Thursday, 3 September 2015

Pebble winter escape.

[Welcome to an occasional look at life on the Falkland Islands, from the point of view of a couple of UK expats: working here for a few years and enjoying what the islands have to offer]

The snow that fell in June had long gone.  But, in late August, subsequent short snow showers had again carpeted the capital, Stanley, in a white blanket.  This made it seem like a long winter, so my wife and I decided to escape to a remote island.   Luckily, there is no shortage in the archipelago, but we chose Pebble, again.
Snow squall approaching Gypsy Cove
As we took off in the 8-seater plane, we climbed quickly into the gale that was bringing more squalls from the west.  Being one of the two passengers on the 40-minute flight, it was quickly decided that I would sit beside the pilot!
High tide prevented landing here
Unfortunately, the tide was high, so we missed out on the chance to experience a rare beach landing.  The beach on Pebble Island is about 4 miles long, and we were to see a lot of it.
The Nest
The Nest - snug 
We were met at the airstrip, by Riki, the Lodge manager, and our friendly hostess, Dot, who, with her husband, also farms the island.  Apart from them, we were the only people on the island.
Working dogs.
Too early? A sign of Spring?
We were shown round the self-catering cottage, The Nest, which, unlike Dr Who's Tardis, was as neat and compact on the inside as it seemed from the outside.  However, it was beautifully appointed and proved to be a very comfortable bolt-hole.
Black-necked Swans
But, we couldn't linger to enjoy the sofa.  My wife had spotted some distinctive birds just before we landed and we were keen to get a closer view.  These swans are extremely shy, and difficult to get close to.  But the pair on Pebble proved to be co-operative, and within a few minutes of arriving, we were sitting watching these graceful creatures.
Island cemetery
After watching the swans till our bums were numb, we wandered round the scattered settlement, wondering what some of the older man-made devices were for originally.....sculptures?
Any ideas, please?
The settlement used to be populated by several families - it had a school.  But only a couple of Lodge workers, and the farming family, live there now.  Some of the houses are being converted for holiday use, and that's how we came to be staying there, as the Lodge was closed for the winter.
Looking west to the hills.
Although the settlement of about 10 houses is roughly central and low-lying, it has extensive views to the hills at the west end of the island, about 10 miles away.  To the south, other islands, and the hills of West Falkland fill the horizon.

The next day, the squalls disappeared, and, after a leisurely breakfast of scrambled eggs, we set out to see the swans again, and walk the long, long beach.
Pebble Island Lodge. Upland Geese on frozen pond
What makes the beach seem even longer is that, every time you turn round, you can still see the large lodge in the settlement.  The beach is semi-circular, and even after walking for two hours, we were still about the same distance from the lodge!
Near the end of the 4-mile beach. Settlement on the horizon.
Frozen streams
Although sunny, it was also very cold, and a few times we slipped on the frozen sand, where a sheen of sheet ice was waiting for the unwary walker!  The cry of "Sheet!" rang out
Frozen ponds
The tide was going out and the wading birds - gulls, oystercatchers, sheathbills, and plovers were our constant companions, even if they were tricky to photograph!
4 miles back to the Nest
Some of the streams we crossed were frozen and the ice had created some amazing sculptures around the grass and waterfalls.
Frozen blade of grass
Low tide on the runway!
Looking east along the semi-circular beach
Cemetery amongst the gorse bushes.
Sunset, with Upland Geese
Dinner that evening was a delicious risotto, washed down with a couple of cartons of good Chilean red wine. (Cartons were lighter than bottles, and we were only allowed 10kgs on the plane!).  No TV, no Internet, no radio.  Peace and quiet surrounded us.  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Settlement houses.
The old school looks out to sea.

A friendly Jack Russell terrier.
The jetty
After the relaxing weekend, the same plane returned to take us back to Stanley.  It was full this time, so we squeezed in at the back and snatched glimpses of the snow-covered hills below us.,
Two Sisters

Now, in September, it is light from 7.30am to 6.30pm and getting lighter every day.  Hardy flowers  are starting to appear in gardens, and reports are coming in of Elephant Seals wallowing ashore to breed on Sea Lion Island - a sure sign that Spring is here!

With any luck, we should be on Sea Lion in November, enjoying the wildlife and hospitality.  If it is as good as that on Pebble, we are in for a treat!



  1. What a shame you didn't get your beach landing. You'll just have to go back next winter! Bx

    1. True, Bx. I think the pilot just used the high tide as an excuse..... Just published the St Helena blog. Lots of you sunbathing......bfn xx