What a visual feast of landscapes are The Falkland Islands, from where I have just returned to Montevideo after a wonderful week.
The changeability of the weather during my week there meant there was no going back for another shot when the weather improved, so I have some less than perfect photos, some taken flying through rain, or trying to keep myself and the camera still in the strongly gusting winds. Travel around the islands is by either 4WD or the Falkland Island Government Air Services small plane, FIGAS, around the outer island settlements. Service to any place depends on who books to go where on a particular day, but I was told a plane turns up at least every week or so, and in the tourist season probably daily. Mail comes whenever the plane does, just like in our own Australian Outback. There are very few roads out past Stanley so to get somewhere you just set out and go in whatever direction you want – so there are track lines all over the place – upper left photo, and more on tracks in a future post. One of my flights took place on a very calm but overcast morning – the upper right view from my seat at the rear of the 10-seater plane shows a sea smooth as a sheet of glass. Lower left is one of the ‘mountains’ – perhaps 2000′ marked not with snow but lines of light grey stone – they look like rivers, very elegant shapes referred to as ‘stone runs’, and thought to be glacial in origin resulting from millenia of freeze-thaw extremes. There were large zones of these in many places, and they seem to be unique – Charles Darwin remarked on them, apparently; and they’re very difficult to traverse. They thrilled me. And then lower right there is a slice of one of the beaches I explored.
It seems hard to say what the highlights were – but they include the wonderful people, locals, contractors and tourists I met all over; the dramatic landscapes; and the variety of bird life including various penguins of course. Or perhaps it was the 24 hours I spent totally alone at The Rookery, a little 4-bed self-catered accomodation unit/cabin on Saunders Is in the far NW of West Falklands, with only the sounds of the really strong winds and passing birds to enjoy. There was a small hand held 2-way radio (for emergency use only) and an fm radio too, but the British forces station that picked up was total crap – I heard one 5-minute news session slipped in between largely British 60’s and 70’s music, and really, the silence was far more interesting.
A major part of the economy of the country has long been wool production, and though this is being outstripped by the development of major oil field production there, it is understandable that many of the local craft traditions there are based on wool. (Add in embroidery, leather work and wood crafts including wood turning and burning) Everywhere I went I asked about textile crafts, and met some interesting people associated with spinning and weaving, felting, knitting and crochet. From several people I heard about but was not able to actually connect with an American woman in Stanley who inherited a partly finished quilt from her grandmother’s attic in distant USA, She gathered a few friends to help finish this vintage Bear’s Paw quilt of which I saw a photo. The flow on effect from that project is that some of these people have started to learn about how to make traditional geometric patchwork and other applique blocks. There’s a fabric shop there which I didn’t have the time to visit, but apparently people are able to get suitable materials with which to start, and I predict there will be more done there before too long. Just getting underway is a series of workshops taking place in the outer island settlements as two retired teachers, Myra, a kiwi, and Heather, an Aussie, travel around with the essentials and materials for one-day workshops on about a dozen crafts to teach isolated people their choice of whatever they want to learn from them. Part of the project’s goal is one of mental health – to help mitigate the isolation and give people things to do in the long winter days and evenings ahead. Radio, phone and internet (slow) now cover most of the country, but as we all know, nothing beats personal contact and demonstrations by someone with knowhow.
I had a great week and will write more about it in future posts. For now, it’s time to assemble a web album of photos, the link to which I’ll post when that’s done.