On the second of January we went to Gibraltar. The famous Rock of Gibraltar sticks
south from Spain and is connected to the mainland by a sand bar. This is the only
way in and out for vehicles to drive there (other than the ferry from Morocco). There
is also an airport on the sand bar, running crosswise to the road and sticking out
into the bay. When a plane needs to land or take off a traffic light turns red and
a gate comes down across the road, just like at a railroad crossing. You can see
the road just behind the tail of the plane in the picture above. The taller buildings
beyond the airport are in the town of La Linea, Spain, the low ones are customs and
immigration for both sides of the border. The airport and foreground are British
Gibraltar. The Rock is a ridge running north to south for 7 or 8 kilometers long
(about 5 miles) and is about 1300' high with a vertical east face and a very steep
slope flattening to a delta on the west, where all the city and harbor are. There
is a cable car gondola system from the town to the top about midway along the west
side of the Rock. Gibraltar has been a British territory for a very long time but
Spain would like to have it back, so no love is lost between the two (although La
Linea provides a lot of day labor for the British and hence makes a lot of money
from them). We found a parking place about midway down the west side, locked up
the bike and started walking. We went down the length of the shopping-pedestrian
street looking for a bank machine to get British currency at the best rate. We didn't
find one anywhere although there were several money changing businesses along the
street who would change our Euros to Pounds for a fee.
There was a cloud covering the top of the Rock that morning so we decided to wait
to take the gondola car to the top. We wandered along streets and up stairs. The
streets run mostly north and south with stairs winding east and west in and out between
the buildings. There is no grid pattern to this town. We headed generally north
and chose uphill when we had an option. This brought us to the Great Siege Tunnels
The north end of the Rock has a vertical face looking at the sand bar. The British
were under siege in1782 from the sand bar and couldn't fight back because of their
inability to mount guns on the steep north end of the Rock. A sergeant got the idea
of cutting a tunnel into the rock, parallel with the north face and several feet
inside the face and then cut openings out to the north and mount cannons in the openings.
It took a year to chisel the tunnel and get set up, but it was worth it, they drove
off the siege army. You can see the openings in the picture to the left.
During World War II the tunnel system was expanded and used to house troops and supplies
as well as generators and searchlights. These troops could keep track of what ship
traffic entered or left the Mediterranean. Today only the original tunnel is open
for display and is well done with mannequins and original equipment on display.
From here a very narrow road runs along the Rock at about mid-slope. Another ran
uphill to the top of the Rock. We chose the mid-slope so that we could see the famous
Barbary Apes (who are really not apes, but a type of monkey). We walked a couple
of kilometers along the road to their preferred area (where the park staff feed them). There
were probably 30-40 of them and all ages. They seem to spend most of their time
picking fleas off each other and completely ignoring the tourists who are wandering
around taking pictures. Feeding them is not allowed but they can and will grab a
shopping bag out of your hand to look for goodies. Several signs around warn about
this and display a long list of rules for interacting with them.
From here we followed the narrow switchback road to the top. The cloud is still
there. This cloud is a normal occurrence and is caused when the warm wet breeze
from the east rises against the rock and cools in the higher air. It is a cap just
above the rock. Looking out to the east from the platform we could see down but
not out, to the west we could see fine. We are now at the top end of the gondola
ride; we're probably two of the very few who have walked all the way to the top,
particularly at our age. It has been a 1200' elevation climb and about 7 kilometers
on the route we followed. We have a couple of good, but expensive, hamburgers and
a pair of very good British beers for lunch in the complex at the top of the gondola
The next spot to visit is St. Michael's Cave. This is an ancient natural cave complex
near the southern end of the Rock. They have found evidence of Neanderthal use here
as well as Phoenician, Roman, Moorish and Spanish use. During WW II it was developed
to be a hospital, but was never used as one. Today it has a large concert hall in
it as seen in the picture below.
We have now walked the full length and height of the Rock, the only thing left is
the monument to the end of the known world, The Pillars of Hercules.
The ancient world thought the Rock was one foothold for the Pillars, the other being
across the straight in Morocco. They also thought that the caves, known today as
St. Michael's, were the entrance to Hades. This was documented in a Roman manuscript
from 45 AD by Pomponius Mela.
We now turn north and walk back to town. It has been another 5 kilometers since
the top and we are back downtown ready for a couple more beers. At last we arrive
back at the bike. With all the switchbacks in the road we have walked about 12 km.
(7.5 miles) today. This is the longest and highest hike we've had since our arrival
in Europe. We're tired but not exhausted.
This town is overrun by scooters, there are thousands of them with special parking
areas for them. We had parked in a car parking place on a side street because the
scooter parking was nose in to the curb and we are too long to do that. With the
way they drive someone would have surely hit the back of the bike where it stuck
out into the street. Now we get back and find several scooters parked in with us. The
bike looks like a whale in a school of minnows. We also find that someone (the ojete)
has stolen the flag from our home GoldWing club that has been on our antenna for
well over 20,000 km. in a dozen countries on 2 continents. I sure hope they enjoy
it!! I guess we'll have to get another one when we're home again to fly in the rest
of Europe this summer. A two hour run and we're home planning the next trip. This
one to Granada and Córdoba.