Saturday March 18, 2017

We’re buzzing. Still. We really are. Even though it was two days ago, we can’t stop talking about the fantastic day we had in the Falkland Islands. Apart from an icy squall or two in the morning, the weather was as good as it gets at this South Atlantic outpost. The locals, mainly Brits, were thrilled to see us (their cruise-ship season is drawing to a close). And we Kiwis couldn’t believe our luck.

When Darwin arrived here on the Beagle in 1833 he declared “the whole landscape had an air of extreme desolation”. And as we motored ashore in Port Stanley aboard one of the ship’s tenders (lifeboats), we could see what Darwin meant. But, undeterred, we Mad Midlife Kiwis were soon climbing into 4WD off-roaders and lurching out across peaty, rock-strewn farmland to a remote penguin colony where several thousand pairs of Gentoo Penguins (with orange beaks and feet) nest beside a sandy, windswept beach.

It was moulting season in the Gentoo camp. The adults and their fully-grown chicks were standing around or lying face-down, bums to the wind, their cast-off white feathers blowing like snow in all directions. They don’t eat, apparently, until this annual ‘shedding’ is over – but we spotted a few early-finishers, running down the beach for a swim in the surf and an overdue feed (krill, squid or small fish).

They may look clumsy on land, but these guys are speedsters in water, zooming around at 35 kph – all the better to elude sea-lions and killer-whales who like nothing better than a hot-and-crunchy penguin for lunch.

A smaller group of King Penguins (bigger, more colourful, with bright orange collars) also make Bluff Cove their home. They lay only one egg, which they incubate on their feet – and then take turns feeding their youngster until he/she is a year old. Words can’t describe how we felt as these healthy, curious creatures strutted their stuff … fed their chubby, still-fluffy chicks … squabbled with their neighbours and waddled around like royalty.

Before returning to Port Stanley, we grabbed a hot drink plus some home-baking at the on-site Sea Cabbage Cafe, poked around in the adjacent Bluff Cove Museum, scored some souvenirs from the gift shop, and chatted to the friendly farmers who own the joint.

Then, later in the afternoon, we joined a local guide for a short highlights-tour of the colourful seaside town. En route we were reminded that Stanley is a British outpost … learned some essential Island history (including the nasty 1982 war between Britain and Argentina) … and eyeballed several impressive skeletons (of old wrecked boats and even older whales).

Unforgettable? For sure! And one of many experiences we’re gonna RAVE about once we’re home.

COMING UP: Docking in Montevideo (genteel capital of Uruguay) we head for a photographer’s dream-town: the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Colonia del Sacramento. Our South American romp is far from over, so please don’t leave the room …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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