Saturday, January 9, 2010

Well we are finally on our way to our big adventure in the Falklands. I apologise for the lack of blogging but we didn't get connected until earlier this week and it has been an excited rush skyping friends and family back home and catching up with all the emails that have backed up.
We had a lovely, if rather cold christmas at my Mum and Dad's house, -8 was a bit chilly! Sorry I know alot of you reading this are still in the thick of that cold snap. I shan't rub it in and tell you I have started to get a bit of a sun tan :) I thought we would have some time to sit and relax when I finally got the house packed up and moved to Mum's but it just wasn't to be. We spent the week prior to christmas in an absolute whirlwind, dropping Fergus off at the Kennels, Great Granny at Marlborough, getting John to a consultants appointment and saying goodbye to friends and family. Of course all of this was in the middle of that big freeze with very interesting driving. Christmas came and went and then it was time to pack up all our accumulated goodies ready for our flight on the 27th. Packing was interesting to say the least, we ended up borrowing a suitcase and kit bag from Mum and Dad just to get the last few bits in. After everything was done and dusted we had 6 suitcases, 3 kit bags, 3 boxes and 5 peices of hand luggage much to John's horror. It was just as well we had hired a Sherpa van from the airforce to get us all to the airport. Sorry Mum and Dad I know our transport lowered the tone around your house for a few days! The kids thought this was wonderful and spent a full two days arguing over where they were all going to sit in the 15 seat mini bus.
We finally took off an hour and a half later than scheduled from Brize Norton with Maddie already fast asleep. Euan and Ellie were so excited about being in club class seats, they couldn't settle until they had fiddled and pressed with every button going. I think we all eventually dropped off around two in the morning. Our first flight lasted around 8 hours and with the entertainment system busted in our part of the aircraft we read, played eye spy and exhausted the batteries on our nintendos to keep ourselves occupied.

In flight food was as usual lacking to say the least. If we don't see another panini for the whole time we are down here we will not be sorry. There were lots of seat changes as they all argued over who was sitting next to me or the window. Maddie slept for pretty much the first leg which was great however the other two only managed a few hours.

As you can see my husband and son were their usual charming selves behind me in the plane. On arrival at Ascension we were tannoyed to get off the plane first which was wonderful. We know the Station Commander Ramo and his wife Sharon from old when he used to command the helicopter squadron in the Falklands, when John was in charge of 1435 flight for four months. Ramo gave us a personal tour of the island with a very informative talk about its history. I apologise now as I have forgotten most of it in my sleep induced haze.

On the island there are wild donkeys which are very tame, apparently they come to Sharon's house every day for the morning snack. The kids absolutely adored feeding and petting them. I think she said there are four in total on the island left over from the Marines who built the forts here.

The picture below is of Green Mountain, so named because it is covered in lush green vegetation. The original settlers used to walk up to the top each day to get drinking water.

Ascension is a volcanic island and much of the volcanic rock is still to be seen. Slowly the mexican thorn is starting to inhabit it and turn things a bit greener. I was shocked at how green everything was.

The population of the island is about 1000 made up of military, contractors mostly St Helenians from an island around 800 miles from Ascension and a few settlers. Their supplies are brought in by the military airbridge which flies in twice a week and the FIRS (Falkland Island Replenishment Ship) which comes through once a month.

This is a view below of the hill where the Battery Commanders house used to stand. There are still two of the canons placed up on this portion of the hill that the kids had great fun climbing over. The brown mound that you can see is the fort that the marines built to protect the island. It is a bit difficult to see from the picture but it is hollow inside with buildings in a circular layout.

Below is Turtle Beach so named because the green turtles come in every year to lay their eggs here. Unfortunately we didn't have time go and see the turtles but through the binoculars we did see a few heading in through the surf to come ashore. December and January is apparently the best time of year to visit and see this wonderful sight so we will have to try and head back next year.

After a quick breakfast at Ramo's we had to head back to catch the plane back to Mount Pleasant. It took us a further 9 hours to get there due to head winds and some mild turbulance. The Falklands is a rather barren place with not alot to see for miles around. There are the occasional spectacular rock formation that rises out of the ground especially on the way to Stanley but around the base it is relatively bland.

This is the road out to Mare Harbour which is the military port. Everything came into this port when they originally built the airbase. Presently alongside down there is HMS York and last week was HMS Scott. The FIRS will come into this port hopefully next week when it brings our car in. Fergus should also come into this port if he can make it onto the next ship that leaves on the 15th of January.

Ellie is posing for us here in front of Mount Pleasant which is what the base is named after. She is stood just outside her Father's office 905 EAW. There are lots of little lakes around the place which have alot of the native Upland Geese on them. The base itself is very utilitarian as you would expect. It is mostly sited along one long road and I have been told boasts the longest wooden corridor in the world.

Our house is situated on one of the bases borders which over looks the road into Stanley. We have a wonderful play park, rugby pitch and football pitch right on our doorstep. Mum was very pleased with herself the other day when she managed to kick a rugby ball over the posts from a bit of a distance!

The house itself is fine, a typical and slightly tired military quarter. Some of the rooms are quite light but unfortunately the middle corridor is rather dark as some smart person decided to paint all the woodwork black ? We have a conservatory off the front which acts as our main front door and gets stinking hot on a sunny day. There are alot of massive flies down here which are a pain in the house but we are slowly getting used to them. Euan bagged the smallest room mostly due to the fact it has bunk beds and the girls are sharing in the larger room. We have had our fair share of bickering over the last few weeks and Mum will be very glad when they get back to school on Tuesday. The main mode of transport down here is landrover, there are some other 4x4's but the military mostly use the Landrovers. John was very pleased to find out that he will be the first on the island to have a Discovery 4. Not so pleased when he looked at the stone chips that most cars have decorating them!
I have found it difficult at times to settle as I am pretty much housebound until our car arrives next week. One of my neighbours has been very kind and run me around to look at the local shops which is another story all in itself.
More to come soon including penguins and dolphins.
Stay tuned Love Helen


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  2. Shieldsy: I see that you have taken the traditional "SEngO greeting" back to the family and that you are now passing it on to future 'Shields' generations!