What should be our goodbye!

With all of the madness of the last few weeks (wedding planning, work and the constant social life that comes with living in a small island community), it only dawned on me a few days ago, as I met some departing colleagues to say goodbye, that this isĀ  now the end of term in August and the flight they are getting on should be mine for the end of our contract/the end of our time here in the Falklands. Two years has utterly flown by and I don’t yet feel like this should be the end of our time here. I guess it is telling that I regard the decision to extend our contract here with a smile; we still have so much to do! The last few weeks has been heartwarming, with well-wishes on our upcoming wedding coming from left, right and centre – one person’s news here is public news. This was exemplified when, two weeks ago, some of my colleagues took it upon themselves to organise a celebration weekend for me as they were worried I might not get time for a Stag do in the UK. So off we went to the picturesque and well-kept self-catering at Johnsons Harbour for a night of archery and other hijinx, before driving back into town the next day. This was a drive home with a difference, though; despite it being Winter, we were not to be using the road!
Unbeknownst to us, news of our convoy’s plan had spread around town and one of my colleagues even heard on the local Radio that there were plans for a ‘Rover Rally’ (a Falklands term for an off-road driving session) meeting at our startpoint at 10am. Lo and behold, when we turned up, we found a whole host of finest off-road capable vehicles to join us for the drive in. A whopping 15 cars began the drive, reaching the Two Sisters Gate several hours later.The drive was immense, with a stunning clear day and excellent atmosphere; those who have been off-roading will know the oddly high levels of entertainment that it provides and the excitement of trying to see what cars can really do! The view of the convoy of cars setting off across the vast common, with no roads in sight and stunning scenery all around, won’t be forgotten in a long time.
On reaching Two Sister Gate (the end of the old road out of Stanley), we had expected to drive into town on the track but the convoy had other ideas, heading right along the fence line to the base of Mount Tumbledown and then proceeding to the summit of Tumbledown itself, coming back down the front side of it (the route I usually walk). The pictures (some of which I have borrowed from good friends’ Facebook accounts, I’m sure they won’t mind) don’t do justice to the incredible ability of cars and drivers alike; it’s hard to believe we took 15 cars up the side of the hill and across to the summit.

Each bogging was being dutifully counted and issued with a card. Our Acting Headteacher took the win, with 7. I was in my good friend Pete’s Land Rover 90, taking 4 boggings on the way and needing a tow out each time. The winches were broken out on several occasions, much to everyone’s joy. It was an utterly unique day and one that, no doubt, would have cost a fortune to replicate in the UK (if, indeed, it would have been possible at all). Instead, the land is part of Stanley Common and completely legally open to driving in this way. As someone who taught Geography, this brings mixed feelings: on the one hand, I see the massive destruction that this does by scarring the landscape in the way shown below but on the other hand, it is IMMENSE fun and the peat/grass can recover from the very few people who drive on it in this way if it isn’t done too frequently. Ultimately, selfishness wins through and if we could do it again, I think every single one of us would. It was an excellent day and one that we’ll all treasure as a great memory of how lucky we are to live somewhere that this is possible.

The original plan was that I was to suffer a penalty for every bogged car, but that hadn’t taken into account the extra vehicles joining us and the conditions we were facing: over 30 boggings later and, thankfully, the plan had to be revised. Exhausted from the efforts of the day, we still had a great night out filled with the unpredictable goings-on that occur here.
Many thanks to everyone who took part, who came along, who organised the weekend and who towed us out each time!

We don’t know what the next year will bring, but I head to the UK next week (whenever my delayed MoD flight is announced to be leaving), then across to Ireland where I’ll be getting married. Having spoken to someone who has just arrived on the Islands without his partner, I realise how lucky I am to know that I’ll be spending the rest of my life with the kind of woman whose response to madcap suggestions like ‘shall we go and live in the Falkland Islands?’ is, simply, ‘OK, let’s go for it’. I don’t take that for granted and hopefully never will.

Thankfully, we return to these Islands in September, with a contract for one more year (and the possibility of extending, of course), as a married and immensely lucky couple to live the life that we do. I cannot believe that our original time here should now be over already! I wonder what that says about us and what that says about these Islands.