Day 9 - Saturday 4 January 2014
We progressed from drizzle to rain on the drive to Gibraltar this morning and got a great head on view of the bottom third of the rock, as the rest was hidden in a giant blob of grey. Spain’s favourite method of protesting the British occupancy of Gibraltar is to create huge queues at passport control for those driving into the territory. Luckily we’d read it was easy to park on the Spanish side and walk in, which we did with no hassle at all. You then hop on a local bus for the 5min ride into the centre of town. On the way we crossed what looks like an airport runway, and the kids ask if they have to stop traffic for planes. Just as I say “surely not”, a local sitting nearby leans over to say that yes indeed they do stop traffic. Their runway is effectively a level crossing, I would have loved to have seen one land.
As the weather was so woeful the cable car to the peak was not operating, so our only way to get up was via a taxi tour. We were very lucky and snagged a fantastic long term Gibraltar resident named Harry as our driver/guide. By the end of his tour we were all ready to emigrate, he was such a good salesman for the territory. Residents of Gibraltar are on a brilliant wicket, their benefits include free education at all levels – and as they have no University in the territory their tuition is paid to study in England, including 3 plane flights per year to come home to visit. If you’re a regular British citizen you’d pay a fortune for Uni in England (same as Australia). They have a regular hospital, great health cover and pension plans, and again as there are no high level specialists (eg. Heart surgeons, cancer treatment) if you need that they pay for you (& your support person!) to fly to England. Cost of treatment is covered, as well as your accommodation. We were joking that I’d be hoping hubby needed regular treatment so I could use the free travel and “support” him.
On the way up the peak on the taxi tour, you stop at a few sights. I’d read St Michael’s cave was pretty hokey, but we really enjoyed it. They have made liberal use of concrete, stairs and railings galore, they even have concerts in there, but the formations above were still amazing. The best part was being able to view a cross section of a fallen stalactite, I’d never seen one before and the colours and lines through it were stunning. There were plaques at quite a few stops commemorating Queen Elizabeth’s visit to that spot in her tour of 1954 – almost 60 years ago.
Our final stop was the “peak” where we got up close and personal to the famous Gibraltar monkeys. When we think monkeys we think of Bali’s mangy thieving versions, but these were high class monkeys. They’re in beautiful condition, lovely coats, all tagged and receive veterinary care. We had a lot of fun watching them hound Harry for peanuts and clamber all over the car and each other. I say “peak” because the cloud around us was so thick we didn’t actually realise that was where we were until we drove off and the car was heading downwards, so no spectacular view to Africa for us.
By the time we got back down to the township it seemed like they’d been a population explosion. They were not due to have a cruise ship in today, but a MSC ship was unable to dock in Casablanca, so they came to Gibraltar for the day instead – great, we get to share with 3000 extras! By the time we’d finished wandering around the town and had a long English pub lunch it was almost 4pm and the weather was starting to improve – to the point where we could now actually see the peak. I really couldn’t bear to leave when there was a peak and view on offer, so we found a taxi driver who would just run us up the top at a reduced rate (as we didn’t need to do the other stops enroute). It was so worth it, when we got to the peak where the monkeys were we couldn’t believe it was the same place. Where before we saw just a curtain of fog, it was concealing beautiful blue sky, beaches and town below and the military base even higher up. It still wasn’t clear enough to see more than a vague outline of Africa in the distance, but at least we could see plenty up till that point. This driver was also a nice guy who dropped us right back at the border for our short walk back to the car.
We all enjoyed Gibraltar, the added benefit was that we had a days reprieve from feeling dense because we can’t speak the language. It was nice to be able to communicate with the locals again. Was less than an hour to drive home, this has been our shortest day driving yet (yay!)
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Nice read. : )
What a great trip report! Sounds like you had a great time. I'll be reading your other trip reports when I have a bit of time of my hands, thanks for posting:)
Thanks for the updates. I really enjoy following your posts.
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