He snuck up from my left rear quarter, thinking he had the advantage. As soon as he leaped onto my left upper arm and shoulder I flung the Gibraltar Ape twelve feet away. When he landed and readjusted himself we stared at each other, exchanging the threatening ‘stink eye.’ My little furry attacker had no way of knowing that I had been spending the last 56 years training for this very moment by playing hockey with some slightly more advanced bipeds. As I pointed my finger at him and made an alpha male grunt, he rolled his little monkey eyes, shrugged, and looked for an easier target. This was just part of our tour of The Rock. More in a moment.
Our trip to Gibraltar was one of our more involved travel days. After walking down the hill from our flat in Granada we caught a local bus that took us to the ‘train station.’ When we bought our train tickets earlier that week, we were notified that, although there were trains in this station, ours was not and we would be taking a 1¼ hour bus ride out into the boonies to then catch our 3-hour train to Algeciras. From there we would climb aboard a 45-minute local bus into the town of La Linea de la Concepcion, right on the border with Gibraltar, and considerably cheaper. From this bus station we walked 20 minutes to our hotel. As a general rule, if we are staying some place for less than three nights, we find a hotel. It just makes everything easier. Since it was the off-season, there were plenty of rooms and we were given one with a great view of the bay and Gibraltar.
Gibraltar is a fascinating place. Sticking out into the Strait of Gibraltar, this 2.5 square mile territory was originally occupied by the Moors from 711 to 1462 and got its name from the Muslim chieftain, Tarik ibn Ziyad. The name Gibraltar means Rock of Tarik. Conquerors are always so modest and unassuming. Then the Spaniards took control from 1462 to 1702. During the War of Spanish Succession in 1704, the British acquired this territory and still control it today. Everything on the rock-dominated peninsula is British: signs are in English, money is in pounds, and they have those obnoxiously bulky electrical plugs. We were surprised to see cars driving on the right side of the streets. Apparently in 1929, someone in power made the lane change because the Spaniards were crossing over and running into other cars.
The day of our visit to The Rock was sunny. We even took off our jackets, which always makes it a good day. To leave Spain and enter Gibraltar, we had to walk 30 minutes from our hotel to get to the border. After showing our passports we strolled through customs. It was very casual. The official barely looked up. I could have been smuggling in anything … I’m just not that kind of guy. Anyone looking for an emotional support macaque monkey?
Entering Gibraltar is one of the most unusual border crossings we have ever experienced. You drive or walk across an active airport runway. Six planes land every day. When they are coming in, police on both sides stop the cars and pedestrians for about ten minutes. After the plane lands you walk the great open expanse. The featured image at the top of this post was taken from the runway. The image below was taken from one of the openings from the Siege Tunnels on The Rock.
Our plan was to ride the relatively inexpensive cable car to the top and take the 1 ½ hour walk back down. When we got to the ticket office, we were told that due to maintenance the cable cars were not running. So we bought more expensive tickets for a van tour with six other people. Travel Tip: We have learned this last year that sitting in the from seat with the driver is the best way to enjoy these van tours. You have a better view, it is easier getting in and out of the van, and it is more fun to ask the tour guide/driver any question you want. Although our original plans were thwarted, we loved the van tour.
Our first stop up the mountain was at the Pillars of Hercules, where the view of the Strait and Africa was amazing. Once again, nice weather makes all the difference. At our next stop we entered Saint Michael’s Caves. Along with viewers like us, the caves also accommodate concerts (the acoustics must be thrilling) and weddings (for the very rich.) Greek legend claims these caves were the Gates of Hades or a tunnel to Africa. The colors and rock formations made it a very impressive visit. The first image below has Marsha silhouetted to give some perspective.
