The Falkland Islands
Trip Start Feb 14, 2012
15Trip End Mar 04, 2012
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We were invitted to join a private tour and so our little group gathered before 8 am to await the tenders. Luckily we are in the first 100 passengers of the ship, so our wait was short. The 11 of us met Adrian, our guide, and headed immediately for the Magellanic penguins
Along the way, we passed many fenced off areas identified as mine fields. Some areas have been cleared but due to the plastic nature of the mines locating them all is difficult, so lots of beaches still have warnings posted concerning mines that may wash ashore. Sadly 30 years after the Argentine Invasion, the island is still suffering from unusable land and dangerous areas. Clearing the areas is costly, dangerous and time consuming. The sand has shifted and many of the mines are quite deep. Fortunately, today there are very few incidents of humans being injured by one of the mines.
Our penguin sightings occurred at Gypsy Cove and Bluff Cove. We parked the bus by the executives' port-a-potties and the Coffee House Bus, gourmet dining at its finest (not)! The islanders are very protective of the penguins and the tourists. The locals, acting as rangers, were spread along the trails to offer assistance to the people and standing as a warning to those who would venture too close to the penguins
Adrian continued our tour on to a sheep farm. With pride, he explained that the main livelihood of his family is sheep farming, for wool, not meat. He and his wife own and run a small 10,000 acre farm with 3000 head of sheep. It is an organic farm and is run the old-fashioned way. His wife is a 5th generation islander, but he arrived as a child. On the way, the rain began, so we were treated to a brief taste of real Falkland summer weather. Our first farm adventure was a healthy walk across sheep grazing land to the peat bog. A small herd of 7 dairy cows, also, grazed the land we had to traverse
Peat is compacted organic matter that is used to heat the homes and for cooking. Adrian demonstrated the digging and drying process. His farm can run on peat indefinitely. The dried peat is stored in metal sheds close to the house for easy access during cooking and the cold winter months. The family of 7 makes its own butter from the milk of the dairy cows. His wife does the milking, the churning to butter and the cooking in the two small peat burning stoves. Adrian invited us into his home for a look at the peat burning stoves. We were delighted for the warmth. The small den was filled with toys and family photos. Tomatoes were growing in the sunny front window. We tasted his wife's delicious shortbread. On warm sunny days laundry is hung outside to dry and then moved to racks over the stoves where the heat finishes the drying that the all too short days do not allow. Adrian's love of his family, his island and his way of life was evident in everything he told us
Our next visit was to the shearing shack where we learned how the sheep are shorn and the wool rated, separated and compressed for shipping to the UK for processing
On our return to the port, we heard in depth about the war with Argentina. Thirty years ago, there were rumblings and rumors that the powers to be in Argentina were going to cause trouble. One day the islands were invaded, but life remained the same for the locals. They continued as if nothing had happened and tried to avoid trouble with the invaders. During this period of rule in Argentina many people opposed to the government disappeared. The Falkland residents worried that the same could happen to them. It took 6 weeks for the British troops to arrive and the entire incident lasted 79 days. The young Argentine soldiers sent to conquer the Falklands did not know they were being sent to war
The tour ended at the dock and we stopped at a local cafe for fish and chips. We wandered the streets, pausing at the sights and small shops before returning to the tenders. The temperature was dropping so the ride back was very cold, but again we were blessed with calm seas. We were both very surprised by the Falklands ad really enjoyed the day.