Posts

Showing posts from 2016

Pampas

Image
Let's sit here you and me and let the breeze of a summer afternoon wash over us, bringing with it the heady scent of jasmine, the rustling of leaf burdened trees that toss and sway hither and thither, the soporific cooing of pigeons and the droning of winged insects. Billowing puffs of white clouds are pushed across an azure sky and the resident dogs flop resignedly onto the cool tiled terrace waiting for the heat of the afternoon to abate. It's hard to keep your eyes open. This could be England on an idyllic July day, the landscape is familiar enough, but we are instead in the pampas lands of Argentina; the treeless plains, where the song of blackbirds, chaffinches and thrushes gives way to kiskadees, ovenbirds and the piercing screeching of parakeets.

Perhaps we should go for a stroll; shake off the effects of a heavy lunch and too much wine. We can keep cool. We'll walk in the sun-dappled shade of the eucalyptus and sweet scented pine where the rufous horneros, the nati…

Freezing Glaciers and Flaming Flamingos

Image
El Calafate, a pleasant enough medium sized town in Argentine Patagonia, is named after a berberis. This plant is profound hereabouts and the berries are used for making liquor, for putting in pies or simply for eating (don't try this at home folks). Another pinprick in the romanticism of my imagination. I expected the name of this lakeside town in the deep South of Argentina to mean 'The Gateway to Heaven' or something. Instead it is named after a small shrub. We find ourselves here for a couple of days having been driven for 6 hours or so from our last base in Chilean Patagonia. The drive was uneventful, along long straight roads, except for a frustrating wait at the border stuck behind a coach load of Chinese tourists. Here we queued for the best part of an hour whilst some bored national guardsman decided whether or not to stamp our passport. Petty officialdom drives you mad at times. It wouldn't have been so bad had he not stopped what he was doing every couple of…

Big Feet

Image
We've moved from a windswept Falklands to a windswept Patagonia. A hiccup or two on the way with cancelled flights, missed pick ups and frantic telephone calls and emails. But all came good eventually. The first short leg of this stage of the trip (shortened even more by the aforementioned cock ups) finds us on the edge of Torres Del Paines National Park in Chile ensconced in a delightful complex called Patagonia Camp.  One or two of the waiters live up to the name, but everyone is very friendly, efficient and welcoming. Patagonia apparently means Big Feet, and there was me thinking romantically that it meant 'Land of the Towering Peaks' or some such. It was, so we are told, given such a mundane, nay stupid, name by early European settlers because the natives were considerably taller than the average 16th Century Portuguese/Spaniard; malnourished midgets all. Ferdinand Magellan is credited with being the first European to set eyes on the Patagones Indians chiefly by seeing…

King Pins

Image
Everywhere we have been on these islands folk have told us how lucky we have been with the weather. You can tell this is part of the British Isles because the weather is always the main topic of conversation. And we have been lucky, we know that. Until today. Today the never ceasing wind reached a new strength, gale force, and the sun deserted us. This is what a typical Falklands summer day is like; challenging.

We were picked up from Stanley, an enigma of a place if ever there was one, after breakfast and bumped and bounced for nearly 3 hours over what was essentially open moorland. There are no saloon cars here for once outside the settlement and into 'camp' the roads quickly deteriorate. First there are a few miles of packed dirt and gravel and then nothing but a faint track where yesterday's Land Rover/Toyota/Ford 4x4 slowly ground it's way to the beauty spot known as Volunteer Point. As your head whacks into the hand grip one more time and your back wrenches as yo…

War Zone

Image
Wherever you go on these islands you are reminded of the events of 1982. The Argentinian invasion and the ensuing war still has a profound affect on the inhabitants, the landscape and the general feel of the place. Falkland Islanders are a hardy folk, living in harsh and extreme conditions where neighbours look out for one another, accents a cross between West Country and Irish. The economy is doing well, people seem content, loving the remoteness and the sense of space and emptiness. They don't want the essence of the place to change and they certainly do not want to be anything but British. The chances of another invasion are pretty slim; there are 1,000 service personal stationed here, Typhoon jets, battleships and of course 21st century communications. Back in the '80s there was no internet, no Sky news, no smart phones. Information was hard to come by and therefore controllable by the government. Things have changed.

There are monuments all over the islands, mainly Britis…