A wander through the hills of memory
One bright sunny day we left Caramor just after 7am, headed for the hills. An early start because you cannot take a sunny day in Stanley for granted.
Half a mile to the end of the tarmac road then down a track running alongside Moody Brook to the start of our walk where we left the bikes propped up against a water tank and started the easy climb onto Wireless Ridge. We passed an old recoilless gun left over from the 1982 conflict. The ground underfoot was mossy but fairly dry. The ridge took us to the top of Mt Longdon, the site of a memorial to the British soldiers who died here one cold night in June 1982. Among the dead were three 17 year olds and one lad who was 18 on the day. Dead before they were allowed to vote, killed before they could legally drink their first beer. They were from 3 Para, the third battalion of the parachute regiment.
A recoilless ‘rifle’ (gun) with Stanley in the background
Although 33 years ago, nobody here has forgotten the war. Memorial ceremonies occur regularly throughout the year, the weekly newspaper 'Penguin News' usually mentions it and a few years ago a bust of Margaret Thatcher was commissioned and erected near the hospital.
The Two Sisters on the right
We looked down towards the Two Sisters, the twin peaks we were going to climb next. This was the direction from which the British troops had attacked the Argentine positions at the top of Mt Longdon, in the middle of the night. The landscape hasn't changed in thirty years, there are no trees, no shelter, I was looking at the battle field as it would have been on the day. The wind was cool even on a bright sunny day. In June, in mid winter, the temperature would have been freezing, possibly with snow on the ground. I would have been very frightened if I had been a soldier that night.
We headed down the hill, until we got to a fenced off area, a mine field that hasn't been cleared yet.
Franco was thoughtful. He served three years in the paras and left the armed forces in 1979 but some of his friends fought in the Falklands. He could see the lie of the land through the eyes of a soldier and explained the various strategies and tactics that would have been implemented.
We skirted around the mine field and started the climb up the Two Sisters to another memorial for the marines of 45 Commando. I picked up a couple of discarded beer cans and put them in my sac, commenting about people who carry cans full of beer up a hill but cannot take them away empty. Next I found baseball trainer soles and put them in my bag. "Who the hell would climb a mountain and leave their shoes half way up?" I was puzzled. They didn't match, one was smaller, maybe a girl and a boy, in love, had left them there as some kind of love memento?
We sat on a rock in the sun and examined the soles. "Industria argentina" was embossed in the white rubber.
As we headed towards Goat Ridge, we passed many more white trainer soles, some in small groups. I added the ones I had found. "The uppers had rotted away but what had happened to the owners?" I wondered.
After lunch we scrambled up Mt Harriet. The memorial here was for the soldiers who had died from 42 Commando Royal Marines.
I am a pacifist and deplore war. I do understand, however, that the people living in the Falklands do not want to be Argentine. Their ancestors came from Scotland, England, Wales, Chile, France, Russia, Norway, Argentina but today's inhabitants are more British than the Brits. The absurdity is that if Argentina hadn't invaded in 1982, if the Argentine government had bided its time, the islands would have been handed over, against the will of the Falkland Islanders. The diplomatic process had been started, the UK was progressively withdrawing its support.
Our final summit was Mt Tumbledown. The sky was clouding over. Half way along the ridge we came across a stone shelter. The roof was a metal framework covered in flat stones. Inside, we could still make out thin blankets, shreds of padded trousers and more white soles. The Argentine soldiers were conscripts, they didn't want to spend the winter in freezing conditions in the Falklands. They were starved and badly treated by their own officers. The only memorial to their suffering was piles of white soles ... no plaques, no crosses for the Argentine soldiers.
Remains of an Argentine field kitchen
Today, the income from commercial fishing supports all the services provided on the islands other than defence. The current UK government has recently reiterated that the Falklands will remain British until the inhabitants decide otherwise. The new Argentine president has stated that he wants a rapprochement with London. Falklanders will carry on eating mince pies and driving on the left for the foreseeable future.
Over the past week, bare arms have appeared and lawn mowers have been dusted down. Gardens no longer look ravaged by winter storms as householders get out to weed and mulch. Summer starts late here but we are now enjoying bright sunny days (between the not so good ones), the perfect time to set sail again - this time towards South Georgia in the Southern Ocean.
For the next two months our access to email will be through the satellite telephone. Our address is
caramor at mailasail dot com (at = @ and dot = .), please do not send attachments. We will check our other email addresses once we get back to Stanley.
We have had a few problems with the sat phone but it seems to be working ok. So if you can’t contact us it probably just means that the satellite phone is playing up and we’ll get in touch when we get back to Stanley.