Regular Pengoing South attendees will know that today is a very special day here in the Falkland Islands. 14th June each year marks Liberation Day, the day that the islands were formally freed from Argentine occupation in 1982. It is hard to summarise just what this means for the people here. Having never endured military occupation by an aggressor state, I am not sure I feel qualified to explain the significance. Fortunately, Falkland Islands Government have given some insight:
Liberation Day also means a surprising amount to those not originally from the islands. After all, had history taken a slightly different (but also completely realistic) turn, none of us would be able to experience the islands as they are today. So it is that, even in these troubled and difficult circumstances, many turn out to mark the occasion at the powerful Liberation Monument on Stanley seafront. And who doesn’t appreciate a symbolic flypast? (all photos by Han today)
Close friends and family will also know that we should currently be about 28,000 feet above the Atlantic right now. How very apt that our final few days in the islands are spent with some thoroughly Falklands experiences: celebrating Liberation Day and an extended stay from a cancelled Airbridge flight. We’ve been relatively lucky with our flights, only suffering the occasional minor delay, but a friend has had his last 7 trips to the UK delayed by 24 hours+. It’s a fact of life here that you allow for Airbridge unpredictability (resulting from the weather and the poor placement of the runway in the 1980s). We can’t complain: without the MoD we wouldn’t have the vital air link and wouldn’t be getting away at all right now. We’ve come to endearingly call them “Bonus Days” and encourage others to think of them as such too. It adds an air of positivity to what could otherwise be a stressful time.
Despite the fact that the building that has been our home for nearly 5 years now sits empty and we have decamped to a very nice local hotel to be their only guests, it still hasn’t quite sunk in that we are leaving. Perhaps we’ve been distracted by the view:
We’ve not been complacent about it, we’ve been sure to do as much as we could in the time available to us (between packing, of course).
We’ve taken a final visit out to the breathtakingly scenic Volunteer Point to see the King Penguin colony there (with the bonus of several groups of Southern Right Whales close in to the beach):
We obviously had to take a final trip out to Camp (soon to be a term I guess we’ll stop using), to stop by Estancia Farm to introduce one important member of the family to another: Baby, meet Milo! Milo, meet Baby!
I’m not prone to sentiment, but it proved to be something of an emotional drive. Before arriving in the islands I’d never even driven a 4×4, yet alone on gravel roads or off road altogether. Learning to drive in the distinct style that is required here has opened the islands up to us and allowed us to access no end of incredible places and experiences. Our cars have become important parts of our life here and it was incredibly sad to see them go, though we know they go on to good homes; both to new arrivals eager to begin their Falklands journey. We know that it’s unlikely that we’ll ever run a 4×4 again (yet alone 2!) or get to use them for their intended purpose in the way we have here, so it truly was a fond farewell to our trusty steeds:
They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things in life. It is. As it transpires, trying to do so in the middle of a global pandemic adds an extra unpredictability that verges on hilarity. Well, you can either laugh or cry as whatever plans you try to lay down alter several times each week in response to changing rules in various countries. We’ve tried not to let it get to us and we think we’re sorted now, but we’ve got a lot of people and places to say our goodbyes to. In the spirit of romance mixed with efficiency (always a winning combination, I’ve found), we cashed in an anniversary present that I had got Han pre-baby from the wonderful Falklands Helicopter Services and we took to the skies for one more outstanding memory from this little place:
After the initial flurry of logistical patchwork, we’re actually very pleased to have our Bonus Days right now. It all just seems so appropriate and gives us the opportunity to tend to a few things that we have been meaning to do before we go.
One bit of local lore concerns Boot Hill, for example. This ever-expanding collection of shoes on sticks alongside the main road into Stanley has an unclear provenance but it has evolved into something of a ritual for those whose time it is to leave the islands. The legend now goes that, if you think you’ve had your fill and won’t be returning, you leave a pair of shoes. If you think that this place still has a hold on you and that one day you’ll be back, it’s one shoe for you. Will we be one boot or two? Our final few days may tell.