Saturday 14 November, 5.23pm, King Haarkon Bay, South Georgia
I know I'm starting every blog with some random thing about how busy I am, but I swear to god, barely a minute to do any writing at all! If I didn’t feel so damned guilty I’d just fuck you all off, but I could never do that to my little ducklings, so here I am. I came down from the bar specifically to write. You lucky lucky people.
Steeple Jason and Carcass Island were definitely my favourite of the Falkland Islands, but our visit to the capital, Port Stanley, was extremely interesting to say the least. I must confess I didn’t know too much about the 1982 conflict beyond it was something to do with a land squabble between us and Argentina, but that was the extent of it. (Give me a break, I was
minus 2 at the time.) I always had a vague sense that the Falkland Islanders were on the Argentine side, too, but I’m clearly a total dunce because that’s not the case at all. On the contrary, the 2,000 residents of Stanley were and remain very proud to be British – you can use GBP here, they have the same phone networks, the supermarkets are full of English food and drink, and most importantly, for such a small town, there’s a plethora of pubs. As anyone who’s lived in a small English town knows, being overrun with drink is step one towards authenticity.
After we arrived, there was a chance to go out on the Zodiacs to see a few shipwrecks in the bay, which I naturally jumped at. I mean, I’m pretty into shipwrecks anyway, they’re rather groovy, but even if it was just going in circles for an hour I’d be happy as long as I got to be in the Zodiac. (The novelty is not wearing off in any way, shape or form; I’ve now discovered the one to try and get in is Flipper’s, because he goes the fastest.) I was on a boat with some cool folks - there's a guy here called Graham Robertson, who's an expert in albatross conservationism, and he has his family with him. His wife and sister are really nice, as is Graham, and his two daughters Anna and Jacqui are 25 and 23 respectively, so I was delighted to see some more young folk on board! Got some beautiful pics as the weather just turned nice for us, becoming a snowstorm just as we pulled back into the port. The weather down here is shambolic – being faux-Brits, they must love it, because my god is there plenty to complain about. It changes so quickly, not from day to day but literally from hour to hour, or even sometimes minute to minute. We’ve seen horrendous hail and snow follow
glorious blue skies, and then said glorious blue skies return straight after the bad stuff. No rain, fortunately, because it’s too cold, but it’s not like we don’t have plenty of chances to get wet in the Zodiacs. For the most part though, we’ve been pretty lucky – had to cancel a couple of excursions because of conditions, like Sea Lion Island and Cape Rosa here in South Georgia, but more often than not we’ve been able to both go to the various places, and really enjoy them too, because the weather’s held for us.
After Zodiac cruising the bay with the lovely Solan (who is awesome, because he’s here as one of the kayaking guides, and so while he's fantastic in that field, it sometimes seems like he knows next to nothing about anything else - the wildlife, the history, any of it, and it’s brilliant because whenever anyone asks him a question, he never knows the answer, but always throws it back with an incredibly sincere "Wow, what a great question! You should ask Scotty/Jamie/Tony about that!". It leaves the asker with a genuine sense of wellbeing, and they barely notice that they don’t have an answer to their question. The man’s a genius!), we pulled back into the harbour. After a turn about the visitors centre (where in a shocking display of self-restraint, I did NOT go on Facebook), we took the bus up to Gypsy Cove.
Gypsy Cove is stunning. It looks like something out of the Caribbean, with sandy white beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. There’s tons of wildlife knocking about, and it is totally pristine. Unfortunately, the reason it is so pristine is because in the Falklands conflict, Argentina put hundreds of landmines in the area, and it is still being cleared now, 25 years later.
It’s really sad, because even a short conflict has left this horrible legacy. On the other hand, the fact that most of it is fenced off to protect the humans means the animals have been able to breed there in peace. As a result, it’s a really great site for wildlife viewing. So swings and roundabouts.
Our final day in the Falklands was spent at Bleaker Island, where we saw two colonies of thousands of shags, and hundreds of rockhoppers. Now, I’m sure the shags and cormorants are very, you know, significant and everything, but as far as I’m concerned, watching the rockhoppers scrap with skuas trying to steal their eggs, in between bits of penguin nookie, beats any sea bird by a country mile. Just stood up there for hours chatting to folk and watching them trundle around. They are so bad tempered, like little grumpy old men (Jamie keeps giving me lip about anthropomorphising them, but you would too, trust me. And so does he, as it goes).
I completely adore them, and want to keep one. It appears to be frowned upon though, and I’d be concerned it wouldn’t get on with the cats, so perhaps not. Oh – for those of you not aware, Lowri and I have through sheer chance ended up with two kittens, Gollum and Disco. They’re lush. Do not get me talking about them, though, because in the grand tradition of pet owners, I think they’re far more fascinating than anyone else does and I will chat your ear off about their little individual personalities given half a chance.