Flight to Saunders Island
I spent my first few days in the Falklands in a state of destitution. There is just one bank, and it doesn’t have a cash machine, so visitors arriving on a Saturday like I did have to wait until the bank opens on the Monday before they can get any money out. If they have the bad luck to arrive at a time when that Monday is a public holiday then they’re in trouble. And if they also have the bad luck to have only managed to get hold of 40 pounds of Sterling in Santiago before they arrive, and for those 40 pounds to turn out to be old bank notes that are no longer valid, then their first few days in the islands will require them to impose on the charitable nature of the Falkland Islanders.
This was the situation I found myself in, on account of the Monday being the Queen’s birthday. This is something that we would never dream of celebrating in the UK and it certainly isn’t a public holiday. But here, before I’d arrived on the Saturday, there had been parades and ceremonies, and most things were closed on the Monday. Fortunately I was staying at Kay’s B&B, and Kay was supremely helpful and kind in all matters. She lent me enough money to last until the bank finally opened on the Tuesday morning. I would have been in dire straits without her help so I was very grateful.
I had booked a flight to Saunders Island for the Tuesday. Flights in the Faklands don’t follow a fixed timetable – there are normally two flights a day, one at 8am and one at 11am, but where they go depends on who needs to travel. Luckily I was on the second flight, which meant I had time to get to the bank and get some money, at the offensive cost of 4.5% plus £1.50 for a phone call to validate the transaction. If I had wanted Sterling instead of Falklands pounds they’d have charged me a truly disgusting 1% extra.
Financially independent once again, I headed to the airport. The Falklands Islands Government Air Service aircraft are tiny eight-seater planes, they fly low over the rugged landscape, and our journey out to Saunders was spectacular. We stopped at Port San Carlos, Port Howard and Pebble Island on the way as we chugged over the snow-covered hills in the tiny prop-engine plane.