Located three-hundred miles off the coast of Argentina, the two main islands and seven-hundred-fifty smaller islands, are home to more sheep, penguins, and rare birds, than people.
The main port is the capital, Stanley, located on the eastern shore of East Falkland Island. Reminiscent of an English fishing village, complete with pubs and shops, it’s a quaint town, of about two thousand residents, where most people know each other, and consequently enjoys a low crime rate.
Without a suitable dock, it was a long, rough tender ride to shore. Once we arrived, I spotted Jimmy, our tour guide, holding the sign with my name. This tour was arranged by Jelena, who had also set up the penguin expedition in Ushuaia.
We set off in Jimmy’s Land Cruiser for Volunteer Point, which as the crow flies, is much closer than the route we had to take. The ride was one and a half hours over largely unpaved territory. Jimmy knew the shortcuts and made a game of beating the other 4X4 vehicles carrying other ship tourists. Though we got a few minutes later start than they did, we arrived at our destination a half hour earlier than anyone else thanks to Jimmy’s cunning skills.
Larry and I wandered among the penguins, snapping photos, as though no one had ever been there. Besides the thousands of penguins, we saw geese that reminded us a bit of the Hawaiian Nene. Our Daily Navigator said the temperature was 49 Fahrenheit. Ha! With the wind-chill it was MUCH colder! We could see our breath and I was really wishing I hadn’t left my gloves in my backpack.
When we returned to where Jimmy had parked it was quite a different sight, with fourteen 4X4 vehicles, in addition to ours. Jimmy provided water, hot coffee, sandwiches, chips, and cookies for us. We warmed up with the coffee and headed back to town as it started to sprinkle.
Crossing back across land owned by a sheep rancher, we imagined how quiet life must be in this area. Besides raising sheep, the rancher charges tour guides for access across his land. As we neared the edge of the station, Jimmy explained the “Bake Safe” holds homemade pies made by the rancher’s wife. If you want one, just leave your money in the honor receptacle.
As we neared the paved road, Jimmy shared his memories of the Falkland’s war, from when he was nine years old. He also explained a bit of the geology, as we saw remnants of the ice age called, “rivers of stone,” that did indeed resemble winding rivers flowing down the hillside.
We passed Mt. Harriet, where a huge battle took place. And, nearby was
the rusting wreckage of a downed helicopter. Once we were back in town, Jimmy pointed out the sites, including the southernmost Anglican church, Christ Church Cathedral, and it’s whalebone arch. We really enjoyed chatting with him all along the way and learning more about the Falklands including, their main harvests are squid and Patagonian toothfish (aka Chilean Seabass.) And of course, they have a lot of mutton, lamb and even “bacon seeds,” aka pigs.
We happily treated Jimmy to a beer (or two) at the Globe Tavern, where Larry imbibed in a Bishops Finger and I had an Old Speckled Hen. We made the next to last tender back and bounced through the waves to the ship.
We’ve heard the stories about the number of times the weather has made it impossible to stop here, so we are grateful to have made it. This is one of those places we’d be happy to visit again . . . for a little more time.