The Falklands – A Day in Port Stanley

Whalebone Arch

Monday was my day to explore Port Stanley. If I only wanted to see the monuments, that might have taken a couple of hours – max. But I wanted to see how residents lived. There would be time for penguins. Upland geese hugged the waterfront; see the photo above.

First, the post office where I sent lots of postcards.

I had a deadline because if I didn’t get my cards in the outgoing  box by 11 am, they would sit until Thursday. Mail only goes out of the country twice a week. The community is so small that every household has a post box at the post office; there’s no home delivery of mail. As I wrote my postcards at a table in the post office, I noticed how the PO boxes provided an excuse to meet and at least say “hi”..

Thatcher in Port Stanley

Today was a cruise day; most visitors come on a cruise and stay from two hours to a full day on their way down to Antarctica. Cruisers don’t venture far but they do see the symbol of Port Stanley, the whalebone arch.

I walked the main street and found Thatcher Drive. PM Margaret Thatcher is a hero here, with her own street – small – and a statue. The inscription says:

“They are few in numbers but they have the right to live in peace, to choose their own way of life and to determine their own allegiance.” Margaret Thatcher April 3rd 1982.

The Falkland Conflict with Argentina was not the first time that the islands were invaded. There was a battle here December 8, 1914 during World War I (yes, WW one – not a typo).

WW I memorial inStanley

Several ships have met their demise here including several American ships. Before the Panama canal was open in 1914, ships had to go around Cape Horn, the southern most tip of Chile, and stopped here to be repaired.

Even today, for a modern economy, life isn’t easy here. Their food stuff mostly comes from Great Britain. They get their fruit and vegetables from Chile once a week – just like independent visitors. If the cargo section is full of suitcases, the bananas don’t make it.

Coleen, the librarian, says “Sometimes I look at the people coming off the plane and wonder how many apples and heads of lettuce this would mean.”

Today, Port Stanley attracts immigrants from over 60 countries. Most are from South America; I met several from Uruguay. Some are from other Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand looking to start a business. But there are people from places I had only heard of from history books like St. Helena (you know, where Napoleon was exiled).

Victor, a deminer

Victor, from Botswana, supervises mine removal. The 1982 conflict left a lot of mines which must be removed by EU rules, even though here only penguins tread this land. It seems that demining is a specialty that takes Botswana firms all over the world. Several families from Botswana have settled here.

Next post – the wildlife – I promise.

 

 

 

 

 

Falkland Islands – Fulfilling a dream, finally

For over thirty-five years, I’ve had a dream, a desire, to go to a destination so far away that most people – well-read, educated folks – couldn’t find on the map. In 1982 –  that’s when I, and most of the world, learned about the Falkland Islands. The few who knew where the islands were located probably lived there.

Tony Smith

1982 – that’s when Argentina invaded the islands and held the people prisoners. There was no local defense force at the time. Three weeks later, the British military arrived and the real fighting started.

After seventy-four days, the Argentinians surrendered and were shipped back to their country. That’s about all you’re going to hear here about the actual conflict.

The Falklands are a group of islands in the South Atlantic, southeast of Argentina, one of fourteen British Overseas Territories, which are self-governing but depend on Great Britain for their defense. In 2013, the Falklands voted – loud and clear – to stay part of Great Britain.

Stone runs

Enough history. I went out of curiosity and because I wanted to meet people and, oh yes, see the amazing wildlife. What did I actually do and see?

I flew into Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, and stayed at Lafone Lodge for a week with a trip to another island for a couple of nights in the middle.

I’ll talk about the practicalities of my visit in a future post.

The first thing that hit me as I got my bearings in Port Stanley was the light. The pure unfiltered light with expressive clouds in a clean, blue sky. The wind was strong and cold. It’s not that far from the South Pole. No trees here but a lot of white grass and stone runs, created by glaciers.

The first day, I took a history tour with Tony Smith, a terrific tour guide with a passion (dare I say, obsession) for the Falkland Conflict.

We toured the major locations, including Goose Green, site of a large battle. The war debris have long been removed and there were memorials at various points. We visited them all.

Darwin Bay

We stopped for a smoko (tea and cakes) at the Darwin Lodge, one of a few places in east Falklands to stay outside of Port Stanley. I scrambled down to Darwin Bay where Charles Darwin was supposed to have landed in 1833. He spent a night here.

Then to Bodie Creek Bridge, a wooden suspension bridge built in 1926 and long abandoned, except as a visitor attraction. There are few roads on the island, and most are unpaved. So people drive cross country through fields, as the sheep scatter out of the way.

Bodie Creek Bridge

Our last visit was the Argentine cemetery, where most of the markers say

Soldado Argentino solo conocido por dios

(Argentine Soldier known only to God) – see the photo at the top.

Next post – Port Stanley.

Who’s taking care of our national parks?

It’s not news that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is still the most visited park in the nation.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park welcomed a record number of visitors in 2017, according to park officials. 11,338,894 people visited the park in 2017, a 0.2% increase over 2016.

The Blue Ridge Parkway had more than 16 million visits last year. Not surprisingly, these parks require maintenance and the maintenance backlog is dreadful. But a bill introduced in Congress last year would create a continuous funding stream for national parks. Like when you put away money to fix the roof or paint the house in the future, this fund would provide money for fixing our parks. Here’s the bill.

Still, as quoted in the Smoky Mountain News, my representative, U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows, says that “he doesn’t anticipate this particular bill seeing any serious consideration in Congress”. If our own congressional representative isn’t going to push for an issue which is of such economic importance to Western North Carolina, who is?

I’m off on a trip to two of the most out-of-the way places on earth. So this is my last blog for a while.

Keep on hiking!