Sunday, May 20, 2012

Live From Stanley!

Well, I'm here. Friday seemed like it would never end. After briefly snagging enough internet to post, I never managed to find another connection. I did, however, get my chai. I ordered an "alto te chai latte con...raspberry" and the barista figured it out. She also figured out that I did not speak Spanish. For the rest of the night, I alternated between sleeping at various gates and hunting for internet. This leg of the journey (Santiago to Punta Arenas) was a domestic Chilean flight, making for a rather different experience. First security was a breeze; everything stayed in my backs and my boots stayed on my feet. In fact, I did not remove my boots at all from about 2:30 pm Thursday (MST) to 3 pm on Saturday. My feet were stinky. The hours in Santiago lent themselves to several observations. First, as I listened to the baristas clean up at Starbucks, that girl power is the same in every language. Even they listened to the Spice Girls. Surprisingly, the 3G on my Kindle worked in Chile - points to - but I haven't tested it in Stanley, yet. All the announcements for my flight were in Spanish, providing me with an idea of what it's like for non-English speakers to travel domestically in the USA. Difficult.
I'm fairly certain that this sign in Punta Arenas is warning me about Cholera. Huh.
Three hours later, I found myself in the tiny Punta Arenas airport, with three gates and only one designated for international departures. The sun had not risen yet and my fellow travelers quickly left the terminal to claim their bags. I spent about 5 hours alone in this empty airport, waiting for a flight that only comes once a week. I should probably write something up for the travel agency in New Mexico just in case anyone else ever tries to go to the Falklands. It would appear that the later flight to Punta Arenas from Santiago that morning continues directly to Mount Pleasant, allowing the passengers a long enough layover in Santiago to get a shower and sleep in a bed. The influx of British tongues was a relief after hours spent alone in the empty airport, but I envied their clean and well-rested appearances. What surprised me greatly was the mass of Russians who followed the Brits off their flight from Santiago. How do they always find me???
The eerily empty Punta Arenas airport.
The flight from Punta Arenas to Mount Pleasant was the shortest of my long journey, but landing was downright otherworldly. After viewing large expanses of the Atlantic Ocean, clouds blocked the ground from view. We descended through layers and layers until the Falklands finally appeared below. The tiny Mount Pleasant airport is part of the Royal Marines' base, necessitating restrictions against photography and other behaviors. I had thought that El Paso had harsh winds, but at Mount Pleasant we all felt the plane shifting back and forth, then had to keep a tight hold on the railing to keep from blowing away as we descended the stairs down to the tarmac. Once inside, chaos descended. Those new to the islands rushed to get carts and blocked the small space as they waited for their luggage, which hadn't even begun to be unloaded. I followed those who knew what they were about into the immigration line, received my stamps, got my bag, and went through customs before most people had realized what was going on. What a relief!

The museum's taxidermist picked me up and drove me the 45 minute trip into Stanley. Once we left the military base, the smooth road turned into gravel and potholes, making for quite a bumpy road. And this is the main road in the Falklands, mind you. Imagine what the others are like. Due to such poor road conditions most people drive 4x4s and you don't need to ask them where their mud is - most of the vehicles I've seen are covered in it. Surveying the landscape, the only similar scenery I could bring to mind were parts of New Zealand's south island. The combination of grass and rocks reminded me of the area outside Christchurch where Peter Jackson placed Edoras and Deer Park Heights outside Queenstown. The Falklands have a fairly unique geological feature called the stone run, which manifests as rivers of stone running throughout the countryside. There are certainly theories, mostly involving glaciers, but no one knows quite how they formed. Besides these stone rivers, I also saw sheep, birds, horses, and well marked minefields along the roadside. Apparently it's at the locals' request that the minefields have not all been cleared yet. The minefields here have caused no human casualties, are well marked, and only occasionally take out a cow or a sheep. Therefore, the locals believe that the mine clearers' efforts are much better spent in places where mines end or damage human lives. It makes sense to me.

The fruits of my victorious shopping trip!
 We drove the long way through the center of town to my cute little house on the waterfront, then returned to the center of town to pick up some groceries. Since the Falklands are so isolated, the best fresh food comes from local sources. I picked up a fresh loaf of bread and some locally made sausage among my purchases. However, this does mean that the only dairy commercially available is the dreaded box-milk. Apparently, if you know someone with a cow you can get fresh milk, but it's not sold in the store. I still delighted in wonderfully British commodities such as Hobnobs,Jaffa Cakes, and Fanta Lemon. The wide variety of Indian sauces was also quite exciting, but made me realize that I don't know how to cook rice without my ricebot. I pretty much passed out after dinner last night. The trip wore me out and I couldn't bring myself to stay up any later, either to read or to write up my travels.

This morning I had a delicious breakfast of porridge with raspberry jam and set off to explore the town. I walked into Stanley's center along the water, then ventured up the hill into more residential areas. I also located the library at the Stanley Leisure Center. It'll be open tomorrow. Around 1:30 pm, I wandered into the Victory Bar, where I ended up spending most of the afternoon talking to locals and drinking Strongbow. Very fun! I even got into an argument about the causes of the Civil War. Walking back home after dark, I couldn't believe how bright the stars were. I'm not even sure I believe I'm actually here.

The view out my bedroom window.
Throughout this journey I've felt a bit like Lyra Belacqua on her way to the North. Too bad I don't have a panserbjorne to cuddle with.

1 comment:

  1. Your days of traveling exhausted me just from reading it all! Looks like you're having fun! I also miss that delicious lemon Fanta in Italy :)
    Rice is super easy! 1 cup dry rice, 2 cups water, bring to boil, turn burner to low, cover, and let sit for ~20 minutes. Done!