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      1997              日本
      2002              紐西蘭、美西
      2003              德國、捷克、奧地利
      2004              香港
      2005              巴里島
      2006              波蘭、德、荷蘭、義大利、曼谷
      2007              希臘、埃及、吳哥窟、紐約
      2008              北京、巴黎 北非摩洛哥 西班牙、新疆
      2009              長灘島、冰島、京都
      2010              哈爾濱、宿霧薄荷島、阿根廷、南極、紐約
      2011              希臘、肯亞、沙巴、日本北陸
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      2014              挪威、愛沙尼亞、芬蘭、智利、玻利維亞、約旦、日本北海道、美國、加拿大
      2015              日本、智利、福克蘭群島、挪威、馬達加斯加、夏威夷、阿拉斯加、日本、緬甸
      2016              日本、盧安達、烏干達、冰島、愛爾蘭、紐西蘭、東加王國

 

 

                  

 

 


 

極光下的幸福
芬蘭

極光倒影初遇
挪威

北美最後邊疆極光
阿拉斯加

召喚魔幻北極光
加拿大


 

The Falkland Islands in Peacetime

Travel Period: February 7th - 14th, 2015

  

Travelers: Beckey Lee, Monkey Little Lee, Monkey Hey Hey

   

Itinerary: Punta Arenas Stanley Darwin Saunders Island Sea Lion Island Stanley Punta Arenas

 

Preface

Originally, this trip was one that was to be made with a friend who wanted to embark on a journey to both Chile and Bolivia. Because prior to this I had already been to Chile, Easter Island, the northern plateaus, and Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni two years straight, therefore I considered visiting Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, which I’ve never been to. However taking such a long flight just to visit Torres del Paine National Park wasn’t appealing enough for me. After exploring locations nearby that I could visit, which I’ve never been to before, I found the Falkland Islands, lying in the oceans near Argentina. As I got to know the island more, it became more appealing. I discovered that the Falklands has a subantarctic climate and is home to wild animals. When taking a boat to the Antarctic to see penguins, one still needs to be wary of the weather and whether one can see penguins depend on luck. In the Falklands, you can just stay in a small house located less than half a meter away from the habitat of wild penguins! Ultimately, the trip turned into one where the focus was now on the Falklands, and the remainder of my trip was only enough for me to have a taste of what Torres del Paine had to offer. I didn’t have enough time to walk the famous “W” route. I guess it’ll have to wait till next time!

 

The flight to the Falkland Islands was the longest and most tiring flight I’ve ever taken! Although I’m not a flight attendant or an employee dispatched to work abroad, but I’ve taken 300 flights before. This flight definitely is the most tiresome flight I’ve ever been on because it’s the farthest country to fly to from Taiwan, other than the Antarctic.  It takes 3 hours to fly from Taiwan to Japan and then another 12 hours from Japan to the U.S. From the U.S. to the capital of Chile, Santiago de Chile takes another 11 hours. In order to arrive at the southern part of Chile as early as possible, I transferred to a domestic flight directly from Santiago de Chile to the southernmost airport in Chile, Punta Arenas, which took another 3.5 hours. Each layover in between the flights lasted 3 to 4 hours. In other words, from the time I departed Taiwan to the time I laid down on the bed in my first hotel, it took a total of 42 hours! (absolutely exhausted)   

The second reason, two weeks prior to departing on this trip, I was skiing in Japan and broke my fifth and sixth rib on the right as well as bruised my tailbone. During the layovers in between, I had to carry the 8kg camera bag on my back as I transferred flights with pain in my ribs and the staying seated on the long flight caused my tail bone to ache. I was still being treated for blood clotting, too! But none of the pain and discomfort could impede my journey! That's how appealing the Falkland Islands were to me!   

