We decided it would be nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Capital for a weekend (note the sarcasm) and so booked a night at Elephant Beach Farm to ‘get away from it all’. We had phoned a couple of places but many were already booked at such short notice, however Elephant Beach Farm not only had room but the owner Ben promised us that they would leave some fresh eggs in the cabin for breakfast…. That sealed the deal as we haven’t been able to buy eggs in Stanley for about six weeks so eggs to us were the ultimate luxury and were in themselves a good enough reason to drive along a bumpy unsealed road for two hours with three restless children in the back asking if we were ‘there yet’ every minute and a half.
Elephant Beach is in the Northwest corner of East Falkland, not far from San Carlos where our guys landed back in ’82 to liberate the Islands. I had been to Elephant Beach 10 years ago after a large pod of about 180 pilot whales stranded there and the fisheries department went out to collect biological information from the carcasses. I was interested to see what remains today and so was keen to revisit the area. Furthermore the beach itself is beautiful.
Elephant Beach Farm is not, as the name suggests, at Elephant Beach. However it is only a couple of miles away further inland. It is ideally set on the edge of a pond or lake among some pretty countryside and quite close to various places of interest such as Cape Dolphin, Port San Carlos and of course Elephant Beach. We stayed in James’s Cabin which is a small cosy cabin situated in the small farmstead of Elephant Beach Farm.
After unpacking and the kids claiming their respective bunk-bed territories we went out to explore our new surroundings.
Heading through the settlement we were adopted by a beautiful black Labrador who decided to show us around and take us for a walk. The kids were delighted as she was the spitting image of our black lab Bella, who we had to leave behind in the UK when we moved here. We walked down to the lake and threw sticks into the icy water for the dog to retrieve, which she did gladly and with much gusto. It was only giving up her stick for it to be thrown again that she was more hesitant. On the way back she traded the stick for a desiccated goose carcass and ran home bearing ‘gifts’, covered in mud. It’s great borrowing a dog because you can have all the fun and then return it to the owner to wash down and put up with the smell. I guess this is why grand parents so enjoy spending time with the kids.
Back at the cabin we prepared dinner and the kids played with all the toys and games that had been left for rainy days. The cabin was basic but very comfortable and equipped with everything you could want, even a complimentary bottle of wine and of course delicious free range eggs!
The next day all the kids wanted to do was to take ‘Bella’ for another walk, so before breakfast we ambled back down to the lake. Unfortunately the dog wasn’t around so we had to throw sticks for the children to retrieve from the icy waters instead. Just kidding.
After working up an appetite for breakfast we gorged ourselves on eggs before packing up for a day at Elephant Beach. Ben kindly offered to drive down to show us the right track to take for the off-road drive of about 2km down to the beach. He also asked that we call in on the way back so that he knew we hadn’t got bogged in the middle of nowhere. It was reassuring to know that should we get stuck somebody would come looking for us. So after Ben bestowed the following advice for off road driving; “if it looks wet and boggy, drive around it” we parted company at the field gate.
Lucky for us the ground was quite firm and we managed to drive down most of the way to the beach without any problems.
At the bottom of the hill the ground begun to look “wet and boggy”. I recalled my last visit here; the ground had been dry then but somehow we still managed to find a hole deep enough to fit a Land Rover in. So we decided to walk the rest of the way. It was a nice walk over the flat pastures which are protected from the sea by the dunes. The kids liked jumping in the springy Diddle Dee.
Elephant Beach is a vast expanse of white sand in a huge sweeping bay. I’d guess it’s several miles end to end. For some reason it has been a place of regular strandings by all kinds of whales including the pilot whales which I witnessed after they had stranded some 10 years ago.
Today the beach is littered with whale bones of all shapes and sizes. The pilot whale skeletons are still there though they are now broken up and mostly buried in the sand. Sections of vertebrae still litter the beach and near a stream are some skulls with some blubber still present. There are also the bones of much larger species of whale such as sperm whales, fin or sei whales. It is a fascinating place to visit. Back in 2002 I had a photo taken next to a whale’s jawbone…10 years later we found the same bone and now I have a photo of my whole family sitting on it! It’s shorter now having snapped at some point but still plenty of room for all of us!
We saw a few Gentoo penguins on the beach, unfortunately a couple of them were dead. I guess its a tough time of year for the old and weak. Overhead sweeping up and down the length of the beach were Turkey vultures waiting to see what the tide had brought in. We were also treated to seeing an elephant seal swimming around in the surf and hauling out briefly for a rest.
I’d like to have stayed longer at Elephant Beach but we still had to get the kids to walk back to the van, a prospect which we weren’t looking forward to as they were already tired and getting fed up. Surprisingly they marched back to the van like little troopers without hardly a grumble. It helped that we had proverbial carrots to dangle in the form of biscuits and crisps back at the van.
On the drive home with the sun low in the sky we were treated to some beautiful scenery. Unusually for the Falklands there was not a breathe of wind (nor had there been all day) and the sky was blue with just the odd cotton wool clouds. We drove over some creeks and rivers and the boys decided that they needed to wee in a river.
We got home just as the sun set. The kids were thoroughly worn out and our faces were rosy with the sun. They went to bed and slept the sleep that only comes after a day of wholesome fresh air and frollicks. That’s what memories are made of.