Sep 24, 2015
|Thursday 24th Gibraltar
It was an early start for us to-day as we didn’t want to miss the local transportation to Gibraltar. After waiting for the bus for 45 minutes Bill called the campground office to see how recent the schedule was. It was current but no 10 am bus. We returned to the office and Scot the temporary manager gave us a first class tour and ride into Gibraltar. We drove through the back streets of La Linea de la Conception the Spanish border town and were dropped off at the border crossing.
Gibraltar has quite a turbulent history. In 711 the Muslim governor of Tangier landed here to launch the Islamic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. Castilla wrested the Rock from the Arabs in 1462. In 1704 the Anglo-Dutch fleet captured Gibraltar during the War of the Spanish succession. Spain ceded the Rock to Britain in 1713 but didn’t abandon military attempts to regain it until the failure of the Great Siege of 1779-83.
From then until recent times there have been border closings (the longest from 1967 – 1985) and hostility between Spain, England and the Gibraltarians. As recently as June there were British battleships in the harbour due to some potential Spanish rebels. It makes for an interesting history lesson. Gibraltarians want to retain British citizenship and of course Britain wants to retain its military, communication systems and the airport.
Back to the border crossing.
There seemed to be quite a bit of confusion and a young officer was trying to direct the flow of human traffic with some success. Bill flashed his passport and she said, “Americans that way” pointing to a door, Bill said “How about Canadians and she replied “Ya you too”!
Our tickets to the top of the Rock included a shuttle to the entrance of the cable car. I never imagined that the population of Gibraltar would exceed 30,000 people and that doesn’t include the 10,000 Spanish that travel there daily for work or the thousands of tourist that arrive by land, sea or air.
The shuttle bus drove across the runway on a road built for this purpose. It is closed 5 -6 times throughout the day when a plane arrives or departs.
This landing strip has been increased in size over the years, using reclaimed land. The land was originally used as a race track for 300 years before the need for an airport was an issue. The town has a typically British appearance with Pubs on every corner, Imperial statues and British shops. The currency is the Gibraltar pound, not accepted in the UK as currency or the Euro.
The traffic was horrific. The only straight stretch of road was the piece across the runway, other than that it seemed like there was a traffic light or rotary every 50’ or so. Traffic was at a standstill most of the time. It did allow us to sight see leisurely. Finally we were at the entrance to the cable car and we were whisked it seemed straight up to the top of the rock. You can see from the pictures there were some fabulous views from the cable car. As we exited we received a royal welcome from the most famous inhabitants on the Rock; the tailless Barbary macaques. It felt like half of the 200 apes that live there greeted us just sitting on the ground on the walls and on the fences. Some were scampering around us and trying to look nonchalant and uninterested. All ages were represented. They were quite interesting to observe and the younger ones seemed very playful with each other.
Legend has it that when the apes (which may have been introduced from North Africa in the 18th century) disappear from Gibraltar, so will the British.
From the top cable car station we walked downhill to where they have a feeding station set up for the macaques. There were families here with young ones who were pretty cute.
Walking for another 15 minutes found us at St. Michael’s Caves. Who would have thought we would be exploring a natural grotto full of stalagmites and stalactites on the Rock. I had no idea. Today apart from attracting tourists in droves ( 3 tour buses unloaded as we approached the caves, needless to say we rushed to get ahead of them), the cave is used for concerts, fashion shows and even plays.
Two and half kms. later we were on the other side of the rock and entered the Great Siege Tunnels, a complex defense system hewn out of the Rock by the British during the siege of 1779-83 to provide gun emplacements.
Later in history these tunnels were expanded and deep within the bowels of this Rock the Allied invasion of North Africa was planned.
Only a tiny portion of the 70 kms. of tunnels and galleries are open to the public but what we saw was quite interesting and impressive.
Continuing downhill we came across the remains of the first British building on the rock and tried to imagine live as it was here in the 1700’s not too successfully.
Last stop was the Moorish Castle, actually all that remains is part of a tower but it was built by the Arabs in 1333.
Enough is enough a cab was hailed for my tired feet and legs etc. It was a much quicker ride to the border by taxi than by shuttle. No problem walking across the border where Bill hailed another taxi to take us home.
It being Friday Fish and Chips were the special of the night at the on- site restaurant.
I think I collapsed on the bed when we returned to the RV and fell asleep within minutes.
It had been a long but enjoyable day.
Friday 25th .
We were going to head to Grenada this morning then tour it tomorrow BUT Bill went on line to buy tickets and there were none available.
So we decided just to spend the day relaxing on the beach and skip visiting Grenada although we would drive through it on our way to Valencia.