Thursday, 7 April 2016

Fox Bay relaxation

[This is an intermittent dip into our life in the South Atlantic. British expats working on the Falkland Islands since 2012.   Life in Stanley, the capital, is rarely dull, but it is good to have a change of scenery.  For a recent wedding anniversary, my wife and I flew to Fox Bay on West Falklands......]

Seconds after take-off in the tiny Britten-Norman Islander plane, we were looking down on Stanley and the harbour.  At times, it's busy with cruise ships or fishing trawlers, but today the main occupant was an oil rig supply vessel - soon to be leaving the islands, as the oil rig was finishing its exploration programme.
Stanley Harbour with oil supply vessel at jetty.  The Narrows beyond
We made a brief stop en route at the military base, Mount Pleasant, which also acts as the international airport for the Falklands.
A slightly bigger plane at Mount Pleasant
 Continuing west for another 50 miles or so, we flew over Lafonia, a largely featureless grazing region in the south of East Falklands.  In the early days, to gather and drive all the thousands of sheep, and bring them to the world's largest shearing shed at Goose Green, was a time-consuming task on horseback.
Bodie Creek bridge, most southerly suspension bridge
 So, in the 1930s, a huge short-cut was created by building the Bodie Creek Bridge across a large sea inlet.  Nowadays, with trucks and quad bikes, and roads, gathering the sheep is much quicker, and the bridge has fallen into disuse.
Fox Bay arrivals.
 Soon, we were across Falkland Sound and landing at the airstrip at Fox Bay (FB).
Fox Bay West, looking southeast-ish
 We were met by our welcoming hostess, and driven a couple of miles to the small settlement of Fox Bay West, which faces its larger neighbour across the bay.
Fox Bay, looking south
There are two families living in FB West, and one was away, so we would have most of the place to ourselves.   Our hosts owned the adjoining farms - comprising several thousand acres and sheep thereon.
Looking towards Fox Bay East
 Once we had been shown around the lovely Black Shanty house (which is neither black nor a shanty), we decided to walk back to FB East to explore.
Fox Bay West with telephoto lens.  It's about 1km away, or 6km by road.
 Unfortunately, we had to walk around the bay - about 4 miles or 6km.  The walk was fairly dull, made worse by being able to see our destination all the way, and it never seeming to get any closer!
Walking to Fox Bay East.  Little traffic.
As we could see the destination, we couldn't get lost.  There was also a giant road sign should any car come that way!
 So, after an hour or so striding out, we came to the strung-out settlement.
Arriving at Fox Bay East
 Our first port of call was the newly-restored Post Office Museum.  Two dedicated and talented people had restored the old Post Office and displayed historic artefacts from the early days of Falklands history.
The Post Office Museum, Fox Bay
Princess Anne opened the building when she was here in January.
The renovated Post Office Museum
 Life would have been so different in the last 2 centuries, when it could take 6 months to a year to get a reply to a letter.   We are spoiled by email.
After wandering around the settlement for a while, we strolled back to the other side of the bay.  Strangely enough, despite it being Friday and the Social Club being open, we didn't fancy strolling back later for a pint!
There be penguins in them thar hills!
The next day, we set off to explore the hinterland around the farm.  The immediate area has several minefields in it (relics of the 1982 conflict), so preventing a direct path to the penguin colony.  But we were in no hurry, so skirted them and headed down the coast.

After about 90 minutes tramping through deep whitegrass, we came to the beach where the penguins congregate.  One guy was particularly curious about us.
Sleeping seal.
We also noticed a young elephant seal having a snooze about 10 metres away.  The animals are so unafraid of Man here.....
Dreaming of squid.......?
Soon, the assembled Gentoo Penguins decided to head up the hill to their colony.  We followed them part of the way, but gave up, partly because I think we were alarming some of them, and also because we could see their colony was about another mile uphill !
Homeward bound
We also wanted to get back to the house in case the forecast rain appeared, so left the penguins to their peace and quiet.

Heading up the hill
We retraced our steps, as we enjoyed the solitude and scenery.  As far as the eye could see, there was no sign of Man, except the occasional fence.
Turkey Vulture 
Back at the house, our hostess had kindly laid in some supplies and we enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal, and then watched the 6 Nations Rugby.  What more could you want apart from a Scotland victory?
Black Shanty House.  Very comfortable.
Pier with FB East across the bay.
Static caravans in Stanley
All too soon, we were winging our way back to Stanley.  Another relaxing weekend deposited in the memory bank.
The shipwrecked  Lady Elizabeth, in Stanley harbour,  with runway on the right.
More memories in a couple of months,