I am Bruce Good, Seabourn’s director of public relations. I am currently sailing aboard Seabourn Sojourn on a Patagonian Passage East from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a region I’ve always wanted to visit, and I thought I’d blog from here to let you know what it’s like. Hope you enjoy it.
The entrance to Stanley Harbour is guarded by reefs of rock which intercept inbound seas and send them skyward in eruptions of white spray. Threading around these, Seabourn Sojourn made its way into the sheltered waters and found an anchorage in Port William between low-lying points tufted with dun-colored scrub and occasional outcroppings of whitish rock. In brilliant sunlight, the harbor was patterned with whitecaps and scoured by a cold, steady wind from seaward. The port itself was obscured by Cortley Hill and Navy Point, and tenders began churning through the chop to disappear around the point. The tender ride was about 15 to 20 minutes, and once around the point we could see the whole town, which is about seven streets wide at its widest point, climbing the slope above the harbor. We passed along the neat, well-kept houses, most with corrugated metal roofs painted in assertively cheerful hues of cosmetics-counter pink, canary yellow, crimson and green. The town cemetery was visible, with a memorial wood dedicated to soldiers lost in the 1982 war. Another ship, Hapag-Lloyd’s Bremen, was anchored in the harbor, and zodiacs full of passengers in red parkas and orange life vests ferried back and forth to and from the shore. We arrived at the hospitable public jetty and went ashore at the visitor’s centre. Since I had an hour before the scheduled departure of my excursion, I walked down Ross Road, the main waterside thoroughfare, and visited the Christ Church Cathedral, the southernmost Anglian church in the world, and its arch of blue whale jawbones, constructed in 1933 to commemorate 100 years of British administration. I also passed Victory Green, with a gaggle of Upland Geese grazing contentedly. Across the harbor, the names of the warships that defended the islands during the 1982 war were spelled out in white stones on Cortley Hill.
Back at the visitors’ centre, a party of 12 of us was gathered for a tour to the Rockhopper Penguin colony on Murrell Farm. We were loaded into a small coach driven by Mrs. Lisa Lowe, who owns Murrell Farm with her husband. Lisa is a cheerful woman who pointed out the town’s highlights as she drove down Ross Road and out of town. After a 20-minute drive, we pulled into the farmyard and were divided among three 4WD vehicles for the drive over the peaty moors to the colony. This entailed a 50-minute, slow crawl over a pitted and rutted countryside with deep peat bogs, presently dry, and rocky outcrops. We learned that Murrell Farm is 10,000 acres, one of the Falkland’s smallest, supporting 3,000 sheep, 60 cattle and various other animal resources. The Lowes are surprisingly self-sufficient, burning peat for heat, generating electricity with a windmill, and otherwise taking every advantage of the spare but sustainable resources of their island home. Presently we came out onto a high bluff overlooking the sea, and there, on the rocky edge of the bluff, were the penguins. A rope was stretched along the edge of the colony, a bare few feet from the penguins, beyond which we were asked not to stray. The penguins went about their business regardless, but not entirely oblivious to us. The bolder ones wandered over toward the visitors, watching carefully for any proffered bit of stick or weed that they might add to their nests. They alternately nestled affectionately or squabbled noisily with each other, and raised shrill alarums whenever one of the ever-hovering skuas got too close. They were tending their eggs, which will hatch in a matter of a couple of weeks. True to their name, they hopped artfully over the jumble of rocks that is their home. We had an hour to photograph, observe and fall in love with these irresistibly endearing birds. A small cabin nearby gave shelter from the relentless chilly wind, and offered tea and home-made cookies and cakes (by Mrs. Lowe) and souvenirs of various sorts, plus an amiable chat with the wife of the warden who tends the shop and the kettle. In hindsight it’s difficult to say which was the more satisfying, the birds or the chat, but in the brilliant sunlight, with the shining sea below and the rolling moors behind, and the endlessly engaging penguins arrayed at our very feet, the experience was everything we could have asked and much more. Just as we were about to succumb to the chilly wind, the vehicles came crawling over the peat and brought another dozen visitors. We happily took their seats and began the trip back to the farmyard. Our driver this time was Mr. Adrian Lowe, Lisa’s self-identified “second in command.” As cheerful and whip-smart as his spouse, Adrian began to recount the chores his wife does on the farm. She drives the coach and sometimes the 4x4s, bakes the cookies and cakes, cooks and cleans, hand-milks six cattle (soon the be 10), and then he began to laugh. She also herds the sheep, on her ATV with the working dogs, mends the fences, cuts the peat and makes the butter. He quickly added that he does the separating of the milk, but sheepishly admitted that it is an electric separating machine. Raised on this farm, she has done this all her life and raised five children. He laughed again and said that he personally leads trout-fishing trips, which, he said, is “very hard work.” One of us asked him whether he was born in the islands, and he said no, he was from England. And why did he decide to settle in the Falklands? He chuckled as if it were self-evident: “For the women!”