GoNOMAD DESTINATION MINI GUIDE
Aside from the fact that the name continues to be a toss-up to cartographers (The Argentineans still arent really happy with the way that little incident called the War of the Falklands turned out), there is more adventure to be had walking around the only "city" -- Stanley -- than there is on any seven-day trek anywhere. With 2,700 people spread out over 645 square miles of some 420 islands, youre talking about some seriously empty space. REAL adventure territory. If I could, Id move there tomorrow. At least for 10 or so years. It should take that long to tire the boundless adventure possibilities.
No where else can you walk right up to elephant seals, dive hundreds of wrecks (some you can walk right up to as well), sea kayak with orcas, talk with penguins, experience every conceivable type of weather possible in one eight-hour day, fish salmon from untapped streams, 4x4 miles and miles of empty-save-for-sheep land, visit battle sites, see birds youve only dreamt about and much more. You also will get to experience some of the wildest -- and best -- bush flying this side of Alaska.
WHEN TO GO
Man, woman or child, every Falklander lives with the wind. From the west or northwest, it's blowing off South America ... a warming wind. From the east, it's out of the deep unobstructed South Atlantic, and that means storms and rain. And from the south? Brrrrr. Antarctica is just over the horizon.
Eighty-knot winds are no big thing (daily wind speed average is 16 knots) and as a result the locals have a rather odd conceptual grasp of what wind is; i.e., "Its only blowing about 30 knots, mate, well find a place to dive." We did, of course, but we had to wear our dive masks topside en route to the dive site. Insane, but worth it.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
I flew DAP from Punta Arenas to Mount Pleasant Airport (MPA) in the Falklands, the only point of air entry, and a quite active and armed military base.
A weekly RAF Trident makes the flight from the U.K. via Ascension Island and into the Falklands as well. Flights in and out are limited: youre going to spend a minimum of seven days in the islands regardless of how long you wish to stay.
FIGAS passenger lists are announced every evening on the local radio at 7 p.m. You listen for your name to be called.
Rental 4x4s are available in Stanley.
BEST MAJOR ATTRACTION
BEST UNUSUAL ATTRACTION
The islands are virtually treeless. Some bush-like trees have been imported to Stanley and taken root in the thin soil, but over the rest of the 4,600 square miles tussock grass -- a bladed shrub that grows some 10 to 12 feet high out of individual pedestals/hummocks -- reigns supreme. You can meander along the bases of the tussock and get nowhere real quick, or you can walk atop the hummocks and get real tired, your choice. How anybody fought a war in this stuff is beyond me.
BEST ACTIVITY AND TOUR
If icy diving isnt your thing, take a 4x4 overnighter out to San Carlos Waters and stay at the Blue Beach Lodge (as if you had a choice!) for the "yomp" (Falkland-ese for taking a hike in the boonies), history, scenery and salmon fishing. Visit the war graves, kick up pieces of shrapnel. The owners of the Blue Beach are incredibly nice, and youd swear you just stopped in for a cuppa in a small English village.
Check out Ajax Bay, where a former abattoir -- slaughterhouse -- served as a British field hospital during the "troubles" (as Brits everywhere refer to their pocket wars). Interesting graffiti on the walls, but I dont think a slaughterhouse would be on your "A" list of places to die.
If geology is your bag, see if you can figure out the stone runs -- river-like courses of huge granite blocks. The best explanation of the phenomenon is that it is the result of glaciation, melt, mud atop ice, glaciation, melt, etc. ad nauseam: no ones really sure. From the air, the stone runs look like rivers meandering down hills and through moonscape valleys.
There are a few others offering some of the services (especially 4x4 rental and land tours).
Hang out at the port like a local when some of the "adventure" cruise ships pull in for the day. Makes you feel really rugged. And, once, I actually met someone who knew someone, who knew someone that I six degrees of separation, et al.
BEST LOCAL HAUNTS
VISAS AND DOCUMENTS
HEALTH AND SAFETY
There is -- aside from the occasional tavern brawl -- no crime to speak of.
As for clothing, make sure to bring to a warm, Goretex (or equivalent) coat, dress in layers and wear good waterproof hiking boots. Bring wind and rain gear youre going to need it.
MONEY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Country Code is 500. Best communications are by fax, though e-mail has been in for the past couple of years.
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