There are two methods of flying to the Falkland Islands. One is to the fly from Great Britain, which takes about 15-18 hours. The other one is the one that I took, which is to fly in from the southernmost airport in Chile, Punta Arenas. There was only one flight every Saturday morning that flew to Stanley and one flight in the afternoon that flew from Stanley back to Chile. Every month there was only a week, when the flight would stop in Argentina’s Rio Gallegos. I had originally planned to see if I had the chance to first go to Argentina and meet up with my Argentinean friend, whom I had gone to Antarctica with, however the flights that stopped in Argentina in between had been fully booked long before.

 

Mount Pleasant Airport (is?) located in Stanley, the capital of the Falklands Island. However, the dozens of miles within the area surrounding the airport is part of the military base and photography within the vicinity around the airport is prohibited. This photo was taken while I was still on the plane, right after the plane landed. If you look carefully at the wall on the building of the airport, you can see the large sign showing photography is prohibited and it’s visible to all even from far away. Within the small arrival lobby, I looked around and realized most passengers were elderly and I was the only Asian. In addition to a young Western couple, we were the only three visitors who were much younger. After leaving the airport, I found out that the airport was where one could see crowds and gatherings of people. After the shuttle left the vicinity of the airport, it was a barren landscape with hardly anyone in sight and this was my first impression of the place.

 

Before I departed, I went online and asked a local tour agency to arrange my itinerary. The first day, I went to Darwin Village, which is located about 50 minutes by car from Stanley. The entire population of the Falkland Islands numbers less than 3,000 (the numbers according to the time I’m writing this in January, 2017, numbered 2,916). The village population was even sparser, with honestly nothing more than a few houses and barns. Although it was the summer time, going outside from the houses, the winds howled and the temperatures were low. Even the smell of the air was that of the wild.

 

The British outlets within the house, the interior design and placement of furniture, the British accent of the homeowner, and the cuisine on the dining table quickly reminded me that although this place was quite far out and the population was scarce, it WAS a British colony. I sighed in awe as I realized just how far the British culture could spread, even to somewhere as far as this.

 

A few hundred kilometers on a hill outside of the house, there was a memorial mound allowing future generations to remember those who gave their lives in the Falklands War. From here, one can see the Antarctic Sea. The summer season of the subantarctic region has gusts of cold wind that penetrates the coat. This cold summer wind awakens mankind to the sad truth and lesson from history that even an island as far out as the Falklands was unable to escape the devastating effects of war.

 

The next day, I took the public air transport, FIGAS (Falkland Islands Government Air Service) from Darwin to Saunders Island. I feel that this is one of the most mysterious places in the Falklands. I had originally thought that transportation within the archipelago between islands would be by boat. But other than the ships headed to the Antarctic for exploration, which would stop by Stanley, the only means of transportation between islands was by plane. It operated like an Air Bus. If I wanted to travel from island A to island D, the plane might stop on island B to pick up two more passengers and island C to let a passenger disembark before landing on island D. With the ever-changing weather in the area, planes being early or delayed are an everyday occurrence. That’s right, planes may not only be delayed, but actually be early! So passengers usually check their flight schedules the day before and must be prepared for their flights one hour in advance. Due to the weather conditions, a flight originally planned for 11 a.m. might suddenly announce that it’ll depart at 10:10 a.m. The changes can come without warning! Also the “airports” here completely subverts what I would consider to be an airport.  An airport here is no more than a flat piece of grassland, with two red gasoline barrels, and a wind vane besides them. There were no terminals and no check-in counters. The area might be next to a cliff, a beach, or the only few barns in the area. The car would drive up to the flat grassland and after a few minutes, one would see the red FIGAS airplane land from the sky. After the plane stops, the passengers would load their luggage and board the plane. FIGAS is also responsible for transportation of resources and air shipments. So the chain of events looks something like this: people appear on the vast grassland, the plane appears, the cargo and luggage are unloaded, passengers disembark, the captain greets the islanders, luggage is loaded, passengers board, and the plane departs. It’s all like a fleeting wind, with everything finishing within 30 minutes or even less! It was definitely an eye-opening experience!

