Friday… back home

I have ‘cheated’ a little with the last few entries – although the notes were written at the time, I have spent the last couple of days recovering from the flight (I always find going forward in time zones more tiring than going backwards) and writing the blog, editing the photographs, and reviewing some of the ones I took in 2000/2001 for inclusion!

I will be loading the pictures up to the gallery later today and I will also create a section for some of the older ones – but as there are over a thousand, that might take a while to sort! There is also a small computer snag (a disk drive) I need to sort out sometime, and a blog software update to apply. And I’m sorry the blog wasn’t available while I was away – there was a power cut at home and they all shut down!

It was a great trip on many levels. It was first discussed in Starbucks over 12 months ago, wen Angela met me in London after a check up. It nearly happened in May, but it finally came together and I am very grateful to Angela for arranging things and providing a room. On another level, I was delighted (professionally) to see how things had moved on, and the projects had developed. On the health front, I was very pleased to have made a 14,000 mile round trip, without difficulty – something I might not have contemplated 18 months ago. Better still, I was able to get about on two legs, repeating walks that I had done before – when I was really fit – in much the same time. And finally it was a renewal of many happy memories of places and people from previous visits – including Anya and Migs. And if anyone is interested this link goes to a couple of live webcams from Stanley.

I did have a tremendous appetite while I was down there – a combination of exercise, fresh air and good cooking – so I jumped on the scales when I arrived home – I have put on 1 1/2 lbs! – now just over 10 stone!

Next week it is back to St Thomas’s for some more ECP, but it is very much “Onwards and Upwards”

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Tuesday/Wednesday… Homeward bound

MPAThe time has gone by quickly, and I am on my way home. The flight departed in the late afternoon, and arrived at Asi in the small hours of Wednesday morning. (4 hours ahead of the Falklands). After refueling it was onwards (and upwards on the map) towards the UK. The journey back was uneventful, and seemed to go quite quickly, with good weather. We flew over Cornwall before making our approach to Brize Norton where we landed just after 3:30pm. After collecting bags, I was in the car and home by 5:30. A great trip!

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Monday… Out and About (bimble time)

Bertha's BeachAlthough I haven’t had any motorised transport, I have had the use of my legs (and thumbs) and this morning I went down to talk to the person doing the job I did 8 years ago. It was interesting to hear how the projects had evolved, and that he was facing similar problems to the ones I had faced. Not really much I can say about it here, except that I came away feeling quite pleased that all the things my team and I had achieved had delivered most of the expected benefits. I also spotted some of these little birds – nicknamed Military Thrushes – on my walk round.Military Thrush

This afternoon I used my thumbs to hitch a lift down to the port – or more specifically a nearby beach – Bertha’s Beach, named after a long ago shipwreck. It used to be a home to a Penguin colony (about 20 years ago – when I first visited it) but 8 years ago, the penguins had migrated about 4 miles up the beach – which was not only too far for me to walk in the time available, but as it is the wrong time of year, there would be nothing there anyway. The walk down the track used to take about half an hour, and I was pleased to see that I did it in the same time today.

After the brisk walk, and another hitch back the 8 miles or so, I dropped into the cafe for a cup of tea and some millionaire’s shortbread, sit in the church for a few minutes of reflection, and then back to the house.

I must say I feel well – lots of exercise and lots of fresh clean air have worked wonders, and the fact that I have been able to do some of the things I did 8 years ago has been a great morale booster. Time for a big Thank you’ to Angela who hosted me and made the flight arrangements.

I fly back tomorrow, so it will be literally ‘onwards and upwards’!

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Sunday.. Gypsy Cove and back to MPA

Children at GipsyOne of my favourite places in Stanley is Gypsy Cove – a small bay outside Stnley near the harbour entrance. In the Spring and Sumer it is the home of Gentoo and Magellan penguins, but at this time of year there is nothing to see but the empty beaches of gleaming white sand. Many of the beaches round Stanley are fenced off because they were mined by Argentina – and clearing them is too expensive. However Gypsy Cove is fairly safe, although there are warning signs saying that mines can be washed up from neighbouring beaches. It was a favourite place of the children when we were here as a family, as this picture (taken in 2000) shows. Gipsy CoveThis one shows the whole bay – and as an aside, it is interesting to campare the picture quality – my current digital camera is far better than the one I had then! But it was good to be back there – and it is as peaceful and wild now as it was then. It was also the site of my first ever open water dive! I went for a longer walk up to the headland and found a WW2 gun emplacement – one of 14 built to protect the harbour entrance. We tend to think of the 2nd WW as a European and Far Eastern conflict, but situated on the Eastern side of Cape Horn, it had a strategic importance in both World Wars, and there was a Naval Base at Stanley.Gun
Finally on the way back to Stanley we stopped for another photograph – again one that is iconic (for me) the wreck of “The Lady Elizabeth” an iron built square rigged sailing ship, sitting on the sand at the end of the harbour. There is a closer shot in the gallery, this one shows Stanley, and the harbour. It is possible to wade out at low tide. Finally we headed back to Stanley, via the Seaman’s mission cafe for a cup of tea and a piece of cake, before Angela dropped me off at Anya and Migs’s for an hour, after which we headed back to the base at Mount PleasantHarbour

It was an excellent weekend though – bringing back lots of memories – and renewed friendships!

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Saturday… to the shops!

MemorialAnd that is what we did on Saturday morning! It doesn’t take long to walk round Stanley and visit both the shops – both the gift shops and the ‘ordinary’ shops. didn’t take many phots of this – although I have a lot from 2000, and when I get back, I may post some of them in the gallery. However this one is worth showing – the memorial to those British Forces who died in the conflict in 1982. Elswhere on the Islands is a memorial to those Argentines who died during the conflict.

