Arriving in The Falklands:-
After 48 hours at sea and a very calm Drake Passage, we arrived at Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. Made up of a total of 776 islands in total, Port Stanley is the capital and of course the hub where most of the 3000 inhabitants of the islands live either in town or the surrounding area and in many cases both. It’s actually very common here for farmers to also own a little house in town as well.
It is a surreal sight as you enter this barren little port in the South Atlantic where you find more Union Jacks than you do in England, the money is in pounds sterling or Falkland pounds (same value), the islanders sound as English as we do and the pubs are more English than in England!!
It may be hard to find a red phone box these days outside London because I think most of them have been exported to the Falklands. The houses look like they belong on the south coast of England, complete with lupins in the garden. Double decker red buses are parked up but unlike the British one’s, these advertise Penguin Tours!
The local newspaper – Penguin News – comes out once a month and they even have their own island radio station. Internet remains the dial up kind and costs about £200 a month for locals. A land of contrast for commodities – bananas cost £7 per kilo and diesel for the Land Rover (everyone owns a 20 yr old Land Rover here) costs 38p per litre.
The surprise for me was when I went to the supermarket and found the shelves stocked with Waitrose own brands. Everything from soup and toilet rolls to pickled onions and leftover Waitrose Christmas crackers. The Falklands really is more English than England!
The locals were friendly and very quick to convey their own personal stories of life in the islands during the 76 days of conflict back in 1982. The museum has an interesting film, narrated by the children of the time relaying their personal experiences. The museum itself is a must for any visit to Stanley. It also tells the stories of all the great Antarctic expeditions that ultimately stopped here before heading further south.
A statue head dedicated to Thatcher and even a street named after her is also on the tourist trail of the little town of Port Stanley which has simply thrived since the conflict, boasting a brand new school and hospital built.
The government sponsors the youngsters of the islands if they choose to study at UK universities and it seems that most of them choose to return here once they graduate. To be honest, that came as a surprise to me in some ways, other than sheep and penguins, there really isn’t much here. But I guess where there is a real community spirit and the crime rate is virtually zero, there is a great sense of security and belonging.
Living on any island takes a certain type of person. It wouldn’t work for me because I always want to know I can escape and travel. I asked a local driver what he did for holidays. After all, there are no direct flights to the Falklands nearest neighbour, Argentina. All flights go via Chile or Ascension Island. The driver told me that he holidays in England. “Expensive to get there?” I asked, – £1700 return on the RAF flight to Brize Norton! Relative to the cost of a banana on the island then!
To sum up our day in the barren landscape around Port Stanley. Mid-summer here right now and the average temperature is around 14 deg celsius (57F) and very windy. The tan here is from windburn. Wait 10 minutes if you don’t like the weather and it will change is what the locals say and that seems about right.
We took the short trip out to Bluff Cove lagoon – only accessible by 4×4’s to see the King Penguins. We haven’t quite had enough of penguins yet 🙂 But here, of course, the Penguins ‘graze’ or literally just hang out with the sheep and the Cattle. How quirky is that?
Tea and cake served in China cups overlooking the beach where the Penguins surf in on the next wave. I could just have easily been at home in Cornwall, excepting the penguins! The fire in the little Sea Cabbage cafe was heated by peat – even in June, they needed a fire. The cakes were memorable….
Would I want to live here? No, but it i definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area if for nothing else other than its quirkiness and friendliness!