The Shackleton pulled into Stanley on the Falkland Islands and as soon as we were allowed we headed ashore and into town.
|Harsh weather on the FIPASS as we arrived. We headed out but got driven back by the wind and rain before reaching the adjacent HMS Clyde.|
I'm thankful we weren't dropped anywhere busier as our first taste of civilisation as Jess, Cian and I were a little bemused and cautious; when crossing roads we waited patiently for approaching vehicles however slow and far away they were. Entering the supermarket we were thrown by a cat running in past us and then the vast array of goods on the shelves. I had to remind myself that unlike the Bird Island stores you can't just take something off the shelf, sample it and then walk off with in in a pocket.
|Is this normal supermarket goods now? No longer hundreds and thousands but billions and trillions?|
That evening us six returning islanders went for a fancy meal, a celebration of being back on dry land. The next evening we joined the ship's crew and rat team in a busy pub. Being in a crowded, loud environment didn't seem as alien as I thought it might. I thought back to first call at the beginning of December when I'd had a mild panic attack after coming into our lounge and finding it full of people. I think the difference was that was after nine months of just four of us in that place.
Soon enough our wintering team had to be split further as Cian remained in Stanley while Jess and I (plus Adam and Mick) headed off to Darwin. Cian's off travelling in South America (volcanoes permitting) and saying goodbye to him wasn't actually as hard as others. I guess we were all tired of emotional farewells and I'm sure we'll see him again in a few months.
Accommodation in Stanley was full so we'd been sent off to the tiny, remote settlement of Darwin. Our initial misgivings were abated when we saw the plush place we would be staying and by the time we'd had a cup of tea and seen a tame steamer duck waddle through the lounge we were completely sold on the place. We've always eaten exceedingly well on Bird Island and the chefs on the ship do an amazing job, but the food at Darwin House was outrageously good. The hospitality of the couple running the place was superb and we spent a thoroughly relaxing couple of days there.
|Shags hanging around, making use of the odd shipwreck.|
|Darwin House, what a setting.|
|Exploring the surroundings.|
As we had no real agenda we spent our time reading in the conservatory and going for short walks, caracaras, red-backed hawks and Commerson's dolphins were all seen within a few hundred meters of the house. Deciding I needed to exercise off some of the food I ran down past Goose Green and onward along the heavily rutted fields that count for roads this far out of the way. I finally reached what is said to be the worlds most southerly suspension bridge
(clearly no one has actually checked) across Bodie Creek. The planks across were looking a bit worse for wear and the sign on the gate had worn away enough to make it unclear whether it was safe for vehicles and pedestrians or very unsafe. It was only when getting back and checking that I found it had been closed in 1997 and access was prohibited.
|Bodie Creek bridge, worth the run.|
|Goose Green residents amazed at seeing a person.|
Following a long, long flight I arrived back in the UK to be met by my parents as said my last goodbyes to the rest of the team. By the afternoon we were back in the Lake District, out walking in the sun, smelling the lovely gorse, observing the lambs and watching and listening out for small, elusive British wildlife.
|Back in the UK.|
24 hours later I'd met back up with Jess and we were heading off for our next seabird-related jobs, but that's for another blog post...