We had intended to ride on the Falklands at Port Stanley, but the day opened with a temperature of 42 deg and a forecast of rain all day; we, therefore, decided that discretion was the better part of valor and that we should see the island on foot with an umbrella. In retrospect, this was clearly the right decision.
We boarded the tender just after 930am and road through choppy seas to the port facilities of Stanley. It rained throughout and a small group of tour operators and cruise passengers met us on the pier. We obtained a Falklands I pamphlet at the tour desk and chose the two mile each way walk to Gypsy Cove described as the path to a nearby penguin colony. It was cold and windy and the rain continued although in occasional drops rather than sheets. Marilyn checked with the bus for the ship’s tour of the locality and turned down the $200 price, then checked with a local van operator who offered to take us to the penguins for $20 each. We chose the van rather than try on foot. This turned out to be our second excellent decision of the day.
The ride out started for a quarter mile or so on paved roads and then turned to a difficult rocky unpaved road through areas marked as land mine dangers and walled off with barbed wire. The driver, British by descent, told us the story of the 1982 war and had few good things to say about the Argentine military invaders who seized control of the island and were eventually evicted by a large British marine force. The Argentine force suffered a loss of close to 1000 lives, many on the Belgrano cruiser, torpedoed late in the war. Except for the land mines, we saw no evidence in the area of the war. We passed a landmark wrecked ship in one bay, but this came from 1870 after repairs in the harbor were deemed uneconomical. We also passed the Whalebone Arch memorial from 1933. Eventually, we drove up a long hill and around a bend and found a parking area for the start of the final walk through the Gypsy Cove Park. Five other vehicles waited in the parking lot to pick up people dropped off earlier.
As we walked off on the marked path, we could see a pretty beach below 50 foot high cliffs below the path and separated by the barbed wires marking land mine areas. These may well have been areas suspected of land mines, but they also served very well to protect the penguins from the observers. I could see a lone penguin scurrying across the beach toward the water as returning walkers indicated a penguin brood lay atop the cliff 50 yards along the path. We spotted the 15-20 penguin brood and everyone began taking pictures from a distance of 20-30 yards. A few other penguins could be seen even further up the cliff as we passed nearby. We passed another small bay with two flightless Falklands Geese at the edge of the water. We photographed them as they entered the water.
Other seabirds gathered at a spot on the rocky cliffs and I think they were joined by at least one penguin. All of these penguins were the small Magellanic penguins. Later, birders told me these were the last of a bunch which had begun to return to sea for many months before next year’s nesting. I was told they follow the sardines north in the direction of Brazil.
The air was bitter cold and wet. We walked to the end of the path for several views of this brood and several other bays beyond the summit. I was one ship pulling out of the harbor/bay and learned this was likely a squid hunting ship. Squid is the major marine export from the Falklands, accounting for $20-30M. After about an hour, we returned to the parking lot and found that one of the vehicles which we took for a tour bus was actually a rolling café. We warmed ourselves inside with hot chocolate and tea while we waited for the return of our van and driver. Although he had taken no money from us on the way out, I realized this was a safe strategy, since I would have been willing to pay him $50 each to take us back out of the cold. I can’t imagine our walking out and back under these conditions.
We returned to the port area and received advice for lunch from the driver, who suggested the Victory bar, and English-style pub. The place was crowded with tourists. We ordered fish and chips and sausage in beer accompanied by hard cider and wine. All was excellent. The bar mistresses were British and Chilean. The Falklanders seem very suspicious of Argentineans and prefer to deal with the more distant Chile, both for labor and for things like air transportation.
We returned to the tender at 2pm and road back to the ship as the tender operator warned us that gale force winds were forecasted within the hour. The warmth of the ship was very welcome.