torrie's travels


Top of the Rock! October 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Torrie Schneider @ 1:50 pm

No, not Rockefeller Center. Way better! The Rock of Gibraltar! I knew I wanted to come here when I decided to stay in Tarifa, but the plans for my time in Tarifa were not appearing to work out logistically. Originally, one day would be a day trip to Morocco, one afternoon at the Rock of Gibraltar, and two mornings taking kitesurfing lessons. Well, researching the times of the kitesurfing lessons before I left home made me realize that was not going to happen. I couldn’t take just one lesson, even though that was all I would theoretically have time for because you don’t even get in the water during the first lesson. What’s the point of that? So I scrapped those plans. Then I thought, I would get in around 12:30 and I could drop my stuff off and go to the Rock in order to have one whole day for laying on the beach (and the other for Morocco). But when I got to the bus station I saw the times that the bus comes to go to the Rock and the next one wasn’t until 5pm. I knew it was 45-60 mins away, so that didn’t seem like a good choice. So part of me was going to give up the idea of going to the Rock in favor of laying on the beach, as being this far into the trip, I could use some relaxation days! Then I found out how windy it was and the Rock was back on!

I tried to sleep in on Friday, but the people in the (cobblestone) streets, had other ideas. But I lounged for a good hour before actually getting up. I had a quick breakfast and bought my ferry ticket to Morocco for the next day before making my way back out to the bus station. I knew there was an 11:55 and a 12:25 bus. I got there in time for the 11:55, though my ticket said 12:00 and the bus didn’t arrive until closer to 12:15. Whatevs.

The bus drops you off in a town called La Linea de Concepcion and it’s a short walk to immigration (they couldn’t have cared less about my passport…barely looked at it). Once you pass through, you can either walk or take a bus into the city of Gibraltar. I opted for the bus because the machine selling maps was out of order and I didn’t know where I was going. I got out at the main square, got a map from information, and promptly had my first fish and chips of the trip!! I have resisted having it at other places because of my mantra, do the thing you’re supposed to do in the place you’re supposed to do it. Well, you’re supposed to have fish and chips in the UK (and Ireland), not in, say, France. Unfortunately, they were not the greatest fish and chips I’ve ever had. Oh well.

I should also mention the strange feeling to all of a sudden be in a place that has signs in and people speaking English. It was delight. Until I realized that my brain was still in Spain and my instinct was to speak Spanish to people. Of course it didn’t help that there are apparently a lot of Spanish people who work there. The switching of languages was messing with my head!

I walked through the main street, window shopping, on my way to the cable car to take me up the rock. I had decided that depending on the distance, my plan would be to take the cable car up and walk down. No way in hell was I walking UP! So the lady told me it was about an hour and a half walk down. But what is the distance? About 5km, she said. Perfect! I was supposed to do a 5km on Saturday (Monster Dash back home, but I wanted to feel like I earned the medal Janeanne was running to get me!), so I decided a 5km hike down a mountain would count!

The cable car ride up was no big deal. One lady was freaking out and all I could think of was how much I would not have wanted to be in the car with her going up or down Zugspitze! There was also a (very informal) bride and groom with us. This is important information for when we got to the top. Now you may or may not be aware that the Rock of Gibraltar has some interesting inhabitants. They are the Gibraltar Macaques. Apes. Small ones. But they are feisty and not afraid of humans! We got off of the cable car and one was sitting right there on the ledge. No big deal. I saw a few more up above us, but it wasn’t for a few minutes when a baby decided to jump down and land on a bridesmaid’s head that I realized I needed to be really vigilant! You are warned not to feed them, as they are apparently well-fed. But they want extra food, so you are also warned not to have any food visible (or plastic bags…not really sure what the deal is with plastic bags), because they will take it from you. I saw them do it on a Rick Steves video. They grabbed his backpack because they could smell an apple inside. Yikes.

I then watched as a few more came with the baby. The baby was quite cute.   V little! There was also a small fountain (if you could even call it that) that they would bend down and drink from. It was cute. They played around, but one of the macaques was real interested in the bride’s bouquet! He kept jumping from thing to thing trying to grab it. She was on the spiral staircase going up and he came flying out of nowhere. The more she tried to go up, the more he jumped around grabbing at it. It was hilarious and I caught some of it on video. Two adults then decided to lay around picking nits off one another. They did that a lot.

Eventually I decided to move on and take in the spectacular view. You could see the beautiful colors of the water (so gorgeous in the south of Spain), the Atlantic Ocean, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean Sea. As a water lover, I was in heaven! If only I could’ve went swimming! Oh and you could see Africa. I took lots of photos of that, too!

Then I began my descent. I didn’t realize I was going to encounter loads more macaques. There are TONS of them there. And a few more babies, too. One of the babies I saw tried to grab a stuffed animal out of a guy’s hand. Not sure what it thought the animal was. I knew I was going to take the long way down, but the lady at the top had told me that I would come to a staircase that I could take if I wanted a shortcut. Good thing I didn’t, because this was a gathering area of a lot of macaques! They even have a jungle gym built in this area for them. They are completely wild (no enclosures, etc), but they are so not afraid of humans. I guess they had to get used to them. But they are so comfortable that I almost stepped on them twice. They like to hang out in the shade and twice I turned around and came within inches of stepping on them because they were sitting on the ground in the shade and I didn’t see them! It about gave me a heart attack! I got the best photo of two of them, though. One guy just totally chillin’…sitting on the ground with his back against a stone wall, legs out and crossed, with his arms sitting in his lap. It was priceless. Not far from him was another little guy who was thirsty, so he was bent over lapping up liquid that was (slowly) running down the road. Too funny!

The descent was not easy on my knees or ankles. There were many parts where the grade was quite steep. At the end, I was practically running down because it was so steep! But I made it in about an hour, which included stopping to take pictures every so often. An hour and a half, my ass! I killed it! Ha!

I knew the next bus back to Tarifa wasn’t until 8pm, which at first I didn’t know how I was going to kill almost 7 hours in Gibraltar, but it wasn’t so bad. I did some shopping on my walk back into the main square. Bought a black fleece at Marks and Spencer (then I really felt like I was in the UK!) and saw a store called “Purple Rain”! Love it!

I then had dinner and made my way back to the border. I wanted to walk this time because you have to walk across the airport runway to get to immigration (and the “frontier”, as they call it). I can now say I have walked across a runway. That’s pretty cool. There was one plane on the tarmac, so I got a photo of that. It’s a weird runway, considering it’s flanked by water on both ends. Obviously it doesn’t get used too often, but still!

As much as I had wanted a beach day, I was so glad I was able to make it to Gibraltar. It was an awesome experience!


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