 

This was my first time on the FIGAS and the pilot allowed me to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. The pros of this were that I had a great view and I was able to get a firsthand view of how the pilot operates the aircraft. The con of this was that the engine noise is louder up front. I put on the headset and started chatting with the pilot, he said that he had flown and landed at Deception Island in Antarctica before. The image of my visit to Deception Island in 2010 resurfaced in my mind. Gentoo penguins walked along the coast and the ocean winds were also howling. At this time, the plane had just passed through some turbulence and I could see that not too far ahead there were some dark clouds gathering. I thought to myself that it really takes a skillful pilot to navigate a FIGAS through these harsh weather conditions and his experience helped me feel secure within the shaking airplane.

 

The plane landed safely at Saunders Island. Saunders Island is a private island and its only inhabitant is the island owner and his family of five. The airport is located right in front of the owner’s home and the two small houses that provide lodging for visitors are located at the northwest and at the isthmus on the east. Both of these places were located near the habitats of the wild penguins. The small house at the isthmus on the east is the famous The Neck and the area near it is home to four types of penguins. Walking only a few hundred kilometers from The Neck, you could see four types of penguins: the King penguin, Gentoo penguin, Magellanic penguin, and Crested penguin. However, when I decided to make a booking, The Neck was already fully booked. So, I had to change to staying at the small house on the northwest coast. Although I wouldn’t be able to see the King penguin, I could still see the other three and I will be able to walk to the largest Crested penguin habitat. From the airport to the small house, I first stopped at the island owner’s warehouse to stock up. Besides the food I had pre-ordered with the travel agency, at the warehouse store equipped with a freezer, I also bought some frozen bacon. Actually I was unable to check how long the bacon had been frozen for, but I felt that being able to use the British pound to purchase edible meat at such a faraway place was an amazing feat and the length of time the bacon had been frozen was secondary.

 

The island owner drove us from the airport to the small house. The car proceeded on the hilly land which the road couldn’t be clearly seen. Although the island wasn’t large, the ride took 50 minutes. On route, I was able to see horses, sheep, and geese. As we neared the small house, we passed by a large Magellanic penguin habitat with many burrows and we could see many Gentoo penguins sitting or standing by the beach. We saw what they normally did and that was enjoying the ocean breeze. The small house stood alone on a hillside and the power was provided by solar panels. After the island owner left, the house was the only thing in the vicinity that reminds me of human civilization. (Off topic, this place seemed like the real life version of the deserted island where old friends traveled to in the Kindaichi Case Files).

 

A Magellanic penguin hiding in the burrow.

 

I had planned on checking the road to the nearby penguin habitat prior to sundown, but at noon it became cloudy and the weather conditions suddenly worsened. It began to drizzle and only a few Gentoo penguins remained standing at the beach enjoying the ocean breeze in the low temperature and rain. Since I saw this sight a few years ago when I visited Antarctica, I’ve been wanting to ask, “Aren’t you cold?”

 

Originally, I had planned to walk 30 to 40 minutes to the Crested penguin habitat, but halfway there I was attracted to the cliff side where there were loud bird calls. Walking to the cliff in the heavy fog, I saw an entire cliff side filled with Albatross nests! There were hundreds of Albatross and many gray furred Albatross fledglings. The fog became denser and sky darkened, so I gave up on exploring the route because if anything should happen, it would be too late when the island owner returned three days later to pick us up. Before it became completely pitch black and still being able to tell the sense of the direction, I hurried back to the only structure of human civilization, the small house.

 

This is the living room of the small house. During my stay, the other room was occupied by an Australian couple who were doctors and were about to retire. The outside of the small house looked quite simple, the interior had everything one would need. I was so touched by the fact that I was able to take an actual “hot” shower, that I could not hold back my tears!

 

The next day to my surprise it was sunny! The ever changing weather is a unique feature of the Falkland Islands. As I headed to find the largest Crested penguin habitat on Saunders Island, I passed by the Albatross nests that I had found the previous evening. I couldn’t resist and stayed there for an hour. This giant bird, whose wingspan reached beyond 2 meters and could fly 5 years without ever landing, was a sight to behold under the warm sunlight as they appeared in various positions. It was a dazzling sight!

