17.12.2012 - 17.12.2012 21 °C
After our Moroccan holiday we feel we can tackle anything, so why not tackle another “country” in just five hours. Gibraltar is not technically a country but it is like a quick trip to Britain without the need to cross the channel. “The Rock” is less than an hour from Tarifa and it is bit to Spaniards like Point Roberts is to Canada: a cheap place to get gas and hard liquor. When Gibraltar came into view from the highway we instantly could recognize why it is of such strategic significance. It is a huge rock promintory that seems to rise out of nowhere and commands the land and the sea.
The car line up into Gibraltar is astonishingly long; we hear it is often a 2 hour wait to cross the border. For a piece of land that is less than 7 square kilometers its 30,000 inhabitants love their vehicles. We chose to park our car and walk over the border to explore what we could on foot. Today we were not in the mood for museums or too much in terms of the historical. We were mostly interested in a good hike, a good view and a peek at the apes.
An interesting quirk of walking or driving into Gibraltar is that within a couple of hundred meters your path is interrupted by the Gibraltar’s airport runway. The gates came down to block the road and our pathway to allow an Airbus airplane to take off. Once the plane took off the gate came up and we literally walked across the runway to enter into the rest of the territory (no wasted space here).
The densely inhabited portions of Gibraltar has the iconic British telephone boxes and its fair share of pubs but isn’t quite England in microcosm or even as British looking as Victoria for that matter. It definitely is stretched for liveable space and seems to have devoted a large portion of its territory to a pretty active port. The real neat stuff is higher up on the rock itself which is riddled with 30 miles of tunnels, numerous old gun emplacements and some fairly narrow cliff face roads.
We walked nearly the length of the rock and were more than two-thirds of the way up its elevation. We were on the lookout for the Barbary Macaques (often referred to as Apes but really are tailless monkeys) and it didn’t take us too long to find them. They are very tame and curious and made for a lot of viewing fun. Legend has it that when the Barbary Apes leave so will the British. During World War II, Churchill ordered that measures be taken to make sure the population of apes was well-fed and maintained to prevent any possible exodus of these guardians of the British realm. The special care continues to this day to make sure the Barbary Macaques population is well-fed and continues to breed for the good of all Gibraltar citizens.
After our hike and a quick ice cream (the temperature was above 21 degrees) we got back in our car and drove three hours to Granada. We are staying in a motel/campground which provides the very basics in accommodation for more than what we paid in Luz, nevertheless we are quite happy to be putting our feet up. The camp host speks excellent English and is a dead ringer for an Aussie but Muriel found out he was a native of Granada and has spent just enough time in Australia to learn English (the accent and Aussie slang just seemed to be a bonus).
In the morning we will visit the Alhambra, the most visited historic site in Spain.