On this, our last day in the Costa del Sol, Iberian ham was getting tiresome…..we were ready for some English fish and chips, so we headed down the blissfully straight highway on an hour long trek to the little strip of land that’s been British territory for over 300 years….Gibraltar!
Having read about parking nightmares in Gibraltar, we planned to park in Spain and walk over. Rounding the turn toward Gibraltar, we found ourselves in a mile long line of stopped traffic…..they weren’t kidding about parking being a problem, were they?
We manuevered out of the queue, bypassed all the idling cars and turned in to a large field full of parked cars. We paid a €5 fee to a gentleman directing traffic (wondering if he actually owned this unpaved plot of land…..or just showed up to take euros from unsuspecting strangers).
After a ten minute walk (alongside the stream of cars that steadily entered the colony), we were waved through Spain’s border crossing, past Gibraltar’s passport control and down a hallway with a Tourist Information counter. We stopped to ask where to find a taxi tour…..and were directed across the aisle to another counter where, for €25 euros each (including admission fees), we were escorted to an awaiting minivan.
Our driver, Joey, was an affable man in his late thirties, born and bred in Gibraltar, who regaled us with the history and minutiae of the Rock. The first thing we discovered was why there was a traffic jam coming into Gibraltar…..the main road into town bisects the airport’s runway so the road’s shut down whenever a plane is landing or taking off!
Our first stop, at the Pillars of Hercules monument with views across the Mediterranean to Africa and Spain, gave us our first encounter with the “apes of Gibraltar” (actually, they’re tail-less monkeys).
Seeing free-roaming monkeys was simultaneously entertaining and frightening…..it was amusing to see them playfully scampering through the small crowd of tourists, but unnerving to see them jumping onto car roofs with a thud.
We returned to the relative safety of the van and drove on to St. Michael’s cave…..a maze of colorfully lit stalactites and stalagmites……
and more monkeys waiting at the cave’s exit.
We had another encounter with the monkeys at our next stop…..the Ape’s Den, home to one of the five troops of monkeys living on Gibraltar. So accustomed to visitors, the monkeys began jumping on the car, hanging on the side-mirrors and stomping on the roof as soon as we approached.
We got out of the van and and wandered among these fearless little fellows. It was amazing to be so close to these exotic creatures…..close enough to reach out and touch them…..but we didn’t. We were lucky, they left us alone…..they clambered over other shrieking tourists.
Our last stop was at the Great Seige Tunnels…..dug out with black powder charges, hammers, chisels and shovels from 1781-1783 during the French & Spanish seige, the tunnels were originally meant to provide shelter, but when a ventilation hole was added, it became obvious that they could be used for cannon placement
“Civilization today reminds me of an ape with
a blowtorch playing in a room full of dynamite. It looks like the monkeys are about to operate the zoo, and the inmates are taking over the asylum.” ~ Vance Havner