 

After walking an hour and still not reaching the Crested penguin’s habitat, I wondered if maybe I had headed in the wrong direction. Just as I was wondering, a strong gust of wind brought about the strong stench. This usually makes one cringe one's nose, but I felt excited. This familiar stench of penguin waste gave me the confidence to continue to head forward and believe that the penguin’s habitat was up front! As expected, after making my own down a hill, a large field of hillside enters into my sight and I saw black spots scattered across it. These black spots were the Crested penguins! (screams)

 

I silently observed and discovered that Crested penguins will form groups and head towards the ocean from the nests. Every 5 to 10 minutes, a small group of penguins would head out from their nests and jump down from the cliff side one after another into the ocean to catch fish.

 

The cliff side to the ocean was very steep, but the short legged Crested penguins were able to skillfully and speedily jump down. The amazing thing is that after catching the fish, they’ll use the same route to return to their nests in the evening!

Let’s take a look at the Crested penguin’s skillfulness!

 

Upon closer inspection of the habitat, actually the King Cormorant mother and babies were also in the crowd.

 

The difference between viewing penguins in the Falkland Islands and Antarctica is that when the ships reaches the Antarctic, the rubber boats can only reach the shore of the habitat if the ocean and weather conditions allow. Here, as long as you can withstand the strong ocean winds and stench of penguin waste, you can spend your whole day sitting next to penguins!

 

In the evening, the Crested penguins return after catching fish.

 

The weather conditions are hard to predict. Besides being rainy, cloudy, sunny, and right when the sun was setting, it suddenly began to hail.

 

I stayed at Saunders Island for two nights and left on the third day at noon. I said farewell to my housemates, the Australian couple. They were going to stay a few more nights and I was very grateful that they shared the surplus fruits that the travel agency had prepared for them with me. The island owner came to pick me up and bring me to his house because the airport was the grass field right next to their home. Although the flight was scheduled to depart at noon, one has to arrive in the morning to wait for it. The owner offers a comfortable house for guests to stay in as they wait for their flight because the winds outside were just too strong. No one could remain outside for too long!

 

I then had two layovers at different islands before reaching my destination, the heaven for outdoor ecological videographers and photographers, Sea Lion Island. This island is a deserted island for half the time as the hotel only operates during the summer season. During the winter, the staff also leaves. The building before my eyes was the only building that could house people on the entire island. The surrounding areas also had a few workstations, barns and greenhouses. These were the only man-made structures on this entire island.

 

From the window of the room, I could see the Gentoo penguin’s habitat was only a dozen or so meters away. The interesting thing is the fence here wasn’t to keep the animals inside, but rather to keep humans inside in hopes that the penguins will not get too close to the house.

 

Once I got here, I realized that at this time the habitat were filled with almost all adolescent Gentoo penguins. Their beaks were orange, while adult Gentoo penguins had bright red beaks. These adolescent Gentoo penguins were still pure and innocent. As long as I stood still or squatted down, they would come forward and look at me curiously ~ quite different from the adult penguins I saw in the Antarctic, who would run away if they saw that the humans were too near.

 

There were many more young penguins that were still wet behind the ears and still shedding.

 

On Sea Lion Island, the hotel provides dinner at eight. This hotel can offer accommodations to more people, reaching a dozen or so. Dinner time is a time where guests can mingle. However, the lighting in the hour right before sunset is the best, so I’m always outside taking photos. I usually rushed back to the hotel at sunset, so I end up having the appetizer, main dish, dessert, and drinks all served at once.

 

The weather here changes very quickly, even more so than Iceland. It was sunny just minutes ago, the next minute I see dark storm clouds speeding towards me. I estimated the time it would take from me to return to the house from my current location and it wouldn’t be in time. So I opened my umbrella to welcome the storm clouds and wait for its passing. The heavy rain approached with a loud boom and the rain came pouring down and landing on the umbrella. I suddenly realized that the sound of the rain drop was unusually sharp and upon closer inspection, I found that it was hail! Not too far ahead, I saw the Gentoo penguins standing calmly as the hail fell from the sky. Maybe they’re thinking, “This outsider is making a fuss over nothing!”

