Wednesday, 28 May 2014

77 Days

[The story so far....30 months ago, I migrated with my wife to the Falkland Islands, deep in the South Atlantic Ocean.  All was going swimmingly, with copious opportunities to watch penguins, orcas, seals, and exotic bird-life, not to mention enjoy the quiet social attractions of walking, dining, quizzing, etc.

Then, last November, my retina started to detach from my right eye.  An emergency evacuation and 3 operations later at the Oxford Eye Clinic, and  I was declared fit to return to the island life.  February was extremely busy for me, guiding many tourists around Stanley, the capital, and surrounding countryside.

Then, on Ash Wednesday (March 5th), the same problem recurred.  Worse, I had just renounced wine for Lent!  Another long and stressful  trip to an eye clinic, this time in Glasgow, ensued.  Luckily, my wife accompanied me this time, and I could transfer all my stress to her..... I had another 3 operations from the excellent people at Gartnavel Hospital.  The surgeon was a star, and I am now back in the Falklands with improved vision.  I was away 77 days......].

While I had been away, the Falklands had changed a bit......
But not that much!  The above photo is of a tall tower block, about the same height as the Shard in London, in Santiago, Chile, which I passed through on my return to the Falklands last week.  The Andes are a few dozen kilometres behind it.  Chile is the most earthquake-prone country in the world, so I'm not sure I would like to live in that building, but the Chilenos do build to a very high standard....
House construction, Sapper Hill
Some Chileans are probably helping build a new housing estate on the slopes of Sapper Hill on the outskirts of Stanley, (population 2,500).  About 70 houses are planned in coming months, and about 20 had appeared in the short time I had been away.  It is reasonably quick to erect kit houses.
A new suburb is appearing
 The infrastructure of roads and lighting had been completed in advance, and now the various plots were being worked on by their new owners.  Many are first-time buyers, helped by Government-backed loans.
New tarmac road, Mink Park
 Another newish development, Mink Park, is about a mile to the west of Stanley and now has a smooth tarmac road to it, instead of the potholed gravel track that I was familiar with. About 15 houses have been built here, with the golf course on one side and the harbour on the other.
The end of the tarmac.... Mink Park.
The road above carries on to the end of the harbour, past about 6 houses at Moody Brook and then over the ridge to Murrell Farm.  The grey building on the left is the old mink farm, probably a victim to the downturn in the fashion for fur coats....  Beyond it, about 2 miles away are Mt Tumbledown and Two Sisters, iconic hills which saw vicious fighting at the end of the 1982 war..  (which lasted 74 days.)
Temporary Port Facility
As well as housing, the oil industry has been gearing up to prepare for more exploration.   The photo above shows the installation of a new temporary port facility (TPF) for the oil industry.  It was towed from Louisiana in March and is being  fixed to the seabed, at the east end of the harbour.  Soon it will have a causeway to the mainland, and it will be a major hub of activity for the oil companies working out of Stanley.
The new TPF from the old FIPASS
The adjacent dock, known as FIPASS, (Falkland Islands Port And Storage System), was also a floating facility but, at 25 years old, is showing its age....
Penguins resting after a hard day entertaining the tourists.
 So, it has been quite an unusual 3-6 months for me, but  I have a lot to be grateful for.  I have my sight. The medical teams who looked after me performed, to my mind, miracles.  Friends, relatives, and even total strangers, have shown me enormous kindness and generosity.  Not to mention my long-suffering wife....
I'm a lucky man!
A cruise ship in the outer harbour, Stanley, from my bedroom.
I will try to respond to everyone who wished me well, but, if you did so, please take this as a BIG "Thank You".  Your thoughts were very much appreciated.

Hopefully, I will be able to update this blog a bit more often, now, but thanks for reading.