I visited the Cathedral Cathedral shown here – taken during a brief snow flurry. The arch outside will again be familiar toanyone who watched the news during 1982 – made of whale rib bones, and a reminder of the once extensive whaling industry that took place in the South Atlantic and Antarctic oceans. I have been in the Cathefdral several times on my previous visit, but for the record, I also took this one of the inside. It is a typical Victorian style Church – but quite moving with the vrious memorials on the walls.Cathedral Interior

This afternnon I went to see my friends Anya nad Migs, and I spent a couple of hours with them, catching up on the years. Time went really quickly, but then it was back to the hotel to get changed, and we went out to the other ‘in’ lace in Stanley – The Brasserie, where I had ceviche and a Uragyan beef steak – delicious!

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Friday… Looking cold!

I had a good night’s sleep, but was up reasonably early. I spent a short while arranging an appointment (on Monday) with the person now doing the job I used to do, so I could find out how things had changed. My job was communications related – communications being vital so far away from the UK.

Old HouseI went and had a look at the house I lived in (we christened it ‘The Scout Hut) before carrying on walking round. The morning went fairly quickly, and with we set off in the afternoon for Stanley.Stanley RoadThis aerial view shows a portion of it. This next photograph shows a drivers eye view of the road – and I took this when I was down here 8 years ago – the weather was a bit better at the time!The Roads(Looking at it, I’m not sure it is Stanley Road – but it is representative of the untarmacked bits!) The good bits are more like this! Look carefully and you will also see a roadsign not generally found in the highway code! (This was taken in 2000 – the sign is still there)Stanley Road

We set off for Stanley on Friday afternoon, in very wet and murky conditions. The roads are pretty grim in places – with only relatively short sections tarmacked, and while there is a 40 MPH speed limit, the conditions were such that it took about an hour to cover the 30 miles. However we arrived safely and checked into the Malvina House Hotel in Stanley.

Malvina House HotelI had some friends in Stanley from my last visit in 2000-2001, but we had lost touch over the years so I was keen to see if I could get in touch, although a search of the telephone directory had been unsuccessful. This was a bit worrying, as Anya had also been a lymphoma patient (which was how we came to be introduced… but that’s another story!). So after checking in I went for a walk to where they used to live – and bumped into someone who knew them – and also where in Stanley they live now! And just after I got back to the hotel, I had a phone call so we made arrangements to meet next day.

Finally, we had dinner in the hotel – Upland Goose pate, followed by local rack of lamb – delicious!

O&U!

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Thursday… It’s wet – it’s the Falklands!

At AsiI had a good flight down, although he aircraft was late taking off – delayed by about 40 minutes because of a problem with some ground handling equipment. Much to my surprise, I found myself sitting up at the sharp end, instead of down in the back where indulgence passengers usually go. (Indulgence being the term for Aircraftpassengers taking available seats for a nominal fee). I’m not sure it was an upgrade – but it felt like one!

The trip down to the halfway point at Ascension was uneventful, and I managed to get about 3 hours sleep. ound for the aircraft to be refuelled for the next leg. Ascension was its usual self – a walm balmy early morning breeze as we waited in the compound. BougainvilleaWould that the Bourgainvillea at home had been like this one!

I was met on arrival by my friend Angela, who is working down here and arranged my flight and is looking after me! I did have a bit more sleep on the final leg, but while there is only one hour difference between Ascension and the UK, there is 4 between Ascension and the Falklands. I slept for a couple of hours on arrival, and felt pretty much OK after that, so by this morning I felt I had caught up up on the time zone change.Falklands

After breakfast I went over to the main complex on the base to revisit a few haunts. This visit is a bit like “recherche du temps perdu” in that it is all familiar, but I am in it, not of it. There have been a few changes – there is more housing – the road where I used to live is now block paved (it was a very muddy track!) but otherwise it is much this same. The weather is drizzly, not particularly cold, but very grey and with a low cloud base. There a few Upland Geese around – one of my memories of the Islands – and almost an icon!Upland Geese

In the afternoon I went for a long walk – unfortunately I don’t have transport – to see how the infrastructure for one of the projects had been implemented. I had forgotten how far it was on foot – I suppose I walked for about 3 miles, mostly on road, a bit on grass, where I disturbed a couple of hares – too fast for me to get a photograph!

I was pleased that I didn’t find the walk to tiring (a walk I would have done without second thoughts when I was really physically fit) t it did represent a bit more ‘getting my life’ back. I was pleased to see that it looked as if everything had gone to plan on the project too! The weather starting turning even murkier at that point, but I hitched a lift back in a passing Landrover, so I didn’t get too wet.Murky Weather

The real thing that struck me once again was the silence and the freshness of the air. There is very little pollution and a great the sense of space and wildness – things I rhad only half emembered.

I am going to do a bit more walking around tomorrow morning, before we go to Stanley (the capital) for the weekend – about 30 miles away.

The photos here are a small selection – the others, as usual, are (or will be!) in the gallery.

Onwards and upwards!

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Tuesday.. My bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

And I’m sure I have packed far too much stuff for six days – but with lots of thin layers to keep out the cold – and a change in case I get soaked – and a ‘smart’ (ish) set – plus warm clothing in case the flight is delayed at Ascension…it all adds up. Not sure whether to take the laptop – good for writing the blog as I go – and storing the photos – but a bit of additional weight! All I need to do now is find a good book I haven’t previously read to while away the 17 hour flight (two legs of 7 1/2 hours with a 2 hour stopover in Asi for refueling). Ipod charged…

Anyway, last post for just over a week – in five hours I’ll be “leaving – on a jetplane” – onwards, upwards (and southwards)!

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