 

Besides penguins, Sea Lion Island also has many other types of animals. The visitors may be grouped into those who bring a small digital camera and those who bring a SLR. Those bring a SLR all basically have high level full frames along with interchangeable lenses. I had a Canon 6D and was grouped into the SLR group. One afternoon, I joined four British tourists who had planned their trip to the Falklands for four years, on a guided tour of the island organized by the hotel. We arrived at the rocky shore where the Crested penguin’s habitat was located. In order to get a close up view of the penguins, I went down the rocky shore to take some pictures prior to returning to the car. I found out that the British men had moved next to the car and used the 500mm focal length lens to easily snap close ups that were even closer than those I had taken climbing down the shore.

 

Of course there must be sea lions on Sea Lion Island!

 

After departing Sea Lion Island, I returned to Stanley in the Falklands, returning to the world of human civilization.

 

In my original itinerary, I had planned to skip Stanley, but the tourist agency told me that the largest King Penguin habitat in the Falkland Islands was located at Volunteer Point, near Stanley, so they said it was sight worth visiting. It was later that I realized that it was a 3-4 hour ride from Stanley. The first half of the ride was on paved roads, but the second half relied solely on the driver’s skill as the car drove over hilly terrain without any visible roads.

 

This was the first time that I saw a King Penguin. It’s definitely the second largest penguin alive today. I had gotten used to seeing the smaller sized penguins, the Gentoo and Crested penguins. Seeing the King Penguin for the first time and seeing how it walked, it definitely gave off a sense of valiance.

 

February is a busy time for King Penguins. On the same day I saw some were in heat, others were breeding, and some were taking care of their young. There were also adolescent penguins shedding and the large group of adolescent penguins was very lively.

 

When I returned to town, the driver, who had experienced the Falklands War, told me that the only emergency hospital on the island, Edward the VII Memorial Hospital, had an emergency physician, Becky Lee. She was a Caucasian who was born and grew up on the islands. So when he heard me introducing myself and hearing that my profession was that of an emergency physician, he was quite surprised! Does a parallel universe exist?

 

Christ Church Cathedral, located next to the harbor. There is the well-known whalebone arch located in the garden. The few populous streets in front of the harbor are the only place visitors can buy souvenirs.  

 

Every time when I’m rushing to finish writing postcards means it’s time to leave again. Eight days has been way too short. I believe I’ll return here again~

 

 

 

Dec. 2012

開啓追逐極光的命運之門

 

前情提要:

聽說20112013年是極光極大年,身邊陸陸續續聽見朋友前往極地拍攝極光,適逢身體狀況不適合從事海上或水下活動,於是決定也去看看極光到底長什麼樣,始料未及,這一切就像是邪惡的免費試吃體驗,就此上癮。

第一次前往北極地看極光,由於只有一個人,考量到雪地開車經驗貧乏,安全起見,於是決定前往大眾交通較為便利的北歐,而放棄首選的阿拉斯加,至於北歐可以看極光的國家有挪威 ......


 

 

Dec. 2012
開啓追逐極光的命運之門

前情提要:
聽說2011~2013年是極光極大年,身邊陸陸續續聽見朋友前往極地拍攝極光,適逢身體狀況不適合從事海上或水下活動,於是決定也去看看極光到底長什麼樣,始料未及,這一切就像是邪惡的免費試吃體驗,就此上癮。
第一次前往北極地看極光,由於只有一個人,考量到雪地開車經驗貧乏,安全起見,於是決定前往大眾交通較為便利的北歐,而放棄首選的阿拉斯加,至於北歐可以看極光的國家有挪威 ......


 

Copyright © 2016. beckeylee. All rights reserved.

 

 

Copyright © 2016. beckeylee. All rights reserved.