The Big Day

This is the one we have been waiting for.

Saturday 30 January – Port Stanley, Falkland Islands

Things I have learned today #1: the highest YouTube use per capita in the world is in Saudi Arabia.

Definitely the best day so far. In fact, this may be hard to beat at all over the coming months.

The tenders ashore were prompt and the sea was calm. The sun shone and the sky was a startlingly bright blue. There was barely a breath of wind.  It could not have been more perfect, weather-wise. In fact, we all got a little burned, because the weather we had been promised by the ship’s forecast was so entirely wrong. We were all bundled up under copious layers and when we took them off, in the blazing sunshine, we had no suncream with us!

We came ashore and immediately went into the Tourist Information/ Gift Shop called the Jetty Centre (no prizes for guessing its location). In fact, I bought so much stuff, that they offered to hold it all for me to collect on my way back, so I didn’t have to carry it all around all day!

We discussed the various penguin viewing trips available with the tour guides outside and they said that mum would not be able to do them, due to the uneven surfaces and long walks. So we just pootled through town. I made a point of visiting the Conservation Centre and every Gift Shop I could find. If I have to contribute to the economy of anywhere, I would like it to be here. So I shopped and shopped. Chances are, when I get back, if you get anything by way of souvenir, it was probably bought here. [Irene, I got you a spoon. I hope that’s okay.]

We had a bite of lunch (sandwiches and cold drinks) at the West Store Café, which was basically in the building between the supermarket (ostensibly Waitrose (no, really, they stock Waitrose Essentials), but with some Tesco and Iceland products too) and BHS. Their wifi didn’t work though, so we headed back towards town.

Dad eventually managed to book a taxi to take us on a tour of the East Island – there aren’t many taxis here and we have, by disembarking, doubled the population of the town (what it will be like on Monday when there are two, bigger, ships in at the same time, I dread to think) – and while we waited for it, I used the Jetty Centre’s wifi to send a couple of emails (although it was almost as expensive as the ship’s!). Then Colin (and his wife) picked us up in their car/taxi. Almost everyone here drives a 4×4, and we were shortly to discover why. Whilst the streets of Stanley are smooth and tarmacked and lovely, outside of town, things are not quite so uniform or predictable. We dropped Colin’s wife at home, so she could check on the dogs and chickens, and then headed off on our tour.

He took us to see the bay where the Argentinians landed in 1982, but this is now inaccessible, because as soon as they were ashore, they mined it furiously, assuming that the British would land at the same point. They didn’t; they landed about 70 miles away at the other end of the island. It’s a beautiful spot and, if they ever clear all the mines, you can bet someone will build a very expensive hotel there. Apparently, the mines are being cleared by a firm from Zimbabwe – I imagine they have a fair amount of expertise in these matters, because there has only ever been one accident. The main problem is that the mines were planted in sand, and sand SHIFTS with wind and water movement, which means the mines MOVE. This does not make them easy to find and renders any maps or plans utterly useless. When we talked about using the grazing sheep to clear the mines, Colin said he thought that was an urban myth. I have my doubts. It seems a very sensible way of doing things, to me. Come to think of it, I don’t think we saw any sheep at all on our tour. We saw geese, and horses, and penguins (OBViously), but I don’t recall any sheep. That’s odd!

Anyway, he took us to a viewpoint where we could see Arcadia out in the Sound, and some shipwrecks closer inland (hence us tendering in!), and then he showed us some of the ‘sights’ – such as Government House, the statue of Margaret Thatcher, and the memorial to the 255 who died “to liberate us”.

Then we parked ourselves in the Waterfront Kitchen Café to while away the time until the tender queue subsided – it never did, but each boat holds over 100 people, so the line moves fairly rapidly – and we were back on board by 5.30 (BOB was 6). I shook all my bags out on the bed. I think I will need to check my credit card, to make sure it hasn’t melted at the corners. It seems to have worked VERY hard today.

Things I have learned today #2: The Romans quarried under their own city to such an extent that more than one new sinkhole a week opens up somewhere under the modern inhabitants  – around 80 a year.

Bed straight after dinner. Utterly shattered.

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