Day 3
Monday October 27th 2008

Off reasonably early to Gibraltar today taking the motorway rather than the coast road as although it's a dual carriageway it goes through all the towns and looks to be a slow route. I was pleasantly surprised to find Gibraltar signposted from a few miles away, I had expected the Spanish awkwardness to mean that we'd have to fathom our own way there. Only the last part temporarily fooled us, we could see the customs post ahead and Gibraltar on the right and headed down the 2 lane road only to find that you couldn't change from one lane to the other and only the other one actually went to the post, ours simply headed right past it. As seems normal in Spain we then travelled some way pat before being able to turn around and go back past it in the other direction. It turned out that at the last roundabout we were meant to turn right away from Gibraltar down an empty road to another roundabout go all the way around and back down the other side of the road coming back to the roundabout we'd just left but from a different entrance, only from there could we select the correct exit - duh.

Waved on through customs merely by glimpsing a British passport and onto the peninsular. The first thing you find is petrol stations selling petrol at far lower prices than in Spain, we later learned that they buy it from Spain then sell it back to the Spaniards who cross over as the tax is so much lower.

Aiming for the bottom of the cable car as the only thing we knew about the place we made one slight error at a tricky complex multi-turn on a bend and ended up going through the docklands, attempting to turn around forced up of fthe 100 yards of flat ground around the rock and un into the steep narrow resedential backstreets. Oh how glad I was that not only had I had practice in Ronda yesterday, but that very morning I'd found the switch that rotated the wing mirros inwards thus making the car 6" narrower, we neede thos 6" and another couple as we negotiated incredibly narrow almost vertical roads punctuated with 90 degree bends.

Back at the complex junction we found the cable car and the car park and drove around it for a few minutes before being force back out to the main road again, once more around the system, but this time negtiating the other side of the car park persuaded us that there was indeed no spaces to be had. Giving up and wandering what to do we headed down the nearest residential street finding a space on a 1 in 4 hill but no sign of parking restrictions. This was the only time in my life I was glad to see a traffic warden, he told us we could stay there all day for free :-) And we were no more than 200 yards from the cable car.

Walking back we passed a set of tour cars outside the cable car station who leapt on us to persuade us to take therir tour instead. We'd get driven all along the rock ridge stopping at the various places for as long as we wanted not only saving Jude a 2 hour walk on her gammy foot but also a pound each. Dubious at these tactics we nevertheless succombed to their wiles and joined another group of three oldish dears one of whom had walking difficulties.

Taking advantage of an empty seat I sat beside the driver who kept up a patter all the way explaining the history and what we were about to see. He was Gibraltan by birth and very pro independence of the rock from Spain

The Ancient World

First stop was The Pillars of Hercules, a double sided monument of the ancient and modern world.

The Modern World

Jewish Cemetry

Actually the whole rock is one of the Pillars of Hercules, the other being the opposite mountain in Morocco but there was a nice statue and a view of Africa; that's it in the distance which can just be made out after a lot of photo manipulation. The mist should rise later in the day, sometime after we've departed.

I explored an old Jewish cemetry just down the road and was therefore last back on the minibus, at least I warned the driver that Iwould normally be last.


Onwards and upwards we drove towards the caves of St Michael's cave, a surprisingly large grotto, outside we encountered the first of the Barbary apes, tame and ready to bite anything from ice creams to fingers.

Barbary Ape

Theh old dears hadn't been able to go into the caves at all so they must have been waiting half an hour or more for us.It was by now rather hot so we were glad of the air conditioning and grateful that we didn't have to climb anywhere in this heat.

St Michael's Cave

Underneath these caves there is another set four times the size but closed to the public except for guided tours which had to be arranged in advance as the army personnel would lead you through as it required a hard hat ,scrambling, mud and an old pair of jeans

Onwards and upwards along the ridge.

Next stop was a gathering area for apes and tourists, it was the narrowest part of the ridge, not much wider than the road, on one side was a steep drop to the AtlanticOcena and on the other a steeper one to the Med. What was once probably fortifications had been converted into an ape feeding ground, they congregated and the drivers would coax them onto peoples heads for photos.

David totally relaxed

Although toursists were not permitted to touch the apes it was alright for the apes to touch the tourists, the drivers would entice them onto peoples heads with bits of dried pasta.

Our driver pointe out the local matriach and even pulled her gums back to show me her frankly vicious teeth; this was only possible since he had known her since she was born and her mother before her

One way traffic

Our Friendly driver

From here the road led down towards the top set of man made caves dug for the Great Siege of (somtime when France and Spain decided they wanted Gibraltar probably Napoleonic.). These caves together with the ones dug during the second world war cover 52km inside the rock. The soldiers lived inside for the duration and bombarded the French and Spanish from the heights.. I guess we won in the end.

These caves looked out over the border with Spain right over the runway built across the width of the peninsular. The runway cuts the only road in so every time a plane takes off they shut the road with armed guards. Just this side of the runway is a massive cemetry. The runway which projects out into the sea is built on the rubble excavated from the caves

During WWII the guns facing the Gibraltar Straits had complete command being able to hit anything in the water and bombard 5 miles into Morocco.

Great Siege Caves

Alameda Gardens

That was the last stop, and we were shortly dropped back at the car park. By this time we were peckish so headed into town. What a disappointment, we might as well have been walking down Exeter High Street (apart from the warmth in late October). David & I fancied fish and chips, after all you have to do the English thing in Gibraltar so we stopped at several pavement cafes and gasped at the tourist prices. Eventually we settled down in a nicer looking establishment. They say you live and leanr and boy did we, that was the worst fish and chips I have ever eaten whilst being swarmed by flies, the only way to distract the flies wsa to drop strategic scraps of fish on the floor. At one point I counted over 30 flies congregated over 3 small scraps. No tip for that restaurant.

On the way back we popped into the Methodist church and found that the minister once knew Paul Mears our previous Broadtaone minister, he had been stationed in Gibraltar when he was in the RAF.

Realising that there was not much else to do apart from the rock in Gibraltar we headed back to the car via the Alameda gardens.

Driving home on the coast road we looked for supermarkets to grab something to eat for tea, having had another late lunch we wern't too hungry which was fortunate as we ended up in a Lidle which are as bad in Spain as the are in the UK. They must be the worst supermarket invented, you can buy a random selection of items ranging from an apple to a diesel powered generator. It's cheap but not cheerful and never has what you actually want. Still we grabbed a few things and went home.

Back at the hotel Jude and David went to the pool while I popped out to the local mini-market which was one tenth the size yet had twice the variety of items you actually wanted, everything that we'd wanted that had been unavailable in Lidle was in the local mini-market.


©2005 Rob Hayward