Then we were off to see the Gibraltar Apes. There are about 200 of these Barbary macaques that were initially brought over by the Moors as pets. They are well cared for and reproduction is careful monitored. The females are temporarily sterilized for three-year phases. Although they have everything they need, their behavior could have been better. They acted like they didn’t even care. As soon as the van stopped a young female monkey hopped onto the side mirror. The driver said, “She is a nice one. That one over there is not!” He pointed to my soon-to-be brief and exuberant dance partner. Walking around this area we saw monkeys of all ages: babies, teenagers, mature, and some old grouches. Our driver shooed away the more aggressive ones with a swift kicking motion in their direction. My first entry into Monkey Flinging took place shortly after leaving the van. Although I felt rather good about the outcome, Marsha was a little freaked by these aggressive guys. She stayed right by my side. That’s right, I’m The Protector. It was a fun experience to be among all these beautiful, naughty primates. I enjoyed our time with them.
Fun info: Since some of the larger monkeys can actually do damage to car and van hoods when they jump on them, the drivers started putting rubber snakes on their dashboards to frighten them. At first the monkeys were spooked but they soon figured it out. Now they jump onto the vehicles, look at the non-moving rubber snake, wave a hand pathetically at it, and go about their jobs of stealing from tourists.
Our last stop up the mountain was the Siege Tunnels. These British military tunnels were blasted out between 1779 to 1783. We encountered many cannons pointing out through holes that overlook the bay. I can’t imagine how loud it must have been in the caves when these guns were lit. Although we didn’t go into them, there are also 45km of WWII tunnels that wind throughout The Rock. They are similar to the tunnels we saw inside the Dover Cliffs in England, with complete cities inside The Rock. We walked the 400 meters down in 15 minutes and scurried back up in 5 to meet the rest of the gang.
Our tour ended with us being dropped off on Main Street in the old town. We enjoyed our sunny walkabout. The Trafalgar cemetery is a small but well-maintained triangular plot of land just down the street from the cable car station. Here lie the seamen who died of wounds from the 1805 battle. Main Street is pedestrian only and filled with everything British. You never know what you will come upon … or what will come upon you. We heard them before we saw them … a small, old time, British marching parade weaving its way through the crowd. No explanation, they just showed up.
Speaking of no explanation; these colorfully dressed individuals were doing a pub crawl. We saw them in several places throughout the day. If you look closely, the Joker guy, in the middle of the second image, seems to be giving me the stink eye. I wonder if he knows the cheeky monkey from up on The Rock … this guy is scarier.
An easy, one-hour bus ride got us to Tarifa. Since we were a little early, we dropped off our bags while the final cleaning was taking place. We walked down to the harbor to watch one of the ferries to Tangier blast its very loud horn, make a 180, and leave for Morocco, Africa. We walked out to the most southern point in all Europe to gaze over at Africa. The wind picked up and the clouds started blowing in. We decided to head back to our newly cleaned flat. Along the way we stopped for carry-out kebab plates. And … it started raining.
This was the start of a Mediterranean storm that wouldn’t go away. Although the rain let up occasionally, the 45+ mph winds were constant, day and night. Sitting at the table in our flat, I felt the wind sneak in and watched one of the balcony doors move in and out a ½ inch. Long story short, the wind never stopped; the port was closed, and we did not go to Tangier. We called another audible and left a day early to add an extra day to our Sevilla flat. Our host in Tarifa understood and even offered us a free night if we ever come back. We would really like to see how beautiful it is there in nice weather, watch the kite surfers, and take the ferry to Tangier.
If you look at the lodging for Tarifa below, you will see how great the views are, especially from the top terrace … when the weather is nice. Oh well, it’s all part of the adventure.
The next post will be about beautiful Sevilla.
This week’s flat can be seen by clicking on the bed image below.
NEW SEARCH TOOL
For those who would like to go back and find particular information from any of our posts, I have added a Search Tool on the right side of our Home page, right below the Facebook icon. For example, if you want to revisit our time in Paris, simple type in Paris and Voila!
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We look forward to hearing from you.
Preston & Marsha
Don’t Retire: Reload – Groovin’ on the Flip Side