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Liz On The Loose
No Photos 2nd Jan 2017 - Adventure in Antarctica
Off-roading to see the King Penguins at Volunteer Point outside of Stanley, Falkland Islands

Today we were eagerly awaiting our arrival into Stanley, Falkland Islands.  The sooner we landed and got off the boat, the greater our chance of having time to see the King penguins.  The couple from Boston was eagerly waiting at the main exit with us.  We were among the first to exit and as soon as we met Patrick, we were on our way.  Patrick knows a lot about the Falkland Islands that he could probably fill an encyclopedia.  Here are some of the facts that I found interesting:

-No natural trees but they will grow if maintained
-A lot of peat which was the main source of fuel for a long time 
-One place to buy gas on the island, no tax and it sells for 50 pence a litre
-One bar on the island (looks like a portable) called The Trough 
-Horse racing over Christmas holidays 
-Abbatoir in last decade to export meat from sheep and lamb sold in Europe, used to be just wool exported from the islands
-6 wind turbines provide 50 percent of town's power (German design to handle the strong winds because they used to blow out the motor from the high winds) 
-Boots put on a stake as a joke by a family has now become a cute little roadside attraction
-Road surrounded by large rock beds from the last melt of the glacier
-Land used to be owned by shareholder in the U.K. and shepherds went to Australia and New Zealand to heard sheep. Forty years ago U.K. Got landowners to sell to Falklands to keep the population stable. 
-Wool isn't a big money makers so farmers come drive tourists from ships to make extra money on the side
-Roads meant sheep farmers didn't have to pay for a boat to come get their wool to then transport it to Stanley which was expensive 
-Government gives away a lot here: Medical care (fly to Santiago for larger issues, fly to UK for specialized treatments), Schooling, University in U.K., Land plots for 7000 pounds to encourage people to build 
-Liberty Lodge veteran housing for when they have a special memorial event and when the lodge is full, the 300 that come is invited to stay in everyone's houses

Falklands War Information
-Argentinians placed over 25 000 land mines now only 10 000
-Zimbabwean trained diggers came to clear the mines
-Whole field was covered with Argentinians and the British were able to keep them at bay 
-Argentine memorial here they still visit and they erect flags and plaques
-Falklands had a referendum and 99 percent wanted to stay British 
-The best beach in town was loved by the Argentinians, but they thought that the Brits would love it too, so they littered it with land mines and it has been unusable for 35 years 

It is a harsh land on which one must live here.  The terrain looks very much like Dullstroom, South Africa.  It has little in the way of green vegetation and short, dry grasses cover the land.  We were thankful for the Land Rover once the paved roads ended after about 15km.  Another 25km later, our gravel roads were also done and we were going off-roading (an unexpected bonus).  To get to the King penguins we had to go through Johnson's Harbour which was a farm that was recently sold, but was more expensive than normal due to the access to Volunteer Point, the King penguin rookery.  We were told that it would be 11 miles of off-roading to 'that hill'.  Which then became, 'that hill' , 'just 20 minutes more' and so on and so on.  Dad's vehicle got stuck in the muddy bog and the Land Rover got sprayed and covered in mud.  We towed them out of the rut and then got stuck ourselves.  I loved the off-reading.  Some of the bumps over the rough terrain were throwing us around in the car, which I loved (I giggled quite a bit and would have loved more of this).  After about 2 hours of a real bumpy ride we arrived at Volunteer Point.

Only about 4000 tourists go to Volunteer Point each year.  Here there are over 3 000 King penguins, 3 000 Magellenic penguins, and about 1 000 Gentoo penguins.  When we arrived we were all alone.  No other person was there other than the 6 of us.  What a magical experience!  The King penguins are completely at ease with us around them.  Many would waddle up to us and sit there in order for us to take their pictures.  They were very easy going and didn't mind us being there at all (unlike the Magellenic).  The baby King penguins have a fluffy brown fur that is quite puffy.  The noises that each penguin makes is very distinct.  The King penguins remind me of a car with a dead battery trying to start, but run through a synthesizer (you really need the videos to get the full effect).  

Brian and I took pictures and videos for ninety minutes before heading over towards the Magellenics on the beach.  I should note the difference in penguin nests here: King don't have a distinct nest and can carry the egg around in a pouch at the bottom of their torso, gentoo/adelie/chinstrap make rock nests, and the Magellenic dig holes in the grass or sand.  The Magellenic are more protective like the chinstrap and gentoo.  They will tilt their heads left and right trying to figure out if we are a threat.  I reckon that if we had been too close for their liking, we would have been pecked until our arms when purple.  

We headed back to the car, as we knew we were pushing our 2 hour limit to the maximum and had lunch in the little bunkhouse.  Before we entered, we noticed that a family of Magellenics had made a home underneath and were posing at the entry for us.  I enjoyed my lunch of cheese and chutney sandwich, chips, juice, chocolate, and tea strong enough to remove paint from furniture.  I was sad to leave our penguins, but am thankful for the wonderful opportunity.  Just as we were leaving, I saw a penguin 'running' on all fours.  It was using his front flippers to stay low in a protective stance and chase another penguin that it did not like near his home.

Our ride back was going to be a long one. However, Patrick gave the warden a bottle of wine to get permission to use his personal route.  We drove all along the rocky beach at low tide to save even more time.  We made it back to Stanley in only 2 hours, as opposed to three, and had a private tour of every part of the city before heading back to our boat.  We said goodbye to Patrick and I highly recommend a tour with him if you are ever in the Falklands.

Back on board, we felt the need to celebrate with a drink.  We met at the bar on deck 8 and toasted a great day.  Mom and I both enjoyed a Long Beach Iced Tea (similar to Long Island in alcohol quantity, but made with cranberry juice instead of coke).  I was incredibly thirsty and drank my first one entirely too fast and was almost instrantly drunk.  I paced myself only slightly better for the second drink.  Mother and I were drunk and telling lively stories.  Brian said that it was the most animated he had seen mom since the cruise started.  We all walked a little awkwardly to our rooms and went to bed after a special day.


Next: Rockhoppers and Albatross at New Island, Falkland Islands
Previous: Sea Day: Starting the journey north again.

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