it was with the month just gone when our Canadian friend Christine celebrated her Birthday far from home – she’d seen that the pool here had an aqua run so as a surprise, we rented the pool for her, with mixed success:IMG_6694The improving weather does change things up a little in a place that can see some real extremes. It’s blessed a couple of events recently; our friends Davide & Marinella got married in a touching ceremony in the sunshine on Bertha’s Beach (as it was their wedding, I don’t feel it’s my place to post photos of it on a public blog so I’ve included a representative picture of the cake that our friend James made for them – it was stunning, personal and uniquely Falklands, just as their Wedding day was). Hannah also had the opportunity to join a Football Association medic to keep an eye on the FA Representative team that was flown down to play the Stanley and Mount Pleasant teams in a football match. Football’s pretty boring so I’ll say no more about that, but it meant a lot to some people here. The improving weather keeps us busy, both getting out taking advantage of the outdoors but also we need to take advantage of some indoor spaces too:

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Get busy! Them vegetables won’t grow themselves!

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Soaking up the sun

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Han with the FA Representative team

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Davide & Marinella’s cake, made by our friend James

For me, the final major thing that November brought was my first foray into the lecturing scene here. Since arriving, we’ve attended a number of lectures run by a number of organisations (the Historic Dockyard and Museum, the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute/SAERI and Falklands Conservation mostly). It’s not something we did much in the UK, but we’ve seen some really interesting talks on everything from penguins to photography to specific boats (the Ilen project I mentioned before in a post). With my thoroughly geeky interest in all things historical and Falklands, I’d been meaning to contribute to this scene and the time I’ve gained by leaving teaching meant I was able to offer my services to a sold-out Museum to give my first lecture on the unique story of the Isabella and the Nanina (if you’re intrigued, buy and read the Wreck of the Isabella by David Miller). I enjoyed giving something back to the community we’ve come to embrace and I didn’t get any negative feedback so here’s hoping people enjoyed themselves. I’ve got another sold-out talk coming up this week and a few more to be given next year, so perhaps I’ve discovered a productive way to channel my inner geek.

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Powered by tea – setting up the talk (it was full to capacity, honest)

The lectures, I guess, run alongside my new-found Falkland Islands Tourist Board accredited Tour Guide status (used so far for voluntary tours for visitors that we know), so I’m carving out something of a niche in the highly limited sector of ‘geeks talking about old things here’ but you never know where things will lead and I’m enjoying myself so I’ll just keep on with my ramblings.
Here’s to seeing what else the Summer brings and, if you hadn’t already guessed, the moral of this post is simple; take that risk, move somewhere different and you never know what life will bring. You might even end up walking a friendly sheep on a lead. If you’re lucky.