Gibraltar, Saturday November28, 2016

In reality, I’m writing this post from my hotel room in Algeciras, Spain, a 30-minute bus ride from Gibraltar, but I did spend yesterday on the rock, and I’m writing about my excursion.

We had been having rain showers yesterday morning, but when I left for Gibraltar there was only a slight sprinkle, so I unwisely left my rain jacket in the hotel. Later, I was very sorry.

The Spanish do not call the crossing into Gibraltar a border (frontera) but rather The Line (la Línea). The Spanish insist that Gibraltar is part of Spain and that the British occupy it illegally. Naturally, the people who live in Gibraltar enjoy their British way of life and feel differently.

I expected everyone in Gibraltar to speak English, but there are a lot of Spanish people working there who do not. For this reason I think it would be bad for the local economy if the Spanish managed to kick the British out. The Spanish living near to Gibraltar need the jobs.

It was a short distance from the bus station on the Spanish side to The Line itself. Here is what The Rock looks like from Spain. As you can see in the photo, the weather was overcast, but at that point the rain was still a very light sprinkle.

img_0373

Going through immigration was a breeze. I have both British and American passports, so I held up my British passport as I walked by, and the Gibraltar immigration authorities didn’t even look at it. Once on the Gibraltar side, I had to walk across the runway of the Gibraltar airfield. It is a working runway. I had seen a small jet plane take off from it not long before I crossed The Line. I would think taking off or landing would be a bit nerve-wracking, because there is water on both ends of the runway with large ships sailing by.

img_0397

I entered the City of Gibraltar proper through the tunnel through the rock shown below. It was once the only entrance to Gibraltar, but now there are streets to the right of it built on what I assume is landfill. The streets are crowded with cars and buses. You’ll notice that there is a drawbridge before the tunnel entrance that could once be pulled up to keep out invaders.

img_0379

Once in town, I stopped at a restaurant for some traditional British fish and chips soaked in malt vinegar. My waitress did not speak good English, and once I realized that, I switched to Spanish to her relief. As I sat at my table, a stout Englishwoman entered and inquired whether the fish and chips were really deep-fried as they are in England. The staff had to hunt someone who spoke enough English to understand and answer her question. As she waited, she explained to me that these days many places start with breaded, frozen pieces of fish and frozen chips (British for French fries) and just pop them into the microwave. Eventually, someone was able to assure her that the restaurant starts with raw fish, dips the pieces in batter, and deep fries them.

Then I started walking uphill, taking an elevator to the Old Town above, and from there, walking up a narrow road into what is called the Nature Reserve. Underway passersby spontaneously gave me directions either in Spanish or English. Everyone who addressed me in English was almost exaggeratedly polite, addressing me as “sir” in every sentence. Apparently traditional English good manners are still alive in Gibraltar.

I bought a pedestrian’s ticket at the entrance to the Nature Reserve, which the ticket seller explained to me, also in very polite English (many more sirs),  did not entitle me to enter any of the exhibits.

I took a lot of pictures of interesting sights along the way, but I’m only posting a fraction of them to the blog. The one below is the entrance to one of the tunnels that honeycomb the rock. I took the picture through the gate that blocked its entrance. A sign said there were periodic guided tours, and there were people standing nearby apparently waiting for the next one. My ticket did not allow me to enter, so I continued my walk uphill.

img_0386

The roadway I was walking up was very narrow and only one way. I had to repeated get off the road to let a series of small tour buses and taxis get by. A woman was driving one of the tour buses. The reason that I remark that is that I had not seen a single female bus driver in Spain, although woman bus drivers are common in other European countries.

I was halfway to the top when I came upon a steep, long, and narrow series of staircases leading to the summit. This sign at the bottom gave me pause. I didn’t want to be attacked and bitten by one of those little Macaques or Gibraltar apes. I had been told that they can turn quite nasty when annoyed and do bite. Nevertheless, I started up the first staircase.

img_0391

I reached the final staircase without having seen any of the apes except for one I could see in the distance cavorting at the very top. Then on the last staircase, I came upon these two huddled together for warmth. By now a heavy, cold rain was falling.

I stopped, took the photograph shown below, and then decided to risk walking past the little buggers. They did look up at me as I went by, but other than that they didn’t move. As you can see, there was not too much room for me to avoid them. After walking past these two, I began to think the animals were pretty benign, which turned out to be the case.

img_0392

I passed several more small groups of apes huddled together on the staircase before I reached the top, but the reaction from each group was the same. They looked at me suspiciously as I squeezed past, but otherwise they did not budge.

The last staircase I climbed brought me to a road where there was a feeding station for the apes. A tourist taxi was parked there, and its occupants were standing in the road as the tour guide explained the station to his passengers. There were many playful apes around, but not one of them paid any attention to us humans. I wonder if they look down upon us as inferior beings.

img_0393

As I turned left to follow the road to the summit, the rain started pouring down, and I quickly became soaking wet. I definitely regretted not having brought my rain jacket. I had hoped to walk back down, but the cable car at the summit was not far away, and in this weather, taking it down seemed to be the best option.

I did reach the summit or at least the highest point were tourists are permitted to go. I took the following picture of another peak that might have been higher, but it was off limits.

img_0394

I purchased a ticket to descend in the cable car. The ticket cost me close to $20 converted into US money. However, I had little choice. As wet as I was, walking down in the rain was not a good idea.

I hadn’t ridden a cable car in years, and this ride was a thrill. The descent was very steep, and on the way down, the car swung back and forth in the wind.

AT the bottom, I walked about a mile to the border crossing into Spain. Going into the customs shed, there was a big line that forced perhaps a hundred of us to stand out in the rain with no protection. I began cursing the Spanish authorities for doing that to us. However, when I finally got into customs, I found that there wasn’t anyone working there. The slowdown was caused by people leaving the shed, who were blocking the exits, standing there trying to keep out of the rain.

Later, back in my hotel room, I took off my soaked clothes, took a hot shower, and then crawled into bed to warm up. I was shivering. I’m now in dry clothes, of course, but the clothing I wore yesterday is still hanging in my hotel room and still partially wet. I assume it will all be dry by tomorrow morning when I leave on the train for Huelva near the Portuguese border.