|South Atlantic Adventure 2011
Click images for larger picture
|My South Atlantic Adventure
Early last year our daughter informed us that due to her husbands work they were moving south for 2/3 years,
Devon or Somerset we thought, “Oh no, further south than that, in fact a lot further south, it’s The Falkland Islands”.
I didn’t know much about the Islands other than we had been at war with Argentina over ownership in 1982 and that
the capital was Stanley. “You can come and visit us while we are there” said our daughter. Well, never in our
wildest dreams would we have thought of going to The Falklands for a holiday, but while the opportunity was there
we couldn’t refuse “a once in a lifetime offer”.
The South Atlantic summer starts in November and lasts until April, so if we were to visit it would be best to go
somewhere in between, so February it was. I started to read about the Islands and the more I read the more I
realised it was one big Nature Reserve with penguins, dolphins, sea lions and all the different types of birds, in fact
a naturalist’s paradise. The weather can be very variable with all four seasons in one day and there are winds most
of the time. 8,000 miles from home The Falklands cover an area the size of Wales and most of the population live
in Stanley, with no unemployment many workers come from other islands. Cruise ships call in port most weeks in
summer, in fact The Falklands war has boosted their tourist trade.
We arrived after a 19 hour flight and so our adventure began, after only a few days it soon became apparent what a
truly amazing place it was, the scenery and wildlife was unbelievable, golden deserted beaches and walking with
penguins in their natural environment.
Our daughter found out that in February, Stanley Running Club organise The Cape Pembroke Lighthouse Half
Marathon, (the most southerly half marathon in the world), so I was up for that.
The weather forecast for the day of the race was “bright sunshine but windy”. I had seen a map of the course and
noted that if the wind blew as forecast it would be in our faces for the last part of the race. Due to the small
population the organisers were hoping for 70 runners and walkers. A field of only 70 including walkers, could this be
my chance of glory? I looked at the opposition and soon realised my “dream” of winning was very slim as most of
them were young fit military lads, including Ghurkhas, SAS and the Falklands Governor. Before the race started,
runners were called together to be given some advice. “ Wear strong sun cream and I advise wearing sunglasses
to protect the eyes from the sand that can be blown up. The course is marked by tape, but if the wind has blown
the tape away in the sand dunes, just head for the Lighthouse, going out, go round the Lighthouse and then make
for the Mountains when coming back, there are no mile markers. Good luck.”. Sand Dunes! Sand Dunes! What
does he mean? There was no mention of sand dunes on the course map that I had seen, ah well whatever.
Runners were taken three miles away to the start and with a strong wind over our shoulders I was already thinking
of the return section. As it was not an “out and back course” only the first two miles would be returned on. Off we
went on tarmac, the course took a loop soon after the Stanley airport onto rough stone tracks then soon changed
into deep rutted tracks some filled with mud some with sand, some not filled at all but all made running rough, then
on into the dunes. I could then see the Lighthouse and I knew that this was 5 miles, 8 miles to go. As I went round
the Lighthouse the drinks station man asked if I wanted water as he had to fill the cups as was required as they
were being blown away if left on the table. I knew it was more or less a straight run back to Stanley so the wind was
going to be a nuisance as it was now full head on and blowing at 45mph, not just gusting it was ferocious and
constant. The sunglasses had been good advice as now the sand would have been blowing into my contact
lenses. Just to give you some idea of the strength of the wind, you may not believe what I’m going to tell you, but it’s
true. I carried some small jelly beans in a packet, so after 6 miles I thought I would eat some, I put 4 in my mouth
then tried to put a few more in and as I opened my mouth to put the extra ones in the wind blew 2 out of my mouth, I
was miffed! I knew I was slowing as the course became more exposed to the elements as we entered Stanley, as
there was no protection from the wind coming across the waterfront. The scenic course took us past some
wonderful white sandy beaches, ship wrecks, Stanley Airport, The Totem Pole (a local military monument) and
Stanley Harbour. The finish line was on Victory Green, ( a very appropriate name) on the seafront in Stanley.. My
time was not what I had been hoping to run but because of the conditions underfoot and the wind I was pleased just
to get round. It was tough, in fact one of the toughest half marathons I have ever run. I wasn’t last even among the
young military lads,, though I was old enough to be their granddad. A little footnote, with about 2 miles to go, I
actually passed an SAS man, a great boost until I realised he had a heavily strapped thigh. Ah well, all’s fair in war
Entry forms for The Falklands Marathon in March, were being given out, 1st prize £1,000, they must be joking, my
legs won’t have recovered by then.
Just for your info. (don’t spread it about) My time, 2-08-20 The winning time this year was some 15 minutes
slower than last due to the wind, so looking back I should be pleased.
Unless you are in the forces or on a cruise The Falklands are not the easiest place to get to but if anyone gets the
chance to visit they will find these Islands One Hell of a Place, A totally different way of life but awesome .
John “ the Nomad” Proffitt