Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Out of the Rat Race, into the Raft Race

[Episodic epistles from 600 miles north of Antarctica, 400 miles east of Argentina.  Well, nowhere's perfect. As is sometimes said of my native Scotland, if it wasn't for the midges, the place would be overrun by tourists.....]

A New Year!  But same old, same old blog...    Penguins, plants, and people doing silly things, in variable weather conditions.
Magellanic penguin and chick
 I've just spent a couple of days as a Warden at a beauty spot near Stanley in the Falkland Islands.  Sadly for the thousands of tourists who arrived last week by cruise ship for a short day ashore, the weather was dire - rain, and more rain.  So, it was quite tricky to see the young penguins in their burrows.    However, today the big yellow thing was back in the sky, and all was well with the world.
Sea Cabbage - prevents scurvy.
 The local flora is also coming out in bloom.  But more of that later. On Hogmanay or New Years Eve, we enjoyed a gourmet meal at a local hotel - spicy toothfish, langoustine and fillet steak, plus delicious Chilean wine.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, competing events conspired against us.  We also wanted to go to a Ceilidh and enjoy some Scottish Country Dancing.  Luckily, Stanley is fairly compact, so we managed to squeeze in a couple of Dashing White Sergeants, and Strip the Willows, before the Bells!
Crowds line the harbour
 The New Year started with bright sunshine, and the traditional Raft Race.  Unlike the Horse races on Boxing Day, it was unlikely that these would be cancelled due to weather.
The Navy in their new semi-submersible
 At Midday, the assembled flotilla paddled energetically towards the finish at the Narrows Bar, at the east end of the harbour.  Unfortunately, the wind was from the south, and most competitors were blown towards the Narrows (the harbour entrance), and out to the ocean beyond.   The nearest land to the north was several thousands miles away, so the competitors were grateful for the many rescue vessels that buzzed around the harbour.
Solo bathtub attempt
Some of the entrants were high-tech constructions from the Forces.  You could sense the rivalry between the Army and Navy.  We are in good hands, should any dug-out canoes try to invade the Falklands.  (It is thought native tribes from Patagonia did actually paddle to the Falklands, centuries ago.)
The corrugated iron design proves seaworthy
Other rafts relied more on optimism than technology; more on brute strength for propulsion, than streamlined shape.  The bath-tub was a solo attempt to win by a local MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly; like an MP in the UK).  But its high sides made it prone to deviation by the wind..... Back to the drawing board.
Vikings versus shovellers
Some crews had obviously practised their technique, which I think is tantamount to cheating.  If only raft-racing was an Olympic sport at Rio!
Army issue shovels
Eventually, everyone finished, or were rescued, and spectators and competitors re-lived the contest over a BBQ at the Narrows Bar.
The longboat, beached outside the Narrows Bar

Home and hosed, as the racing saying goes.
Pet, lawn-mower, lunch.....?
And so, we wandered home, ready for our traditional New Year dish of a steak pie, mash potatoes and mushy peas....
"Say 'Aye' to a pie!"
The next cultural event in the Falklands is Margaret Thatcher Day on the 10th January.  I'm not sure how that is celebrated, but I won't be dressing up as mine-worker, that's for sure.

Soon after, it will be Burns Night, the global celebration of Scotland's National Bard, who wrote "Auld Lang Syne", which I hope many of you sang the other evening.  (You might notice I'm stocking up on the Haggis, in case there is a shortage....)

So, the diet starts tomorrow!  Have a Happy and Prosperous 2013.



  1. Happy New Year. Yesterday was the polar bear swim in many parts of Canada, some colder than others.
    It is novel to most but the Finns in our area do it regularly, requiring cutting a hole through the ice not far from their sauna. As a Northern people they put us to shame.

    I loved you race, aversion of a bath tub race. Even your summers are not all that warm.

    1. Thanks. It's suddenly become "warm" again. Will it last?

  2. Just to say how much I have enjoyed your blog and the pics over the past year, and to wish you a happy and healthy 2013.

    1. Thank you - that's very kind. Glad you, and others, enjoy it.
      All the best for 2013, Peter